A tune from East Yorkshire fiddle-player Billy Harrison, who was recorded by Jim Eldon in the 1980s, playing both dance tunes and local carol settings, on fiddle and cello. Jim’s recordings were made available by Musical Traditions as Yorkshire Fiddle Tunes, Songs and Carols – originally released on cassette in 1987, now available as a download for just a quid from www.mtrecords.co.uk.
About ‘Father’s Polka’ he says simply “I haven’t yet found anyone who knows this tune from another source”. But I assume that Billy called it ‘Father’s Polka’ because he’d learned it from his father, like Billy and his brother Bob, a violin-player.
Three jigs from the 1798 manuscript of North Yorkshire miller Joshua Jackson. Jackson’s tunes have been published in two volumes by Geoff & Liz Bowen and Robin & Rosalind Shepherd. You can buy them from the Yorkshire Dales Workshop website – almost 500 tunes in all.
These tunes all come from Volume 1.
Had this been listed as “Untitled Jig” I doubt that I would have spotted that it’s part of the very wide, and very diverse family of Greensleeves tunes.
Money in both pockets
This tune turns up in English, Scottish, Irish and North American sources. Neil Gow published a version in 1792, and it was in Preston’s Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1793.
See the Traditional Tune Archive for more.
Here’s two slip jigs written during meetings at work when I was.. ahem… not fully engaged with the business at hand.
‘Official Business’ started life as ‘The LTAC Jig’, where LTAC = Learning Teaching & Assessment Committee, in this case, the Faculty of Arts Learning Teaching & Assessment Committee. I remember that I was very pleased to be invited to attend this body for the first time but, having travelled up from Reading to Ealing specifically for this meeting, it turned out to be a bit of a non-event – basically there were barely enough members present to make it quorate (as an invited “in attendance” member, my presence didn’t count). I think I was paying attention to what was being discussed, but not enough to prevent this tune starting to form in my head. I must have scribbled it down surreptitiously on a piece of paper during the meeting – probably using ABC notation as a convenient shorthand – then tidied it up later.
The second tune came about in similar circumstances, although at least I only had to walk down the corridor to attend this meeting. A SAR, as anyone who has ever had the misfortune to have dealings with Ofsted will now, is a Self-Assessment Report. An important document for those concerned (at least, a document which it is important to get right), but in November 2009 the SAR being discussed had almost no relevance to the work I was doing, and I was quite literally brought onto the review panel to make up the numbers. Again, a tune managed to sidle into my consciousness; again, I managed to note it down somehow; again, it was in 9/8, a time signature I’ve never composed in before or since.
Initially I called it ‘The SAR Tsar’, as a nod to Jennie Pottle, the person chairing the meeting. Her actual job title was probably something like Director of Quality (Further Education), but she was the one who had to cajole SARs into being, and quality control them, then assemble them into an institutional SAR; and Tsars were in fashion at the time – Drugs Tsar, Discipline Tsar etc. etc. – so SAR Tsar seemed like an appropriately alliterative unofficial job title. Looking back, it’s just a shame that Jennie’s surname wasn’t Gabor…
Incidentally, I should add that I’ve changed my employers since then. These days, it goes without saying, when in a meeting my mind is always 100% switched on to the topics being discussed.
Two tunes from the Benjamin Cooke MS, which is available via the Village Music Project. Nothing very definite is known about Cooke or his manuscript. Chris Partington of the Village Music Project suggests a date of c1770, and describes the manuscript as follows
This neatly handwritten manuscript book forms part of the Frank Kidson Collection in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
The origin of the manuscript is unknown but may be northern English, due to its having been in the possession of Frank Kidson.
Neither tune seems to have been discovered (as yet) in any other source of the period, but Chris suggests “Several works between 1735-1756 by Thomas Arne involving Harlequins” as a possible source. These include a series of pantomimes performed at Covent Garden or the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane between 1735 and 1772: Harlequin Orpheus, or The Magical Pipe, Harlequin Restor’d, or The Country Revels, Harlequin Restor’d, or Taste à la Mode, Harlequin Incendiary, or Colombine Cameron, Harlequin Mountebank, or The Squire Electrified, Harlequin Sorcerer, Mercury Harlequin, and The Pigmy Revels, or Harlequin Foundling.
