I was surprised how little response this thread received so I thought I better get my two fingers into motion.
This is from english author Alison Uttley Born 1884, Whilst living at Castle Top Farm Derbyshire. The book is.Country Hoard.
Our music making was as simple asother recreations on the farm.We had hymn tunes, and folk songs remembered from long ago, and tunes the servant lad heard at the station andbought back as the latest thing.There wereairs we picked up from brass bands and from merry-go-rounds at the wakes.There were songs of servant girls,and songs the irishmen sang when they were harvesting, and plenty of carols at christmas.
My father had a good ear and memory,and he picked out his favourite tunes on the pianoni the parlour,or the ivory keys of his concertina when he sat by himself onthe seat overlooking the orchard and the river valley. There he amused himself,and we crept to listen in delight.He went smoothlyfrom one tune to another for an hour,and we sat entranced by his melodies.When strangers appeared he refused to perform.His untaught music was for us alone,and even we had to stalk him silently,for like a shy bird he stopped his sweet airs when he was aware of too much attention.
He would play to the Irishmen,who were not strangers to us.They had worked at the farm every summer for generations,father,son and grandson.Theycame for my grandfather before Victoria came to the throne.Only the Great War broke hte link inthe strong chain that held us together in freindship,inservitude and comradeship.They came with songs in their hearts and merry jigs in their heels. We welcomed them as folk in the Middle Ages must have welcomed the travelling singers and poets of their day. WE hung round the door of the Irishmen's place and listened to their speech,their songs,their whistling and there pipingThey gave a great performance,a star turn on the last night when the harvestwas gathered.It was an ancient custom,and other generations of childeren must have sat listening to the fathers ofour Irishmen in the same cobbled yard.
The great door of the cart shed was taken off its hinges,and carried out to the level front of the house.Itwas tested byeach one jigging a few steps and wedged to make it firm.Wesat round,my father and mother,my brother and I and the servant girl and man.We were excited as if we were at the grandest london concert.The Irishmen sang songs and ballads of many verses,each performer standing on the oak door,and the others grouped round squatting on their haunches with their eyes keenly watching the man in the centre.We were seated on the low stone wall,the stalls of many a country theatre.The applauase after each item was uproarious.We clapped and the Irishmen shouted Bravo! During the dances there was a continuous hum of approval from them.They danced intricate country jigs, one at a time taking the floor board,or two facing one another,and the music was supplied by a pipe, and by "diddling". Dominick wsa a splendid "Diddler".His tounge waslike quicksilver as he sang"Diddle, diddle,diddle, diddle,diddle, diddle",and the dancer kept step.Sometimes one had a mouth organ, and always their whistling was clear as a bird's.
It was an enchanting scene,out there in the twilight,with the stars just begining to peep and the swallows darting overhead and crying as they wentto the cart shed.The birds were aware there wsa something going on down below,for they made a great twittering and warbling on these harvest nights.Then my father was persuaded to bring out his concertina to play while the men rested We were proud that he could addto the entertainment,and the Irish praised him and encored till his eyes sparkled with pleasure.He had played to the older men when they were young, and they recalled those hard early years.
I hope this gives you a flavour of this charming and evocotive chapter in this lovely little book. I certainly had a lot of fun trying to find having last read it twentyfive years ago. DDF