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Cross-Row Morris - A Hanging Offence?

morris irish crossrow

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#1 Terry McGee

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 09:01 PM

I've undertaken to play a couple of tunes for a very experienced Morris dancer to dance to at our folk club - Ladies' Pleasure (Bledington) and Nutting Girl (Bampton).  Fortunately for me they are both in G, so I've at least pressed all those buttons before.  But, as a learner Irish player on the three row Anglo, my instinct is to play most of it in the C row and cross into the G row for the higher notes.  The two tunes seem to fit nicely this way, but my question is am I likely to miss out anything important in terms of style?

 

Terry



#2 gcoover

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 10:09 PM

Terry,

It depends on whether or not you're playing with others, and if you have a C/G, which it sounds like you do. John Watcham (of Albion Morris and Brighton Morris) plays a masterful version of "Ladies Pleasure" on Anglo International in the key of C.  G can be a bit high and squeaky sometimes, but C often works better and allows for lots of opportunities for bass lines and chords.  You can find a close approximation of his version here on YouTube:

 

http://youtu.be/29yLfH2RnjM

 

Some tunes will fit better in G, some in C.  I play "Constant Billy" in G, although quite a few play it in C.  Father Kenneth N.J. Loveless played "Nutting Girl" in C, and you can find a recording of that on "The Magic of Morris" double CD set.  I'd say find a key that fits nicely and then make the most of your arrangement from there. If you're playing with chords, then you'll go to whichever row you need to make the chord and melody work. Try not to think in terms of rows but more like a typewriter where you go wherever to get the notes and sounds you want.

 

You'll find that playing for Morris is totally different than playing for Irish dancers.  For Morris, you play to the best dancer and strive to lift his/her feet off the ground, so the tempo may vary dramatically depending on how big the steps are and what's happening in the dance's distinctive and characteristic figures.  And you're usually playing outside, so you're looking for volume either through octaves or chords.  In terms of style, you'll need to find ways to punch the tune hard in the right places to get that "oompf" for the dancers.  You're not just a musician playing for dancers, you're a vital member of the team.  I've been a dancer and a musician, and it's pretty powerful when both work together!

 

Gary


Edited by gcoover, 15 June 2014 - 10:13 PM.


#3 Rod

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 01:27 AM

An excellent explanation.

#4 malcolmbebb

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 01:36 AM

Stating the obvious, perhaps, but make sure you get together to practice together at the earliest opportunity.

#5 Terry McGee

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 01:46 AM

Heh heh, I'm not sure how viable that is going to be; he's not from round here.  I was thinking I might send him an .mp3 fairly soon so he can let me know if there are problems!



#6 Terry McGee

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 02:03 AM

Terry,

It depends on whether or not you're playing with others, and if you have a C/G, which it sounds like you do. John Watcham (of Albion Morris and Brighton Morris) plays a masterful version of "Ladies Pleasure" on Anglo International in the key of C.  G can be a bit high and squeaky sometimes, but C often works better and allows for lots of opportunities for bass lines and chords.  You can find a close approximation of his version here on YouTube:

 

http://youtu.be/29yLfH2RnjM

 

Some tunes will fit better in G, some in C.  I play "Constant Billy" in G, although quite a few play it in C.  Father Kenneth N.J. Loveless played "Nutting Girl" in C, and you can find a recording of that on "The Magic of Morris" double CD set.  I'd say find a key that fits nicely and then make the most of your arrangement from there. If you're playing with chords, then you'll go to whichever row you need to make the chord and melody work. Try not to think in terms of rows but more like a typewriter where you go wherever to get the notes and sounds you want.

 

You'll find that playing for Morris is totally different than playing for Irish dancers.  For Morris, you play to the best dancer and strive to lift his/her feet off the ground, so the tempo may vary dramatically depending on how big the steps are and what's happening in the dance's distinctive and characteristic figures.  And you're usually playing outside, so you're looking for volume either through octaves or chords.  In terms of style, you'll need to find ways to punch the tune hard in the right places to get that "oompf" for the dancers.  You're not just a musician playing for dancers, you're a vital member of the team.  I've been a dancer and a musician, and it's pretty powerful when both work together!

