Balance the Straw

The Windsor Morris Fool’s introduction to one of their dances used to include the line

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of…
morris dancing

Well that’s certainly true for me. I haven’t danced regularly since 1988 but I still really miss it, and I often find myself playing a lot of morris tunes at this time of the year. Over the last few weeks I’ve been going through the Morris Ring “Black Book”, trying out some unfamiliar variants, and revisiting some old favourites. ‘Balance the Straw’ certainly comes into the latter category, although it was so long since I’d played the tune that I had to look in the book to refresh my memory. Which is why I’ve ended up recording three different versions.

The one I remembered (but had temporarily forgotten) was the Field Town stick dance, which Oyster Women used to dance back in the 1980s.

Balance the Straw – Field Town

Played on G/D anglo-concertina

Actually Lionel Bacon says in the Black Book that “a new version of Balance the Straw has appeared during the post-war years, and has become an accepted and effective part of the morris man’s repertoire. The tune is a composed, or at least a modified one.”

Which I suspect means that some bright spark deliberately or otherwise turned a 4/4 tune into 6/8. Well, it certainly works. In 6/8 this is pretty much an archetypal morris tune, and I’m very glad I thought to reacquaint myself with it.

At Ascott-under-Wychwood where, again, this was a stick dance, a 4/4 version of the tune was used.

Balancy Straw – Ascott-under-Wychwood

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

And the same is true of Bledington, where it’s used for a jig.

Balance the Straw – Bledington

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

 

In my youth I used to think that morris tunes were somehow a special breed, unrelated to country dance tunes. Utter nonsense of course. ‘Balance the Straw’ was in the repertoire of 18th century fiddler William Clark of Lincoln – see the Traditional Tune Archive – and, no doubt, other musicians who never played for the morris.

And, like ‘Double Lead Through’, this quintessential English folk tune comes from an operatic source. The melody itself, and its title, derive from a song which appears in an opera, The Reprisal, by Scottish composer James Oswald (1710–1769), first performed in London in 1757:

From the man whom I Love, tho’ my Heart I disguise
I will freely discribe the Wretch I despise
And if he has Sense but to ballance a Straw
He will surely take the Hint from the Picture I draw

From the liner notes to Colin’s kisses: the music of James Oswald (Linn Records CKD 101)

Here’s a recording of that song, by Concerto Caledonia.

 

Saturday Night / Jack’s Alive

Just over a year ago I posted two Badby morris tunes, ‘Old Black Joe’ and ‘Beaux of London City’. It’s just as well I looked back through my previous posts the other day, as

a) I’d completely forgotten making that recording, and was just about to record the tunes again
b) the introduction to this post nearly ended up being almost word-for-word the same as what I’d written in that earlier post.

Suffice it to say, then, that from around 1981 Oyster Morris danced only dances collected from, or in the style of Badby, Northamptonshire. These two tunes came to us via the great morris expert, Roy Dommett. They had been collected in Badby, but without any associated dance notation.

Roy Dommett devised a dance for ‘Saturday Night’ but it was very long, with no breaks for any of the dancers, and consequently totally exhausting. Noting that other sides used ‘Saturday Night’ as a coming-on dance, John Jones – our foreman at the time – adapted Roy’s dance, and it became our opening dance for years afterwards.

Oyster Morris dancing in Canterbury Cathedral precincts circa 1985

Oyster Morris dancing in Canterbury Cathedral precincts circa 1985

The second tune here is listed by the Morris Ring as ‘Second Morris’ – i.e. a tune for which there was no name. Oyster used it for a dance called ‘The Panic’ – originally ‘Pogle’s Panic’ – which was devised by Peter Collinson, a founder member of the side, invariably known in those days as Pete Pogle. This was an ingenious dance in which the whole set rotated through 90 degrees at the end of each chorus (I’ve forgotten exactly how this was achieved, but it was very effective). At the time I don’t think any of the Oyster musicians associated the tune for ‘The Panic’ with a 6/8 country dance tune we all knew very well, ‘Jack’s Alive’. ‘Jack’s Alive’ was in the Oyster Ceilidh Band repertoire, and was the title of their first LP (although, curiously, the tune wasn’t on the album and they only recorded it some years later). It was only in the 1990s, going through the tunes in the Yetties’ book The Musical Heritage of Thomas Hardy, that I came across a 4/4 tune called ‘Jack’s Alive’ and recognised it as the unnamed Badby tune – and then, to my great surprise, realised that in fact the 6/8 and 4/4 versions are basically the same notes, in the same order, just played differently!