I learned ‘Harliquin Air’ from Matt Quinn during Geckoes soundchecks. And another member of Geckoes, Tom Miller, then introduced me to the ‘New Harlequin Air’. It’s not such a good tune, but still has a certain charm. In Cooke’s MS it’s written in D. As Chris Partington notes, this means it has some “very squeaky notes”, so Tom and I prefer to play it in G.
John Rich as Harlequin in an early British pantomime, c. 1720. From Wikimedia Commons.
Anyway, if you’ve received a notification about this blog post, you must have opted to subscribe at some point over the last seven years. Well done – you’re one of a fairly small band, and clearly you have extremely good taste . But as I’m sure you’re aware, you can unsubscribe at any time.
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The only information I can see about subscribers is your email address or WordPress presence, depending on how you subscribed.
That’s all I need to say, I think. Do please carry on with whatever it was you were doing.
James Higgins (1819-c. 1910), was a fiddle-player from whom Cecil Sharp noted a number of tunes, including the tune normally known these days as the ‘Shepton Mallet Hornpipe’, and the ‘Radstock Jig’. Internet sources describe him as having been “a clerk in the local Co-operative Society”, and “a former shopkeeper who fell on hard times in his old age”. Sharp encountered him in September 1907 as an inmate of Shepton Mallet Workhouse. I learned this tune from Dave Townsend’s First Collection of English Country Dance Tunes (1982).
James Higgins’ Hornpipe, as noted by Cecil Sharp, September 1907. From the EFDSS archive.
I wrote ’15 Welsh Street’ at Oddington, Oxfordshire, on the morning of Wednesday 1st September 1982. That was the Wednesday following the August Bank Holiday, and Oyster Morris had been dancing that weekend in and around Bishops Castle, as guests of Shropshire Bedlams and Martha Rhoden’s Tuppeny Dish. I was Squire of Oyster Men at the time, and Chris Wood, who had danced with Oyster in his teens, had rejoined as musician just for the weekend. We’d travelled up from Kent after work on the Friday, and by the time we reached Bishops Castle the pub appointed as rendezvous had closed. Plan B was to go along to Dalkeith, 15 Welsh Street, home at the time of dancer and musician Sally Turner (later Sally Kirkpatrick). Chris always maintained that the full title of this tune should be ‘(Is this) 15 Welsh Street (and do you want a chip?)’ as those were his first words to Sally on arriving at the house. It turned out that Chris and I were staying with a pair of dancers who lived a little way out of Bishops Castle. But after a wonderful weekend of dancing and enjoying the Bank Holiday steam fair (especially the old-fashioned carousel, Ashley’s Golden Gallopers), Chris and I got wind of a music session on the Monday night. We promptly arranged to stay an extra night with Sally and her housemate at 15 Welsh Street. On the Tuesday we drove up onto the Long Mynd, and then Chris and I set off for Oxfordshire, to spend the night with the brilliant guitarist and fiddle-player Anthony Johnson, an old friend from the Canterbury music scene who was at that point pursuing an academic career in Oxford.
If you spend a weekend watching the Bedlams and Martha Rhodens, the insistent 4/4 rhythm of their wonderful tunes is going to get under your skin. In fact Chris and I had spent much of the weekend consciously trying to memorise tunes such as ‘Bluff King Hal’, ‘Churning Butter’ and ‘Last night with Archie’ (‘Boyne Water’). And so it was no surprise that if I was going to write a tune that week, it would be in that same 4/4 rhythm. I can’t say that I woke up with this tune in my head, but it was certainly fully formed between waking up and getting out of bed. And of all the tunes I’ve composed, this one has always been a particular favourite.
I’ve been playing ’15 Welsh Street’ with the James Higgins hornpipe for a long time, but it’s only recently, with the Oxford NAGS, that I’ve had the opportunity to play the tunes for dancing. And, if I may say so, it’s a cracking set of dance tunes. Here we are playing them (for ‘Clopton Bridge’ I think) back in January this year at the excellent Red Fox Ceilidhs in Leicester.