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Theme Of The Month, June, 2014: Let's Polka!


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#1 Jim Besser

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Posted 26 May 2014 - 05:21 PM

I’ve always been a sucker for a good, fast polka.  They’re fun to play, fun to dance to and ...well, just fun.

 

There must be some kind of universal appeal to these rousing tunes; read the Wikipedia entry and you’ll see what I mean. In my music collection, I have English, Irish, French, Italian, Eastern European, Mexican, Cajun and Scandinavian polkas, among others. A long time ago, I learned a rousing one from the Faroe Islands.  I’ve danced at Polish weddings to the Clarinet Polka and played the various Ballydesmonds from Ireland and the Walter Bulwer’s from England.

 

And let’s not forget polkas in classical music.

 

Check out these amazing women doing a tune that strongly resembles the Finnish Polka played by some American contra dance groups.

 

People are still writing great polkas; here’s one by the high-energy English ceilidh band Whapweasel.

 

Or how about a cool Mexican polka?

 

Here's my group Frog Hammer doing a polka I'd never played before we did it as the soundcheck tune at a gig last year.

 

Polkas can be really fast and complex, like this.

 

Or statelier and simpler, like the lovely Jenny Lind.

 

So that’s the challenge for June: record and post a polka.  Maybe you'll want to record one of your favorites.

 

Or you can do what I'm doing - take this opportunity to learn one I've always wanted to play and never gotten around to.

 

If you’re a relatively new player, it’s not necessary to play at the speed of light; slow is fine. 

 

As a polka lover, I’m hoping to hear - and learn - some new tunes this month.


Edited by Jim Besser, 29 May 2014 - 09:07 AM.


#2 chas

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 02:58 PM

It's all a bit quiet in here.  :ph34r:

 

This started out as TOTM but seems to have evolved.  I reckon I could polka to it.



#3 spindizzy

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 03:51 PM

 

Check out these amazing women doing a tune that strongly resembles the Finnish Polka played by some American contra dance groups.

 

 

 

 

Oh, that's fun   -thanks

(The classical people are sending this one around at the moment

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=BKezUd_xw20 )



#4 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 05:04 PM

Let's Polka, hey-ho!

 

(quick recording of one "old", one new)



#5 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 05:21 AM

It's all a bit quiet in here.  :ph34r:

 

This started out as TOTM but seems to have evolved.  I reckon I could polka to it.

 

Very nice Jignatius, and most likely the first minor key polka coming to my knowledge...  ;)

 

- albeit having rather expected a jigification of that tune from you...  B)

 

Best - Wolf



#6 Jim Besser

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 04:29 PM

Wow; things have been slow this month (me too, I haven't recorded mine yet)

 

But David Barnert and I were at a pub somewhere in Connecticut on Saturday and we played this one in the parking lot. David knew the tune, I more or less knew it by the end! Not too bad for a first take in a parking lot. David is playing a Wheatstone Hayden duet, I'm on a 30 button Jeffries G/D Anglo.

 

https://soundcloud.c...ser-and-barnert


Edited by Jim Besser, 08 June 2014 - 07:55 PM.


#7 Chris Drinkwater

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 06:01 PM

Ah, yes, the Tip Top Polka, often paired with the Rochdale Coconut Dance.



#8 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 06:34 PM

Ah, yes, the Tip Top Polka...

 

... for the second time here... (just saying...)  :rolleyes:



#9 cboody

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Posted 09 June 2014 - 01:27 AM

Here's my favorite recording of Levan Polka with english translation.  There's a better recording of this same group doing this piece, but it has been looped for an hour!!!

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=4om1rQKPijI



#10 JimLucas

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:19 PM

There's a better recording of this same group doing this piece, but it has been looped for an hour!!!

 
I think this may be the video you're referring to... without the looping. Same group, but several years later, from the look of them.

 

By the way, it's not "Levan", but "Ievan" (capital "i", not small "L" in the original).  In English "Ievan Polkka" would be "Ieva's Polka".

 

Not sure about the translation of "Ieva" as "Eva".  Anybody here know whether Ieva is a man's or woman's name in Finnish?


Edited by JimLucas, 16 June 2014 - 04:30 PM.


#11 JimLucas

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:46 PM

Here's a quick recording of a perennial favorite that I've encountered under various names, though most folks today seem to know it as Maggie In the Woods.

 

Odd tone quality, it seems to me, since the concertina sounded quite different as I played it.  I guess it's due to some acoustic interaction between my kitchen and playing off to the side of my new tablet-like (tabloid?) computer.



#12 Jim Besser

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 07:59 PM

Here's a quick recording of a perennial favorite that I've encountered under various names, though most folks today seem to know it as Maggie In the Woods.

 

Odd tone quality, it seems to me, since the concertina sounded quite different as I played it.  I guess it's due to some acoustic interaction between my kitchen and playing off to the side of my new tablet-like (tabloid?) computer.