We recorded both versions of ‘Jack’s Alive’ with Magpie Lane on the album Jack-in-the-Green and Mat Green and I nearly always start our duo gigs with this tune set.

For the blog I decided to try playing it as a morris tune once again – although both tunes are played here considerably faster than Oyster Morris would have danced them back in the day.

Information on the Badby tradition can be found on the Morris Ring page for Badby and on this page of the Badby Then and Now site.

 

Saturday Night / Jack’s Alive

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

 

 

Percy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta

This tune comes from the Norfolk melodeon-player Percy Brown. It was included on the 1973 Topic LP English Country Music From East Anglia (the white album). I probably first heard that LP in the late 70s but only learned this tune after hearing it played by my friend Tim Bull, who some readers will know as melodeon-player in the dance band Florida. He was a few years above me at school, and when my friend Mike and I went to university we found that Tim was there too, just starting his Master’s degree. We used to see each other regularly at the university folk club. Tim had a particularly nice line in George Spicer songs, including ‘I’ve gone and lost my little yoyo’ and ‘You don’t know noone what don’t want to buy no nine inch nails’, and sometimes he’d play a tune or two on the melodeon. I can’t recall what other tunes he played back then, but this one really struck a chord with me, and it’s been a favourite ever since.

I’m pretty sure that Tim told me that mutual friend, Seven Champion and multi-instrumentalist John Gasson had picked up a 78rpm record in a junk shop and found that it contained a dance band version of this tune – called either the ‘Indulgence Waltz’ or ‘Indulgence Veleta’. George Frampton has confirmed that this was indeed what John used to call the tune, so I didn’t imagine the whole thing, but noone seems to remember what the record was, or who the band was. Surprisingly, I can’t find any trace of ‘Indulgence’ as waltz or veleta on the internet, neither a recording nor sheet music, but no doubt it’ll turn up one day.

The Veleta – dance and tune – were composed by Arthur Morris in 1900 – see https://www.libraryofdance.org/dances/veleta/ – but as it says on that site, the Veleta can be danced to “to any rotary waltz with continual eight-bar phrases”.

The Veleta

The Veleta

There’s a brief biography of Percy Brown on the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust website. I love this quotation from the article:

He never got the hang of reading music, ‘That there music’s all right, but it flattens out the tunes.’

I can read music tolerably well, but as far as folk music is concerned, I believe that musical notation should never be seen as anything more than a useful tool. Rely on it too much, and Percy’s right – it knocks the bounce right out of the tunes.

Percy Brown- photo by Dave Arthur from the EATMT website

Percy Brown- photo by Dave Arthur from the EATMT website

Percy Brown’s Waltz for the Veleta

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

Blustering Bonnets

Written by Ian Telfer at some point in the 1970s, then pressed into service as a morris tune by fellow Oyster Ceilidh Band member John Jones. When I danced with Oyster Morris, 1979-1987, this was always one of my favourites. There are no slows, but in the B music the corners cross over with a series of increasingly flamboyant jumps, culminating in a leapfrog. I couldn’t find a picture of me doing this dance, so here’s a bunch of us posing in Faversham Market Place, September 1983.

Oyster Morris Squire's Tour, Faversham, 1983

Oyster Morris Squire’s Tour, Faversham, 1983

Blustering Bonnets

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

 

Swaggering Boney

A morris tune from Longborough in Gloucestershire. This tune goes by many other titles including ‘Travel by Steam’ and ‘Gee Ho Dobbin’, and it appears to derive from ‘The Rummer’, which was included in John Playford’s Dancing Master, 7th edition of 1686. For more, see the Traditional Tune Archive.

If you want to compare and contrast, there’s a recording of me playing this on the 1994 Magpie Lane album Speed the Plough.

Swaggering Boney

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

English Tunebook – further thoughts

Having written my English Tunebook post last weekend, I found I still had plenty to say on the subject. So here’s a hastily thrown together set of musical examples, with a few thoughts that they inspired on aspects of tunes and Englishness.

