The melody is an old Irish (sometimes listed as English) ballad dating back hundreds of years. It was used for several songs, including My Love Nell, before it became associated with The Star of the County Down. It is also the source for the hymn tune Kingsfold and used for the Advent/Christmas hymns Canticle of the Tuning and O Sing a Song of Bethlehem.
James L. King III’s arrangement slows the tune down so it is performed as an Irish “story-ballad,” filled with left hand lyrical patterns and stride block chords. In the lyrics to The Star of the County Down, the singer has fallen in love with Rosie McCann, the most beautiful woman in Ireland, and imagine himself married to her. In the lyrics to My Love Nell, the singer has a relationship that is broken apart when his girlfriend Nell leaves him to live in America.
Key: E minor
Mood: dreamy, infatuated, bittersweet
Pedagogy: dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm, stride left-hand, legato, rolled chords, pedal