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Jim Besser

Theme Of The Month, Sept 2015: English Trad And Beyond

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Concertinas are the quintessential English instruments, right? So why not a theme featuring the rich body of traditional and modern tunes from England?

There’s so much to choose from, including:

- the lovely Playford repertoire
- traditional ceilidh and barn dance tunes
- punchy Morris dance tunes (yes, there’s lots of crossover here)
- modern tunes that start from a traditional base and - in some cases - really rock (think about today’s great ceilidh bands like Whapweasel that write their own material, or groups like the about-to-expire Bellowhead.)

And let’s not forget the great English classical composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst and Benjamin Britten, who sometimes incorporated traditional themes.

There's a lot of musical ferment in the UK these days, with groups of talented musicians elaborating on traditional music with amazing skill; think Leveret here. And what about the diverse body of music emanating from John Kirkpatrick? Brian Peters, too, is no slouch when it comes to penning tunes influenced by British and Welsh traditions.

One of the things I really like about so much English traditional music is that tunes can be adapted to different styles.

Many Morris tunes sound lovely when played in a smoother, more lyrical style. I’ve heard the Kruskal brothers play Orange in Bloom with such intensity and passion it choked me up. Shepherd’s Hey and Country Gardens found their way into the classical repertoire, thanks to Percy Grainger.

There's also the Playford English country dance repertoire, which can be rocked up - or played like chamber music.

So that’s this month’s challenge.

Find an English tune that appeals to you and make it your own. Better still, learn and record a set of English tunes.

Need some suggestions? Here are some resources for those of you who don’t play a lot of English tunes.

- A giant collection of Playford tunes in ABC format.
- A smaller collection as PDFs.
- a small collection of English barn dance tunes:
- And this one.

- Morris dance tunes in ABC

 

Personally, I love John K's tunebook Jump at the Sun, chock full of great tunes, available at his Web site.

 

And if you're searching for English tunes, you can't do better than Lester Bailey's Tune a Day blog, now with more than 400 video clips and ABC notation. They're not all English, but most are.

 

And there's our own Paul Hardy's online tunebooks, another great mother lode of great tunes. Again, they're not all English, but you'll find plenty to choose from.

 

Have fun!

Edited by Jim Besser

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Check the village music project: http://www.village-music-project.org.uk

 

They've been putting music from manuscripts from various parts of England on line.

 

Also, If you want books, EFDSS have a book of English Tunes: Hardcore English which is an excellent collection.

 

The Farne project have collections of tunes from North East England on line: http://www.folknortheast.com

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Check the village music project: http://www.village-music-project.org.uk

 

They've been putting music from manuscripts from various parts of England on line.

 

Also, If you want books, EFDSS have a book of English Tunes: Hardcore English which is an excellent collection.

 

The Farne project have collections of tunes from North East England on line: http://www.folknortheast.com

 

I should have mentioned Hardcore English - it's excellent.

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Here's a quick take from a Squeezers rehearsal last night - Randy Stein on Wheatstone English, me on Jeffries G/D Anglo. I heard the set on the new CD by Leveret, and we thought we'd try it.

 

The first, New Anything, is from the Playford Dancing Master; the second, St. Catherine's (also My Lord Cutt’s Delight) apparently is a Northumbrian tune. Both published in the late 1600s.

 

Far from a finished product, still playing with chords and arrangements. But OK for a first go.

Edited by Jim Besser

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PS: anybody interested in the differences in sound between Jeffries and Wheatstone reeds should take a listen.

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PS: anybody interested in the differences in sound between Jeffries and Wheatstone reeds should take a listen.

 

And should be aware that Wheatstsone concertinas, even of a particular model, can have radically different sounds. Jeffries sounds vary, too, though not over as wide a range, in my experience.

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Here's a quick take from a Squeezers rehearsal last night - Randy Stein on Wheatstone English, me on Jeffries G/D Anglo. I heard the set on the new CD by Leveret, and we thought we'd try it.

 

The first, New Anything, is from the Playford Dancing Master; the second, St. Catherine's (also My Lord Cutt’s Delight) apparently is a Northumbrian tune. Both published in the late 1600s.

 

Fine stuff, and a great example of how multiple instruments can do things that a single concertina simply can't, no matter what kind. Not the sort of arrangement, I think, that would have been heard 300+ years ago, but no reason why it should be. I think it works a treat.

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Fine stuff, and a great example of how multiple instruments can do things that a single concertina simply can't, no matter what kind. Not the sort of arrangement, I think, that would have been heard 300+ years ago, but no reason why it should be. I think it works a treat.

 

 

Thanks. Playing regularly with Randy is a joy. We come from such totally different musical backgrounds. For me it's been mind stretching.