Let’s start once again with the deliciously crisp, rhythmic playing of William Kimber. As a concertina-player myself, Kimber’s music has had a huge influence on my own playing style, and informed my perception of a particular sort of musical Englishness.

And ‘Over the hills to glory’ is interesting in its own right. I first heard it as a fling, ‘Love will you marry me’, on a record by Irish band De Dannan. But it started life in Scotland, as The Lass o’ Gowrie, while in South Wales Phil Tanner knew it as ‘Over The Hills To Gowerie’. Meanwhile, in Oxfordshire, the tune’s title may have had a particular resonance. The Tradtune Archive tells us

“Over the hills to glory” is a phrase associated with an incident in southern England. In 1873 sixteen women from Ascott-under-Wychwood were imprisoned for a short time for their part in forming an agricultural workers union, in helping to prevent “scabs” from replacing their men on the farm. Known as the ‘Ascott Martyrs’ the women garnered much public sympathy and quite a bit of press, before hastily being pardoned by Queen Victoria. A placard on the village green reads: “This seat was erected to celebrate the centenary of the Ascott Martyrs, the 16 women who were sent to prison in 1873 for the part they played in the founding of the Agricultural Workers Union when they were sent ‘over the hills to glory’.”

My thanks to Katie Howson for alerting me to this.

Whether Kimber was a supporter of trades unionism or militant women I really don’t know (although he was always very clear, unlike the Morris Ring, that there was nothing wrong with women dancing the morris, and that often they made a much better job of it than the men). In any case, I’m very happy to suggest that celebrating Englishness should include celebrating trades unionism and female militancy.

Kimber is, of course, chiefly associated with morris dance tunes – which only serves to emphasise his Englishness (specifically his Southern Englishness).  Here’s a typical example, ‘Laudanum Bunches’, which has the ‘Slows’ characteristic of the Cotswold morris. In the early days of Magpie Lane Tim Healey was really tickled by the Slows. In other cultures, to make the music and the dancing more exciting, it would get faster and faster. Only in England, he thought, when a dancer needed to show off their prowess, would the music get appreciably slower…

I’ve always liked this tune, and it also has happy associations for me – the one time I was lucky enough to be able to play Bill Kimber’s concertina, this was the tune I played.

We can’t have a morris tune from Headington Quarry without also having one from Bampton, the village with the longest (very nearly) unbroken record of dancing. And it really has to be Jinky Wells, an iconic figure, and one of all too few English traditional fiddle-players to have been recorded. Here he plays ‘Flowers of Edinburgh’, clearly a tune with Scottish associations, but firmly part of an English tradition.

Both Headington and Bampton have a dance called the Bacca Pipes jig, danced to a variant of ‘Greensleeves’ (related to, but a long way away from the tune supposedly written by Henry VIII).  Over in the Forest of Dean they had their own take on morris dancing. And Stephen Baldwin, who had played both for the morris and for country dancing had his own take on ‘Greensleeves’. John Dipper spent a whole term at university analysing Baldwin’s playing of this tune, specifically the odd intonation on some notes. As I recall, John’s conclusion was that Baldwin wasn’t just rusty, or lacking in technique – these microtones were a distinctive part of his playing style.

Stephen Baldwin also had a large repertoire of hornpipes, which would have been used for step-dancing. Down on Dartmoor there’s a strong and thriving step-dance tradition, and the name most readily associated with the musical traditions of the area is that of Bob Cann. A teacher of step-dancing, and a fabulous dance musician, here’s a couple of his many step-dance hornpipes. A good number of Bob’s tunes were named after one or other of his musical uncles. His ‘Uncle George’s’ is better known – and it is known throughout the British Isles – as ‘The Cliff Hornpipe’. ‘Tommy Roberts’ on the other hand is a tune I’ve not come across elsewhere. Let’s give a hurrah for the many tunes with no name, or known only by the person they were learned from. While this is by no means a phenomenon peculiar to England, I do sense that it’s more common with English tunes than in Ireland or Scotland, where a higher proportion of tunes do seem to have distinct, and often quite evocative, names.

