Three versions of an apparently rarely-heard Kentucky tune, including a house concert performance, a teaching video, and the earliest known recording.
Plus, to finish, a cautionary tale: Last of Harris held a sting in its fiddletail for this unwary researcher.
Stephanie Coleman (fiddle), Adam Hurt (banjo), Beth Williams Hartness (guitar)
A lilting, closely-woven arrangement filmed at a 2011 house concert in Suffern, NY.
(‘Last of Harris’ YouTube video, 1:22. Posted by ‘banjolady’, 5.4.2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KXv12S4ZjE)
A great teaching video made for the 2014 Cowan Creek Mountain Music School advanced fiddle class. Andy notes: ‘Fiddle tuned GDAE. As played by John Salyer.’
(‘John Salyer’s The Last of Harris- Andy FitzGibbon’ YouTube video, 1:30. Posted by Andrew Fitzgibbon, 4 Oct 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewZiUP83Ua4)
The 1940-1941 field recording of Kentucky fiddler John Morgan Salyer.
Last of Harassed: a researcher’s cautionary tale
A few passes through Google turned up nothing about Last of Harris’s intriguing title. The tune’s origins seemed pretty obvious though. In my mind’s eye I could see it all: the ship’s stern, the gulls above the silver wake, the mountains of the Isle of Harris misting away over the horizon as a Hebridean fiddler sets sail for the New World.
A poignant theme that deserved to be illustrated, I thought, and contacted Harris-based photographer Stefan Davies, explaining that the tune ‘presumably relates to the experience of emigrating to the US from the Isle of Harris’. He kindly sent me a wonderful photograph to upload.
Sorted – a great post for this week!
And then, last night, quite out of the blue, Google sweetly offered me a search result I really didn’t want to see: ‘Last of Sizemore’. ‘Don’t click!’ whispered my sinking heart. ‘Don’t go there!’ But I did. And read. And oh, abbamoses.com – how could you be so cruel…
‘There are a number of musically unrelated ‘Last of’ tunes: Last of Callahan, Harris, etc. Usually they go along with a story of the last tune played by a fiddler on his deathbed or at the gallows.’
I fall on my sword. Blushing. But truth has come too late to press memory’s delete. For me, Last of Harris will always evoke, not poor Mr Harris about to meet his Maker, but Stefan’s image of the Isle of Harris – quite simply too beautiful to be left out.
(You can see more of Stefan’s fantastic photographs at http://www.harrishebridesphotos.co.uk)