Just a few places left on this first event in Laurel Swift’s 2016-2017 varied teaching programme – a multi-instrumental weekend retreat with the emphasis on developing ensemble skills alongside individual playing and musicianship. Expect dynamic, inspirational teaching in great company, fuelled by wonderful food and drink in glorious country settings.
Oh, and you’ll need to pack walking boots with your instruments!
The Hornpipe, by John Durang, watercolor from his Memoir, Courtesy of the York County History Center
Meet John Durang (1768-1822), dancer, acrobat, actor and performer with Ricketts’s Circus across the northeastern United States and into Canada. Born in Pennsylvania of German and French parents, he was George Washington’s favourite dancer.
The tune was composed for Durang in new York in 1785 by Mr. Hoffmaster, his German violin teacher.
Here are several different versions from North American musical cultures: two teaching videos (American and Canadian); a performance video (traditional African-American string band); and archive reel-to-reel audio of a West Virginia fiddler.
Choose your favourite to learn!
Katie Henderson (fiddle)
America: teaching video from Katie’s encyclopaedic New Tune A Day Youtube site.
Something a little different, a little summery. This beautiful song was the first piece ever collected by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, on 4 December 1903, from the singing of 70-year-old labourer Charles Pottipher in the village of Ingrave, Essex.
Though the song is often rendered very free rhythmically, ace folk-dance band Blowzabella present this more rhythmic but subtle arrangement. Fiddler Dave Shepherd lays out variations on the tune over Andy Cutting’s haunting accordion riff, before piper Paul James’ evocative singing.
I seem to have found the summer fiddle-singing project I was hankering after…
Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion), Jo Freya (vocals, saxophone, clarinet, whistle), Paul James (bagpipes, saxophones, whistle), Gregory Jolivet (hurdy-gurdy), Dave Shepherd (violin), Barn Stradling (bass guitar), Jon Swayne (bagpipes, saxophones, whistle)
Recorded at a dance in Stowmarket, Suffolk, May 2016.
West Virginia fiddler Rachel Eddy retitled her ‘favourite C tune’ – commonly known as Fourteen (or Sixteen, or Eighteen) Days in Georgia. There are many variations on the tune, so here’s just this one wonderful rendering from a 2016 concert in Peninsula, Ohio.
An Old Time playing of an Irish tune by fiddler Bill Malley of County Clare, Ireland – first in a set with a stonking rendering of the upbeat E-B-E Reel, composed by Irish-American fiddler Liz Carroll.
As well as additional notes on these musicians and tunes, video-poster secondcousincurly writes a fascinating piece here on the importance of fiddle camps to American traditional music.
In eighteenth-century England, the two John Walshes*, father and son, dominated music publishing. John Walsh Snr was printing engraved music on The Strand, London, by 1690, and later John Walsh Jnr won what we would now call ‘exclusive rights’ to Handel’s music.
Clark’s was first published in the Walshes’ 1730 tunes collection, under the snappy title The Third Book of the most celebrated jiggs, Lancashire hornpipes, Scotch and Highland lilts, Northern frisks, Morris’s and Cheshire rounds with hornpipes the bagpipe manner, to which is added the Black Joak, the White Joak, the Brown,, the Red, and the Yellow Joaks. With variety of whims and fancies of diff’rent humour, fitted to the genious of publick performers.
Perhaps they took editorial advice, or wanted to pay their engraver less, but the reprint title shrank to Three Extraordinary Collections, Early 18th century dance music for those who play publick.
Well, ‘those who play publick’ are still playing the Walshes’ tunes – and this particular hornpipe is one of my favourites.
Emily Askew (fiddle), John Dipper (fiddle), Nicola Lyons (fiddle), Adrian Lever (guitar)
Gorgeously textured performance by the London-based fiddle group at Sidmouth Folk Week 2015.
Becky Price (accordion), Tim Perkins (bouzouki/guitar), Richard Heacock (fiddle/viola), Daniel Wolverson (fiddle/viola)
This utterly danceable version is from the group’s 2008 album Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now, available on Spotify (the link is to the full album; it seems impossible to link to the single tune). You can find the sheet music for the tune in their first collection of English and Welsh country dance tunes The Boldwood Dancing Master, available from their website (see below).
Originally a bawdy ballad, there are two basic versions of this Appalachian Kentucky tune, some more crooked than others. I love Premo & Gustavsson’s rendering for the hauntingly off-world sounds from their uncommon pairing of indigenous Swedish and American folk instruments.
This version of the melody is usually played in Dm, but here it’s in Am. Fiddlers generally play it cross-tuned*. Laurel Premo says of her gourd banjo: ‘I use a version of the “double c” tuning. The gourd banjo is a few steps lower from the standard banjo tuning, but the relationships on the strings are the same as you’d find in double C.’
Two great London gigs a stone’s throw from Kings Cross, with Fiddletails-featured musicians as you’ve probably never seen them before!
Kings Place, Friday 29 April, 10-11.15 pm
Info and tickets here(Note late performance times – but Kings Place is only a short walk from Kings Cross tube.)
Fiddler Laurel Swift clogs and swings double bass in this extraordinary band playing ‘ultra-modern ancient music that’s wild enough to dance to! Gadarene transform obscure English 18th and 19th-century tunes with arrangements drawing on styles from funk and reggae to electronic and trance. With clogs and drums, mandolin, double bass, fiddle and flute, the band celebrate the release of their new CD’.
Every couple of weeks or so I feature a tune that's caught my fancy – audio/video clips of brilliant musicians playing great, perhaps uncommon tunes to learn by ear. Most are from the English and American Old-time traditions; some hail from other musical worlds ‒ Scandi, perhaps, or French. But whatever you play ‒ fiddles or frets, free-reeds or fipples ‒ I hope you enjoy catching these wonderful tunes!