 

Gary

 

Thanks Gary.  I wondered if it might be OK to change keys (I'm playing alone, and yes, C/G anglo).  So good to know it won't bring the Ghost of Morris Dancers Past down on my head.

 

G in the right hand is certainly very squeaky, whereas G in the midrange sounds good.  I'll explore C as well.  I probably won't try for chords, on the KISS principle!  A chord to finish might have to do.

 

Interesting the "playing to the best dancer" approach.  When playing to large dances, I've found it helpful to concentrate on the best set.  Saves getting distracted by a set that collapses into chaos halfway through, taking you with them!  The dancer has provided me with YouTube links to suitable versions, so I'll try to match style as well as possible.  I noticed the use of staccato notes during the  second time through one of the slow sections.  I guess that's an example of "punching the tune".

 

Terry



#7 Lester Bailey

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:31 AM

Not sure I wholeheartedly agree with the "playing to the best dancer". I play for a side with dancers of variable ability, if I were to play for the best dancer it would probably leave the less good either behind/in front of the beat and thus make them struggle. So I play to enable the good dancers to shine but to allow the less good to stay in time and to be part of the dance, it is far easier for a good dancer to, for example, adjust to slower/faster speed.



#8 JimLucas

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 05:57 AM

Not sure I wholeheartedly agree with the "playing to the best dancer". I play for a side with dancers of variable ability, if I were to play for the best dancer it would probably leave the less good either behind/in front of the beat and thus make them struggle. So I play to enable the good dancers to shine but to allow the less good to stay in time and to be part of the dance, it is far easier for a good dancer to, for example, adjust to slower/faster speed.

 

Matter of perspective.

 

I'd say the "best" dancer should know not to stand out from the rest and not to draw the musician into playing in a way that the other dancers can't follow.  B)



#9 Jim Besser

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 08:38 AM

I've undertaken to play a couple of tunes for a very experienced Morris dancer to dance to at our folk club - Ladies' Pleasure (Bledington) and Nutting Girl (Bampton).  Fortunately for me they are both in G, so I've at least pressed all those buttons before.  But, as a learner Irish player on the three row Anglo, my instinct is to play most of it in the C row and cross into the G row for the higher notes.  The two tunes seem to fit nicely this way, but my question is am I likely to miss out anything important in terms of style?

 

Terry

 

On a C/G, I'd play Ladies Pleasure and Nutting Girl in C.  Reason:that way I'd get the strongest chording and punch.  Playing it high in G makes for some awkward pinkie fingering in the B part, when it goes high; playing in G   in the middle range works OK, but you don't have as many chord options as you do in C.  I avoid playing in G when much/most of the melody is on the left side

 

For Morris, I choose keys based on several factors:

 

- maximizing punch

- maximizing volume (necessary to be heard over the racket of sticks, bells and bystander harassment)

- making the tune interesting and fun to play.

 

Pretty much in that order of priority.

 

For COnstant Billy I play in G, mostly along the bottom row.

For William and Nancy I play in C, right in the middle.

For Trunkles I play in D.  

 

All decisions based on the above factors.

 

All of this changes if I'm playing alongside a melodeonist; they tend to be locked into a single key, and you have to follow them because they're louder and sometimes meaner.


Edited by Jim Besser, 16 June 2014 - 08:40 AM.


#10 Dan Worrall

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 10:13 AM

I've undertaken to play a couple of tunes for a very experienced Morris dancer to dance to at our folk club - Ladies' Pleasure (Bledington) and Nutting Girl (Bampton).  Fortunately for me they are both in G, so I've at least pressed all those buttons before.  But, as a learner Irish player on the three row Anglo, my instinct is to play most of it in the C row and cross into the G row for the higher notes.  The two tunes seem to fit nicely this way, but my question is am I likely to miss out anything important in terms of style?

 

Terry

Terry,

 

I may read your question a bit differently than some. I think you are saying that you want to play Nutting Girl in G, but to use the C row some of the time, and G others (ie, not that you want to play the tune in C).