I’ve included another track by Bob Cann, because I admire his playing so much, but also because they highlight other sources of tunes which made their way into the English dance repertoire. ‘When it’s Night-time in Italy (it’s Wednesday over here)’ was a comic song composed in 1923 with music by James Kendis and words by Lew Brown – here’s the sheet music. It’s been recorded by all sorts of people, including the Everly Brothers. A very high percentage of the tunes recorded in post-war English pubs (I’m thinking especially of Reg Hall and Ken Stubbs’ recordings in Sussex and Keith Summers and John Howson’s recordings in East Anglia) were in fact popular songs of the day, or popular songs from a generation or two earlier.

‘Climbin’ up de Golden Stairs’ was a negro minstrel song. I’m not even going to look up the words, because they’re bound to be offensive. But deplorable though we find blackface minstrelsy these days – and yes, it was deeply and inherently racist – it had a major influence on English traditions, which we can’t simply ignore. Minstrel song tunes found their way into country dance and morris repertoires where, happily, they became divorced from their lyrics and, eventually, from the context in which they had originally been performed.

Bob’s grandson Mark Bazeley carries on the Dartmoor traditions in grand style. Here he is with Jason Rice, from another Dartmoor family with long musical roots, and banjo whizz Rob Murch, playing a couple of his grandfather’s tunes. I’m pretty sure Bob Cann would have learned ‘Hot Punch’ from Jimmy Shand, whose Scottish dance band records must have had an  influence on many English musicians. The second tune is usually known – and it’s a staple of the English session scene – as ‘Uncle’s Jig’. The name given here suggests a North American origin, but played by three lads from Dartmoor it just sounds SO English!

Scan Tester was an anglo-concertina player from Sussex who was not feted by the folk establishment in the same way as William Kimber was. But he was feted and recorded and – importantly – befriended by a generation of young (at the time) enthusiasts such as Reg Hall. I was going to post something typical of Scan – a step-dance tune, or a waltz or a schottische – but I’ve actually gone for a jig because it demonstrates once again that a tune’s origin really has nothing to do with whether or not it counts as English. The 17th March is of course St Patrick’s Day, and it’s as ‘St Patrick’s Day’ that this tune is usually known. It’s the regimental quick march of the Irish Guards, and this gives me a chance to mention the importance of military bands in earlier times, both in developing the musical skills of band members, and disseminating tunes among the population at large.

Sixty-odd years ago Reg Hall and Mervyn Plunkett had the idea of getting Scan together with Norfolk musicians Billy Cooper (hammer dulcimer) and Walter and Daisy Bulwer, to recreate the sound of an old-time country dance band. Recordings from these sessions were released on a limited edition, but seminal, LP on Topic, which these days can be had as part of an expanded CD package just called English Country Music. Here they are playing two tunes which are absolutely central to the English tradition, ‘Jenny Lind’ (composed in 1846 in honour of a Swedish opera singer) and ‘The girl I left behind me’ aka ‘Brighton Camp’ which is at least a century older, and one of those tunes that simply everyone knows – in the 1960s comic film The Plank it is this tune that is whistled throughout by Tommy Cooper and Eric Sykes.

East Anglian musicians played a big part in the revival of English country dance from the 70s onwards. The melodeon was the instrument most commonly played by Suffolk and Norfolk musicians, particularly the one-row melodeon (or “the melodeon” as Andy Cutting would have it); and Oscar Woods was the doyen of one-row melodeon players. Here he is playing what might almost be considered the East Anglian national anthem, ‘Oh Joe, the boat is going over’ (originally a popular song from the late nineteenth century).

Of course there are other versions of ‘Oh Joe’ – such as this one which I learned from the playing of dulcimer-player Reg Reader, and which was the very first tune I posted on this blog.

I’ve spent pretty much my entire life in Kent and Oxfordshire, and as a result there’s a definite Southern English slant to my personal perception of Englishness – it’s shaped more by Bampton than Bacup or Bladon, more by the Kentish Weald than the Yorkshire Wolds or the Wild Hills of Wannie. However I spent a year living in Newcastle, and while there I fell under the spell of the three Shepherds, Joe Hutton, Will Atkinson and Willy Taylor. Three of the finest musicians I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing play live, they were particularly fine players for the dance. They were steeped in the music of Northumbria – part of England, of course, but with a distinct musical culture; but they would play tunes from anywhere and make them their own. Like other musicians in the 20th century, they learned tunes not just from other players, but from records, and from the radio. They played lots of Scottish tunes, but also some crackers from Canada. And here’s a couple of Irish tunes. ‘Off to California’ is very well known at English sessions; ‘The Greencastle’ deserves to be played more often.