 

Thanks Jim; I was beginning to think the concertina world had gone to sleep.

 

Nice tune; pretty sure I've played it in Kerry sets. Especially like the harmonies the 3rd time thru.



#13 cboody

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 12:38 AM

 

There's a better recording of this same group doing this piece, but it has been looped for an hour!!!

 
I think this may be the video you're referring to... without the looping. Same group, but several years later, from the look of them.

 

By the way, it's not "Levan", but "Ievan" (capital "i", not small "L" in the original).  In English "Ievan Polkka" would be "Ieva's Polka".

 

Not sure about the translation of "Ieva" as "Eva".  Anybody here know whether Ieva is a man's or woman's name in Finnish?

 

Yup.  Knew that but forgot it late at night....  I found several sets of dots for this if anyone is interested, including one that purports to be a transcription of my favorite group.



#14 JimLucas

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 05:35 AM

Here's one of my own.  I was planning to record it today, but while looking for something else I ran across this recording that I made in 2005, shortly after I wrote it.  I composed the tune to celebrate the 50th birthday of a fiddler in a group I was playing with at the time, hence the name, which translates "Vibeke's Gold".
 
I also wrote a version with some double stops (always one of the two notes on an open string on the fiddle), plus a second, chording fiddle part.  We'll see if I can find the time to record a version that includes those parts.  In the meantime, here's:

Vibekes Guld



#15 Tootler

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 03:55 PM

I was looking in the "Hardcore English" tune book for some 48 bar tunes as our band needed some more and I found this one.

 

The Swan

 

Morse CG Anglo with ukulele accompaniment.



#16 JimLucas

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 04:16 PM

I was looking in the "Hardcore English" tune book for some 48 bar tunes as our band needed some more and I found this one.

 

The Swan

 

Morse CG Anglo with ukulele accompaniment.

 

Another nice one.

(Ah, there are so many.  :))



#17 JimLucas

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 04:27 PM

Here's one that was already in my TotM (Tune/Theme of the Month) folder, so I've apparently used it before, though I don't remember for which month.  A polka of deservedly great popularity from Northumberland,

Jamie Allen


The second time through adds a bit of harmony, with the first couple of measures copying the same from Alistair Anderson's Concertina Workshop, but then I add some stuff of my own. The third time through is mostly in parallel thirds.

Oh, I suppose I should point out that on all my examples so far this month I'm playing an English concertina, treble range.


Edited by JimLucas, 17 June 2014 - 04:31 PM.


#18 JimLucas

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 07:21 AM

...most likely the first minor key polka coming to my knowledge... ;)


Ah, Wolf, you need to get out more. ;)

Here's a quick recording of three minor-key polkas that I came across some time ago while sight reading through The Fiddlecase Book of 101 Polkas. They are:

  • 49. - Isle of Harris Polka (Bm)
  • 50. - My Only Jo, and Dearie, O (Dm; note the half-length A part)
  • 51. - Daliburgh Two-step (Bm)

I decided I liked them together, in the order they appear in the book, just as I've played them here. No attempt to harmonize or "arrange" here, except for the change of key from tune to tune.

As Jim B. said, polkas can be a lot of fun (though so can other types of tunes), and many tunes make fine polkas, even if not originally intended as such. Many examples in the above-mentioned book nicely illustrate that. Marches, schottisches, and English-style reels are among those most easily turned into polkas. It's mainly in how you play them.

 

But getting back to major, minor, and such... I just did a quick breakdown of those 101 polkas by "mode", and came up with the following:

  • Ionian: 78½ (standard "major")
  • Dorian: 7½ (e.g., E with 2 sharps or A with 1 sharp)
  • Phrygian: 0
  • Lydian: ½ (that's unusual)
  • Mixolydian: 0 (that surprised me; I'm sure there are some, even if not in that book)
  • Aeolian: 14½ (standard "minor")
  • Locrian: 0

I guess I should explain those ½'s.  Some 2-part tunes had different keys or modes (or both) in the two parts, so I recorded each part as ½ in the appropriate column.  In all I counted 11 such tunes, though if the two parts were in different keys but each was in the same mode (almost always Ionian=major), the two halves would still add to one and so still recorded as a 1 for the tune.  And of course, two individual halves add to a one in the total.  In all, I counted 5 tunes as having different modes in their two parts.

 

Final disclaimer:  A few of my categorizaions were judgement calls.  E.g., a G-major tune "ending" on a D but with an A part ending on G.  Pretty clear (to me) that the B part isn't really the "end", but is intended to lead back to the A part and that the tune should end with an A part (i.e., DC al Fine).  So I count that B part as still being in G Ionian (major), not D Lydian.  And yet you can see that there was one half-tune that I did feel was actually Lydian.






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