The Otter’s Holt Reel

Tune and chords

We know that a lot of people find their way to this blog looking for the chords or music for The Otter’s Holt reel. This tune has no connection at all with Northumberland, I just happened to be learning it when I was looking for a title for the blog back in 2009. By spooky coincidence I was also reading the novel Wolf Solent by John Cowper Powys, with the oddly named character ‘Darnley Otter’, and we’d just had a weird otter’s-holt-incident on a visit to Lancaster Castle. It seemed to be fate taking a hand.

I’ve recorded a very basic version of the tune on banjo and guitar. I have to say that I’ve found it almost impossible to find a version of this tune that I can transfer to the banjo very well.

The tune was composed by Irish fiddle player, Junior Creehan, though the most widely heard version is probably the one on the CD ‘Music at Matt Molloy’s’. Again, Matt Molloy’s version is brilliant, but difficult to pin down and transfer to instruments other than flute or fiddle.

An aquaintance of Junior Creehan tells how the tune got its name:

‘Junior’s mother used to play the concertina in the back yard when the weather was fine. There was a stream in the field behind the house and the otters would come out of the stream when they heard the music and lie basking as if they were listening to it.’

This quote is copied straight from The Session website (link).

You’ll find dots for The Otter’s Holt at the link above.

I worked out a few chords that seem to fit the tune quite well in Bm:

|Bm          |D       A      |Bm           |D  A    Bm    | 

|Bm          |D       A      |D              |F#m   Bm    |:

|D            |A        G     |D              |A        G      |

|D            |A        G     |Bm    A     |F#m   Bm     |:

I’ve recorded a very basic setting of The Otter’s Holt on tenor banjo and guitar. There are much better versions to be found, like this one (flute) on Michael Clarkson’s site (click here).

Alternatively here’s my basic version:

The Otters Holt

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