So far the examples I have chosen have all been from people we would term traditional performers, or tradition bearers. But of course most people playing English traditional music today weren’t brought up with it. Like me, they’ve come to it, in a sense, as outsiders, I’ve already mentioned the revival of proper English music that took off in the 1970s. The Old Swan Band were at the forefront of this New Wave of English Country Dance bands, are still going today, and still produce a wonderfully danceable sound. This is from a 2011 re-recording, but ‘Walter Bulwer’s Polkas Nos. 2 and 1’ was the first track on their very first LP, No Reels, and like many tunes from that album the two polkas became firm session and dance band favourites. Far more people have learned the tunes from the Swan Band (or from someone who learned them from the Swan Band) than from listening to Walter Bulwer; and I include myself in that list. Also, it’s almost unthinkable, for me at least, to play Polka No. 2 without then going into Polka No. 1.

The Old Swan Band’s most recent record, Fortyfived, is quite possibly their most enjoyable yet. Without changing their style in any way at all, the band that once specialised in playing tunes from living English musicians have put out an album containing just two traditional English tunes. The rest are from Ireland, Scotland, North America (source of these two tunes), Australia, Sweden…

I don’t think I like the record so much because the tunes are from other countries – it’s not that I prefer Irish or American tunes to English tunes, just that nearly all the tunes were unknown to me when I first heard the CD. There are many dance tunes I’ve known since the late 1970s, which I still play, still enjoy playing, and will probably still enjoy playing for the rest of my life. But there’s nothing like coming across a whole bunch of good dance tunes you’ve never heard before. Many of these, I’m sure, are going to become session favourites, once sessions are able to resume once more.

All of the tunes I’ve included so far in this post come from musicians active in the 20th century – in fact, nearly all of them were still active during my lifetime. Just to conclude, I really need to mention the other source of English tunes that has really opened up over the last 40 years, and which has been helped enormously by the internet – that is, tunes from 18th and 19th century musicians’ manuscript books. Take a look at the website for the Village Music Project, for example, and you’ll find that you have access to thousands of tunes – often versions of well-known tunes, but including others that noone has played in many decades. Some deserve their obscurity, perhaps, but there’s plenty worth reviving. Some, like the Mellstock Band, try to play these tunes in the way that they might have been played two hundred years ago. I prefer to take these old tunes and treat them just like anything else in my repertoire – almost as if they hadn’t disappeared without trace, but had survived as part of a living dance tradition.

Here’s just one example, ‘Harliquin Air’

 

As well as furnishing modern musicians with lots of good new tunes to play, these manuscript sources can tell us a great deal about: which tunes were widespread in earlier centuries; the wide variety of tune types that musicians played; the magpie nature of musicians, then as now – these English manuscripts include tunes from all parts of the British Isles, from continental Europe, from the stage, from classical works…

I’ll finish by going back even further, to what might be considered the Ur text for English dance music: John Playford’s Dancing Master. The great thing about Playford tunes is that they work well played on authentic seventeenth century instruments, but can also sound great in the hands of a good melodeon or concertina player. They work as graceful courtly airs, and also, as originally intended, as dance tunes.

‘Bobbing Joe’ is a tune I first learned as a morris tune (it crops up in several village traditions). Here’s the Playford version, played on fiddle by John Wright. And played in a way that really makes you want to get up and dance – that seems like a very appropriate place to finish what has tuned out to be a rather overlong post!

Double Lead Through

This is my contribution to the crowd-sourced English Tunebook being assembled by Dr Alice Little on behalf of the University of Oxford and the English Folk Dance and Song Society. You can read about the project at https://torch.ox.ac.uk/event/the-worlds-first-crowdsourced-online-english-tunebook. And if you fancy making a contribution, just post a video recording of yourself playing your chosen tune on social media, and tag it #EnglishTunebook.

I’ve chosen a tune which, to the best of my knowledge, has only ever been collected from one traditional English musician. But that musician was William Kimber, Headington Quarry morris dancer and anglo-concertina player who, through his involvement with Cecil Sharp and the EFD(S)S had a major impact on the twentieth century folk revival.