 

If that interpretation is correct, then you would be close to the way William Kimber would approach a tune. He was basically an octave player, and I described in some detail octave cross-rowing techniques in my House Dance CDRom. Kimber's style was - in its most elemental form - to play in octaves, drop out every other note on the bass (left) side to enhance rhythm, and add a third interval partial chord to each remaining bass octave note. When playing in either G or D he cross-rowed all the time, to answer your question. A good example would be Over the Hills to Glory, a Country Dance tune that he played in G. In the A part, it is low in pitch and, just as you asked, it is partly played on the C row. In the B part the pitch is higher, and he migrated fully to the G row. Normal operating procedure, and your instinct is correct. A transcription of that and all his tunes, as he played them, are in my 2005 book on William Kimber, published by the EFDSS.

 

Most G tunes fit about 80% on the G row in the Kimber style, and 20% on the C row. C tunes typically are played roughly 50% on the C row and 50% on the G. Lots of cross rowing.

 

Modern players will play it differently, with fuller chords and oom-pahs, and just about anything goes as long as it suits the needs of the dancers, I should think.


Edited by Dan Worrall, 16 June 2014 - 10:17 AM.


#11 Jim Besser

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 10:22 AM

 

I've undertaken to play a couple of tunes for a very experienced Morris dancer to dance to at our folk club - Ladies' Pleasure (Bledington) and Nutting Girl (Bampton).  Fortunately for me they are both in G, so I've at least pressed all those buttons before.  But, as a learner Irish player on the three row Anglo, my instinct is to play most of it in the C row and cross into the G row for the higher notes.  The two tunes seem to fit nicely this way, but my question is am I likely to miss out anything important in terms of style?

 

Terry

Terry,

 

I may read your question a bit differently than some. I think you are saying that you want to play Nutting Girl in G, but to use the C row some of the time, and G others (ie, not that you want to play the tune in C).

 

If that interpretation is correct, then you would be close to the way William Kimber would approach a tune. He was basically an octave player, and I described in some detail octave cross-rowing techniques in my House Dance CDRom. Kimber's style was - in its most elemental form - to play in octaves, drop out every other note on the bass (left) side to enhance rhythm, and add a third interval partial chord to each remaining bass octave note. When playing in either G or D he cross-rowed all the time, to answer your question. A good example would be Over the Hills to Glory, a Country Dance tune that he played in G. In the A part, it is low in pitch and, just as you asked, it is partly played on the C row. In the B part the pitch is higher, and he migrated to the G row. Normal operating procedure, and your instinct is correct. A transcription of that and all his tunes, as he played them, are in my 2005 book on William Kimber, published by the EFDSS.

 

Most G tunes fit about 80% on the G row in the Kimber style, and 20% on the C row. C tunes typically are played roughly 50% on the C row and 50% on the G. Lots of cross rowing.

 

Modern players will play it differently, with fuller chords and oom-pahs, and just about anything goes as long as it suits the needs of the dancers, I should think.

 

 

Dan - your interpretation of his question may be correct; I didn't read it carefully enough!

 

With Ladies Pleasure, it's really hard to play it all on the G row; the B part fingering becomes extremely awkward, the high notes are really high and you lose a lot of volume. So you pretty much have to play it lower, with much of the melody on the C row, some of it on the left side.

 

Which is why on that tune, I find it much better to play it in C! Interestingly, this tune also works very well in Morris style in D on a C/G; next time I do it for dancers I think I'll try it that way!

 

If anybody's interested I can record it in all the various permutations on a C/G.



#12 emwardjr

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 11:45 AM

Most days, I have just enough energy to lift (and try and play) my concertina.  For those with an interest in Morris dancing, the following link may be of benifit for following what is being said in this thread.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=ZMNxlriPiEs

 

Regards,

 

Ed



#13 michael sam wild

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 06:58 AM

  On a C/G C along the row  if you are solo , it goes a bit high but you can do Kimber Kords easily on LHS for volume or octaves as Dan says.  . G in 'Irish style' with a few chords is fine.  Just to be awkward I do it in F so I can sing along too.   Mrs Kitty Hayes style!.


Edited by michael sam wild, 22 June 2014 - 06:59 AM.


#14 Terry McGee

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 08:32 PM

Thanks all, that's very helpful.  I'll stop worrying and start practising!

 

Terry





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