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Fine stuff, and a great example of how multiple instruments can do things that a single concertina simply can't, no matter what kind. Not the sort of arrangement, I think, that would have been heard 300+ years ago, but no reason why it should be. I think it works a treat.

 

 

Thanks. Playing regularly with Randy is a joy. We come from such totally different musical backgrounds. For me it's been mind stretching.

 

Let me second the sentiment. Jim introduced me to a whole new genre of music in the English and Morse tradition. Fun stuff to play. We have worked the past few years to find a groove for how and what works when we play togther. Would love to emulate bands like Naragonia, Whapweazel or playing like Simon Thoumire with this traditional tunes.

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Here's a quick take from a Squeezers rehearsal last night - Randy Stein on Wheatstone English, me on Jeffries G/D Anglo. I heard the set on the new CD by Leveret, and we thought we'd try it.

 

The first, New Anything, is from the Playford Dancing Master; the second, St. Catherine's (also My Lord Cutt’s Delight) apparently is a Northumbrian tune. Both published in the late 1600s.

 

Far from a finished product, still playing with chords and arrangements. But OK for a first go.

 

 

Absolutely gorgeous, Jim and Randy. I bought Leveret's New Anything CD last autumn, after seeing them live in London and it has become one of my all time favourite music CDs. They are without doubt, three very fine virtuoso musicians, who gel incredibly well together and write some fabulous tunes of their own, as well. In addition to the above two tunes, tracks 1 and 2, Bagpipers and Sam's Gallons of Cognac, are two of my favourites on the CD, both of which I want to learn.

 

Chris

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Here's a quick take from a Squeezers rehearsal last night - Randy Stein on Wheatstone English, me on Jeffries G/D Anglo. I heard the set on the new CD by Leveret, and we thought we'd try it.

 

 

Lovely to hear the contrast between the two, thanks for that Jim. :)

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I tried recording a couple of things this evening, but I didn't care for the results. (Both the equipment and the environment I have for recording at the moment aren't very good. At least that's my excuse. B)) But checking around, I discovered that I had already recorded them both for previous Themes of the Month. (Eventually, there's bound to be overlap. ;)) Well, recycling is good, and here they are:

This is an English country dance version (Playford, I think) of the classic "Greensleeves":

Green Sleeves & Yellow Lace


And this is an old but still very popular Northumbrian polka or rant, named for an infamous local (but also well-travelled) character.

Jamie Allen


I do hope to add some additional arrangements of Jamie Allen and at least one more Playford tune before the month is out. Maybe more? There are so many good tunes, both old and new. :)

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And this is an old but still very popular Northumbrian polka or rant, named for an infamous local (but also well-travelled) character.

 

Jamie Allen

I do hope to add some additional arrangements of Jamie Allen and at least one more Playford tune before the month is out. Maybe more? There are so many good tunes, both old and new. :)

 

Nice. I really like the harmony in Jamie Allen the third time thru.

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And this is an old but still very popular Northumbrian polka or rant, named for an infamous local (but also well-travelled) character.

 

Jamie Allen

I do hope to add some additional arrangements of Jamie Allen and at least one more Playford tune before the month is out. Maybe more? There are so many good tunes, both old and new. :)

Nice. I really like the harmony in Jamie Allen the third time thru.

It's almost all simple parallel thirds. Possible to do it all on a C/G anglo, even a 20-button. On a G/D anglo, it could all be done in the right hand, except that the very top harmony note (found twice in the B part) would have to be changed from a C to a D. I think that still sounds good. Then you could add a left-hand part to go along with it. (I just tried it with oom-pah chording.*) And all that could also be done on a 20-button, though the low C in the 3rd row of a 30-button would be nice to have.

 

* I'm nowhere near up to speed on that, but I can see that an accomplished anglo player shouldn't have trouble with it.

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Glad you mentioned Brian Peters. It reminded me I hadn't played this one in awhile. His (as far as I'm concerned) unpronounceably named Caepantywyll.

 

Great version of a great tune. We play it in Frog Hammer; one of my bandmates is Welsh, but I appear incapable of learning his pronunciation.

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Two jigs on an Anglo:

 

http://youtu.be/MBF22AQvAT0

 

I just learned "The Recruiting Officer," which is the TOTM for September at www.melodeon.net. Versions appear in the Playford collection and other early sources. "Random Notes," a James Hill composition, I learned from Alistair Anderson's LP "Traditional Tunes," which I bought when it came out in (gulp) 1976. So I can say that I first encountered it as a concertina tune, though of course it was played on an English box. But that was many years before I made my own fateful choice of system.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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