I first heard his concertina-playing on the Topic LP The Art of William Kimber and was immediately charmed by his distinctive, crisp playing. To my mind, any Kimber tune is by definition a strong candidate for inclusion in an English Tunebook.

William Kimber, morris dancer and anglo-concertina player from Headington Quarry, Oxford.

Let’s take 3 minutes to listen to Kimber playing ‘Double Lead Through’. This is a 10 inch 78 rpm record of Billy Kimber – Solo Concertina (His Master’s Voice UK, B.9519), recorded October 1946, released Jan 1947.

‘Double Lead Through’ has always struck me – especially when played by Kimber himself – as a quintessentially English tune. And it’s been a common session tune as long as I remember – although that popularity may owe less to Kimber, and more to the version by John Kirkpatrick and Ashley Hutchings on The Compleat Dancing Master (first released, like The Art of William Kimber, in 1974).

And yet the tune is neither particularly old, nor English in origin. It began life as a song, ‘Légende de la Mère Angot’, from Act I of the comic opera La fille de Madame Angot, written by French composer Charles Lecoq, and first performed – coincidentally – in the year of William Kimber’s birth.

Folkopedia tells us that

The opera was first produced in Brussels at the Théâtre des Fantaisies-Parisiennes on the 4 December 1872. The piece caused a sensation in Britain where it ran for a consecutive five-hundred nights and then appeared in London in various forms as well as being extensively toured. 

This song is sung by Amarante, one of the “Dames de la Halle” (i.e. a market woman of Les Halles in Paris), and begins

Marchande de Marée, Pour cent mille raisons elle était adorée, A la halle aux poissons, Jours de fête et dimanche, Quand on l’asticotait, Les deux poings sur la hanche, Elle se disputait.

You can download the entire score of the opera from https://imslp.org/wiki/La_fille_de_Madame_Angot_(Lecocq,_Charles) and, if curiosity overcomes your lack of enthusiasm for late nineteenth century French comic opera, you can hear the whole three Acts on Spotify. Here’s the piece we’re particularly interested in

Lecoq’s three Act opera became a one Act ballet Mam’zelle Angot and, again, this song features early on. The tune – as popular tunes tend to do – also took on a life of its own. Here it is, for example, as a polka ‘La Fille de Madame Angot Grande Polka’.

And here it is, played on a music box: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polyphon-Angot_Polka(Charles_Lecocq).ogv

Now the tune’s French origins do not, of course, diminish the Englishness of ‘Double Lead Through’. The more I learn about traditional song and dance tunes, the more I realise that musical nationalism is a nonsense (like most other forms of nationalism, then). English musicians – like their counterparts all over the world, no doubt – have always recognised a good tune when they hear one, and are not too bothered where it comes from. Folk tunes have certainly circulated freely within the British Isles. So the repertoire of 18th, 19th and 20th century English dance musicians are full of tunes which appear to be Irish (‘The Irish Washerwoman’, ‘Paddy Carrey’, ‘Morgan Rattler’, ‘Paddy Carrey’, ‘Paddy Wack’, ‘Murphy Delaney’) while tunes of Scottish origin such as ‘Flowers of Edinburgh’ and ‘The Rose Tree’ have an established place in the English tradition.

And then there are countless tunes which began life on the 18th or 19th century stage (all of those ‘Morgiana’ tunes, for starters, ‘Fishar’s Hornpipe’, and possibly even ‘Speed the Plough’); or even in works by proper classical composers – the best example of this being the tune universally known these days as ‘Michael Turner’s Waltz’ which is, in fact, a Trio by Mozart.

What makes a tune English, or Irish, or Scottish, is not so much where a tune comes from, but where and how and by whom it is (or was) played.

I don’t know where Billy Kimber had ‘Double Lead Through’ from, but it’s not remotely surprising that a dance-like tune from a popular French operetta should find its way into the English countryside. Kimber – or whoever he learned it from – might easily have heard it played by a brass band, or a fairground organ. The fact that he called it ‘Double Lead Through’ suggests strongly that the tune had become associated locally with a particular dance.

