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Ashokan Farewell

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I’ve known this tune since shortly after Jay Ungar wrote it, in the early 1980s. In fact, it was at Ashokan a few years later that Rich Morse first put a concertina in my hands and this is the tune I found my way through at that time.


My wife’s boss (the President and CEO of WMHT, the local public television and radio station) is retiring soon and the staff is putting together a farewell video for him. I was asked to record this as part of it.


Sorry about the “Concertina Face.” There’s no way to avoid it.




Edited to add: 46-key Wheatstone Duet concertina.


Edited by David Barnert
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5 minutes ago, mandojoe said:

Wonderful, David!  Could you be tempted to share a score of your arrangement so I can play it on my own Wheatstone Duet?  


Thank you (and the others who “liked” my post).


I don’t really have an arrangement. As I said, I’ve known the tune for decades, and faced with the prospect of making a video for someone else’s purposes, I decided to download a lead sheet, just to make sure I was playing the “right” chords all these years. I got some ideas from there which I used, and rejected some others. I practiced it a lot in the last few days and recorded many takes before settling on one with a “manageable” number of mistakes, but in all that time I probably never played it quite the same way twice.


This is the lead sheet I used. I generally like the chords it includes, with one main exception: Going from measure 2 to 3 (and again eight bars later) I couldn’t abide going from a D chord with F# in the bass to a G chord while the melody also goes from an F# to a G (my college music theory training in the 1970s makes me incapable of accepting parallel octaves between the bass and the melody), so I changed the G chord to an E minor. Then, in the next measure, I changed the Em7 to G, similarly avoiding parallel 5ths (G to E in the bass, D to B in the tune :o). I also dropped a few 7ths here and there when I didn’t have enough fingers.


Of course, in measures 22 and 23, where the melody descends into chord root territory (the lowest G and A I have on my 46-key instrument are present in the melody there) I had to get creative to make it sound like I was playing a G chord and an A chord and also playing the melody at the same time.


So now you know what kinds of things I think about when coming up with an arrangement. I would say that’s more valuable than seeing a “cheat sheet.” Given all that, why don’t you see if you can come up with your own arrangement, stealing freely from what you hear in my video, but hopefully incorporating some of your own ideas as well. Good luck.

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I've known this tune ever since Ken Burns' documentary about the American Civil War was shown on TV here in the UK. After 11 hours of viewing, it's impossible not to know it!


When I got my first concertina, a Stagi Hayden 46, I quickly learned the melody and went looking for a 2-part version for the left-hand accompaniment. I found one by the Rude Mechanicals:


I transposed that to G, messed with it a bit, and set out to learn it. 12 months later, and having swapped the Stagi for a Peacock (which doesn't quite have all the notes) I can play it, but not well or reliably. I still have to watch the score to see where the left hand is going next.


Here, fwiw, is an attempt, mistakes and all, played into my Android tablet.

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10 hours ago, DaveRo said:

I've known this tune ever since Ken Burns' documentary about the American Civil War was shown on TV here in the UK. After 11 hours of viewing, it's impossible not to know it!


Funny story about that. I mentioned above that my wife worked at a public TV station. She started working there right about the time “The Civil War” premiered. Weeks before it aired she told me about this major production about the Civil War that was going to be on her station. I didn’t pay much attention. Nobody had ever heard of Ken Burns back then, and I didn’t know that my friends Jay Ungar and Jacqueline Schwab were involved with the music. For those who don’t know Jacqueline, she’s a marvelous pianist with a very distinct improvisatory style.


So one day I came home from work later than usual and my wife ws sitting in the room with the TV and the audio system, and from where I approached the room, I could’t see whether the TV was on. But I could hear music, and I recognized the style. “That sounds like Jacqueline playing,” I said. “What are you listening to?”


“No,” my wife said, “I’m watching that Civil War thing.”


“But that’s definitely Jacqueline playing,” I said, and sat down to watch. Before long, we heard fiddle playing that sounded a lot like Jay, and it was a tune I knew all too well. It was all confirmed in the credits at the end of the program.


Since then, of course, the tune is everywhere. Once I heard a news story on the radio. A reporter was calling it in from a bar in San Francisco and you could hear in the background, entirely unrelated to the story being reported, a pianist was playing “Ashokan Farewell.”

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