Barn Dances: Rosalie the Prairie Flower / James Winder’s / Lucy Farr’s

Three barn dances. I learned ‘Rosalie’ from Hard Core English. although I think I was already vaguely familiar with the tune from the recording of it being played by Billy Ballantine and Jimmy Hunter on Ranting and Reeling, the Northumbrian volume in the Voice of the People series.

It started off as a song – as so many dance tunes did – written by the popular American songwriter George Frederick Root(1820-1895). Here are the words, if you fancy giving it a go.

Rosalie the Prairie Flower. Image from Wikipedia.

Rosalie the Prairie Flower. Image from Wikipedia.

‘James Winder’s Barn Dance’ is a lovely little tune which deserves to be more widely played. I got it from Andy Hornby’s The Winders of Wyresdale – a really excellent collection of tunes which I can heartily recommend. Given that James Winder’s MS was compiled between 1834 and 1842, the term “barn dance” must have been in use in Britain rather earlier than I had supposed.

Finally, ‘Lucy Farr’s Barn Dance’ is one of those Irish tunes which has become firmly ensconced in the English music scene. It comes, of course, from the Galway-born fiddler Lucy Farr. I believe I first heard it being played by Andy Cheyne at one of the famous Wednesday night English music sessions at Eynsham, in the late 1980s. You can hear Lucy herself playing it on Heart and Home, which I have on cassette, but which I’m very pleased to see is now available as a CD. This tune is listed on that album as ‘Gan Ainm’ (i.e. untitled) and actually described as a fling rather than a barn dance. I guess it could easily be a fling or a barn dance, depending on how fast you want to play it.

Lucy Farr. Photo by Graeme Kirkham, from Musical Traditions.

Lucy Farr. Photo by Graeme Kirkham, from Musical Traditions.

Rosalie the Prairie Flower / James Winder’s Barn Dance / Lucy Farr’s Barn Dance

played on G/D anglo-concertina

Month of May / Spirit of the Dance

‘The Month of May’ is a well-known tune, in various versions – both as a country dance and a morris tune. Here it’s played as a country dance, but is basically the tune from the Brackley, Northampton morris tradition.

May Day Wye, Kent, 1912.

May Day Wye, Kent, 1912.

I think I first heard Spirit of the Dance’ on the Old Hat Dance Band CD. It’s from Thomas Hardy’s family MSS. I don’t normally play it on melodeon, but it seemed to fit nicely – musically and thematically – with the previous tune. Played on concertina, with full band, and a whole host of guests including John Spiers, Jackie Oates and Paul Sartin, Spirit of the Dance’ provides the finale to the forthcoming Magpie Lane CD Three Quarter Time. Details here as soon as the record is available.

 

Month of May / Spirit of the Dance


Played on a Hohner four-stop one-row melodeon in C

Scan Tester’s / Seamo’s

Scan Tester. Photograph copyright Brian Shuel.

Scan Tester. Photograph copyright Brian Shuel.

 

The first tune here is listed as ‘Polka No. 3’ on the Scan Tester double-CD I never played to many posh dances. I play it rather faster than Scan did – making it more like a step-dance tune, I think.

 

Oscar Woods. Photo from EATMT.

Oscar Woods. Photo from EATMT.

 

 

 

The second tune, Seamo’s Polka, comes from the Suffolk one-row player Oscar Woods. As ‘Untitled Polka’ – and played much slower than I take it – it’s on Rig-a-Jig-Jig, Volume 9 of The Voice of The People, but I learned it from the transcription in the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust’s excellent tune book Before the Night Was Out… Oscar learned it from the Seaman brothers from Darsham, hence his title for the tune.

 

 

Scan Tester’s No. 3 / Seamo’s Polka


Played on a Hohner four-stop one-row melodeon in C

The Brothers

A fine melodeon tune from before the melodeon had been invented. This was included in Book 2 of James Aird’s Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs (printed in Glasgow at some point between 1782 and 1795).

You can get the notation in ABC format, as I did, from Jack Campin’s website: www.campin.me.uk

The Brothers


Played on a Hohner four-stop one-row melodeon in C

On A Cold Winter’s Day / When ye Cold winter nights were frozen

Two more tunes found when looking for Christmas/Winter material.

‘On A Cold Winter’s Day’ is from O’Neill’s Music Of Ireland sourced, indirectly, from www.oldmusicproject.com/oneils1.html. It’s given by O’Neill in F# minor. That’s doable on a G/D, but I prefer to play it either in E minor, or in D minor on my C/G. Both options below.

Played on C/G anglo-concertina.

Played on G/D anglo-concertina.

‘When ye Cold winter nights were frozen’ or ‘The Banks of Yaro’ is from David Johnson’s edition of tunes from James Thomson’s Music Book (1702 – National Library of Scotland MS. 2833). I found it via www.folktunefinder.com/tunes/195715. The notes in the ABC transcription say

Posted June 29th 2000 at abcusers by Jack Campin during a discussion about tune identification algorithms.
Jack said: “Here’s a set of tunes that for a dead cert are genetically related.
Do any of the tune-matching algorithms suggested here detect that”

Among the other related tunes posted, I imagine there would have been ‘Sir John Fenwick’s the Flower Among them All’ and ‘The Smiths a Gallant Fireman’ – but as Chris Partington points out, in relation to another title, ‘The Flower of Yarra’

The dedicated tune spotter will find it appearing as an air, waltz, minuet, jig, reel, strathspey and hornpipe, often hidden behind alternative titles like Berwick Lasses, Carrick’s Rant, and The Smiths a Gallant Fireman (though with some of these versions we enter the realm of the old chestnut “at what stage of change does one tune become another”).

All good tunes, and all worth playing. This version is given in 6/4. I interpret that as a slightly lumpy march rhythm – I don’t think it wants to go any faster, and I for one couldn’t play it any faster when it gets to those runs of quavers.

Played on G/D anglo-concertina.

The Holly / The Holly Berry

Two tunes with seasonal sounding names, gleaned from a search of the Internet for Christmas and Winter tunes.

The first is ‘Y Gelynnen’ (‘The Holly’), a Welsh set dance, which I found at abcnotation.com, and which has been transcribed from Volume 2 of the Welsh tune collection, Blodau’r Grug.

And then ‘The Holly Berry’, which I found on folktunefinder.com. I assume it’s American, but actually I know nothing at all about it.

Both tunes played on C/G anglo-concertina

 

 

The Rose Tree

It’s Bampton day of dance tomorrow – hooray!

So to celebrate, here’s the very first morris dance I learned, when I joined Oyster Morris back in September 1978.

C/G anglo-concertina, four-stop one-row melodeon in C