Once, when Kimber was teaching his people at Quarry, he said, ‘I’ll give you a treat and play you a Country Dance tune’. It was then that ‘Over the Hills to Glory’ or perhaps ‘Double Lead Through’ became added to the repertory. Kimber claimed to have 34 Morris and country dance tunes. He maintained strongly that the country dances
should always be danced to their own tunes, for each dance had its particular tune, the same as the Morris.

from William Kimber: a portrait by T. W. Chaundy
Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society , Dec., 1959, Vol. 8, No. 4, p209

I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of “It was then that ‘Over the Hills to Glory’ or perhaps ‘Double Lead Through’ became added to the repertory”. Does Chaundy just mean “the repertoire that EFDSS and Morris Ring members knew about”? And then, especially in view of the fact that Kimber apparently believed tune and dance to be inseparable, what are we to make of the fact that the tune Cecil Sharp noted from Kimber as ‘Double Lead Through’ in 1908 was a completely different melody? (it’s a version of ‘King of the Cannibal Isle’). The first record I can find of this ‘Double Lead Though’ tune being noted from Kimber is August 1943, by Robert Kenworthy Schofield. It was subsequently printed in English Dance and Song, vol X, no. 3 (February 1946). Unlike the Journal, back copies of English Dance and Song aren’t available digitally, but you’ll find a scan of Kenworthy Schofield’s notation at http://www.contrafusion.co.uk/Dances/EFDS4602-DoubleLeadThrough.html.

Anyway, here’s my suggestion for the English Tunebook project. It’s actually the first time I’ve video’d myself playing, and to be honest, I find it rather a faff compared to audio recording, but a video is what was asked for, so here you go.

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

Jab’s a Good ‘un

Well I went off to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford this morning, and came back with an armful of Astra Zeneca vaccine. Isn’t the NHS wonderful? Not to mention the scientists at Oxford University and elsewhere who managed to produce a vaccine in record time.

This seemed a sufficiently auspicious event to merit a tune. As it was my first of two jabs I thought I’d write a single jig. I’ll see if I can come up with a double jig in 3 months’ time when I get the second shot.

I had some ideas going round my head whilst at the Kassam – based pretty closely on ‘Cock of the North’ I seem to remember. But that’s all I could remember by the time I got home. So I started again. Just picked up my concertina and played around a bit till I’d got something I liked. Then pressed Record.

This one has strong traces of a nursery rhyme tune which featured on this blog not so very long ago. And, if the conspiracy theorists are to be believed, the rest of it was probably written by Bill Gates.

X:65
T:Jab’s a good ‘un
C: © Andy Turner, 20/03/2021
M:6/8
L:1/8
K:G
G2B c2A|d2B c3|B2G c2B|A2G FGA| G2B c2A|d2G c3|B2Gc2B|1 AdFG3:|2 AdF GBd||
g2f efg|fafd3|e2c cde|d2G GAB|c2B ABc|BdB G2F|E2E c2B|ABc def|
g2 f efg|f2dd3|e2c cde|d2G GAB|c2B ABc|BdB G2D|E2 E c2 B| AdF G3|]

Jab’s a Good ‘un

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

Dance tunes from Sidbury 6: Mr Rew’s Waltz

Here’s one last tune from Billy Rew of Sidbury. This is the final tune in Dances for a party. There’s no set dance associated with it – it would presumably have been played at the end of the evening as the last waltz. And I imagine anyone who went to a dance in 1950s Britain knew how to waltz.

This is actually the one Billy Rew tune that I already knew and played regularly before embarking on this little project. I learned it from one of Dave Townsend’s books of English country dance tunes, and I don’t think I’ve encountered it from any other source. 

Mr Rew’s Waltz

Played on C/G anglo-concertina

Dance tunes from Sidbury 5: Four Handed Reel / Pretty Little Dear

These are the final two dances printed in Dances for a party, although there’s one more tune at the end, and thus one more of these blog posts to come.

The ‘Four Handed Reel’ (or ‘Sidbury Reel’) is not danced to a variant of the tune normally associated with the ‘Dorset Four Hand Reel’. Instead Mr Rew plays a version of the ubiquitous ‘Manchester Hornpipe’.

But there is only one possible tune for ‘Pretty Little Dear’, aka ‘The Triumph’ or, in Bampton at least, ‘Step and Fetch ‘er’.  Mr Rew’s tune is a rather nice version. Once again, there are words to be sung to the tune.

Four Handed Reel

Played on G/D anglo-concertina

Pretty Little Dear

Played on G/D anglo-concertina