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Stephen Chambers

Packie Russell Clips On You-tube

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Here's a better version:

 

Snap-AppleNight.jpg

 

Thanks Peter, that's probably a detail from Scott's 1845 engraving?

 

Edited to replace "lost" image

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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Guest Peter Laban

The Na Piobairi Uilleann archive index lists it as 'Scene from the Shaugraun' artist: Currier and Ives

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The Na Piobairi Uilleann archive index lists it as 'Scene from the Shaugraun' artist: Currier and Ives

Hmmm, that's interesting, it's obviously an engraving based on Maclise's painting, but I've now found the 1845 one by Scott, which is more faithful to the original:

 

SnapAppleNight-Scott.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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Mind you, I don't rule out the possible later influence of the blackface minstrels, but let's not forget that many of the original ones were themselves Irish - so the influence could have been the other way! ;)

 

There is nothing like a period document to at least rule out errant hypotheses! Nice pictures, and nice tambourines.

 

Yes, one of the biggest (and earliest) names in minstrelsy was Dan Emmett (Ohio born and of Irish ancestry); a site dedicated to him says

"In the winter of 1842-43, four stars of the minstrel profession formed a novel ensemble, consisting of the fiddle, bones, banjo, and tambourine. Calling themselves the "Original Virginia Minstrels," the four men, Dan Emmett on the fiddle, Frank Brower on the bones, Billy Whitlock on the banjo, and Dick Pelham on the tambourine, first performed in public at the Bowery Amphitheater on February 6, 1843, in New York. This unique ensemble, along with their song Old Dan Tucker, swept the entire minstrel world. Wearing ill-assorted garments, oddly shaped hats, and gaudy pants and shirts, the four Virginia Minstrels were an often rowdy, fun-loving group. Within a few short months scores of similar minstrel bands were performing throughout the country. The Original Virginia Minstrels had a short life. After a financially disastrous tour of the British Isles in 1844, the group disbanded. All of the minstrels eventually returned to the United States except Dick Pelham, who remained in England. "

 

So this is how at least the banjo got to Ireland. According to Wikipedia, Joe Sweeney (another of Irish extraction and the earliest documented white to play the banjo) was with the Virginia Minstrels (with Emmett and Pelham) on an 1846 tour...they played Dublin, COrk, Belfast and Glasgow that year.

 

O'Neill wrote of Emmett as one of Ireland's sons abroad...he approved of Emmett, at least!....and it is interesting that some American minstrel tunes found their way into O'neill's tunebooks as a result of some lightfingered action by O'Neill (not rare at the time, as tunes were not considered as copyrighted). So we get real reverberations back and forth, and back again, as you point out.

 

Now, as to the bones....does the British army claim them too? :P

 

Not to leave the British totally out of this discussion, here is something intereesting about a Blackface Sweeney before he ever joined the Virginia Minstrels: from Wikipedia:

"By 1839, Sweeney was performing in various blackface venues in New York. His earliest documented use of the banjo on stage was in April 1839. That same month, he performed alongside James Sanford at the Broadway Circus in New York with a blackface burlesque of The Dying Moor's Defence of His Flag called "Novel Duetts, Songs, &c". This was accompanied by a "Comic Morris Dance by the whole company"." There are some who say that some (English) Morris sides got their blackface from the minstrels....but they clearly supplied their own tambourines! ;)

 

Cheers,

Dan

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Guest Peter Laban

minstrls.jpg

 

Love that image, no tambourine but at least they have a concertina

Edited by Peter Laban

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Love that image, no tambourine but at least they have a concertina

 

Here's your tambourine, and a concertina too.

 

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Mind you, I don't rule out the possible later influence of the blackface minstrels, but let's not forget that many of the original ones were themselves Irish - so the influence could have been the other way! ;)

Or
both
ways, just as it is today.

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"In the winter of 1842-43, four stars of the minstrel profession formed a novel ensemble, consisting of the fiddle, bones, banjo, and tambourine. Calling themselves the "Original Virginia Minstrels," the four men, Dan Emmett on the fiddle, Frank Brower on the bones, Billy Whitlock on the banjo, and Dick Pelham on the tambourine, first performed in public at the Bowery Amphitheater on February 6, 1843, in New York. This unique ensemble, along with their song Old Dan Tucker, swept the entire minstrel world. Wearing ill-assorted garments, oddly shaped hats, and gaudy pants and shirts, the four Virginia Minstrels were an often rowdy, fun-loving group."

Let's have a look at them:

 

Virginia_Minstrels_1843.jpg

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...the four Virginia Minstrels were an often rowdy, fun-loving group."

Let's have a look at them:

Virginia_Minstrels_1843.jpg

Is that Don Quixote in the background?
:unsure:

In any case, it looks like Mr. Bones is playing both rib bones (the model for modern-day Irish bones players) and a jawbone, an instrument which one rarely encounters these days.

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"In the winter of 1842-43, four stars of the minstrel profession formed a novel ensemble, consisting of the fiddle, bones, banjo, and tambourine. Calling themselves the "Original Virginia Minstrels," the four men, Dan Emmett on the fiddle, Frank Brower on the bones, Billy Whitlock on the banjo, and Dick Pelham on the tambourine, first performed in public at the Bowery Amphitheater on February 6, 1843, in New York. This unique ensemble, along with their song Old Dan Tucker, swept the entire minstrel world. Wearing ill-assorted garments, oddly shaped hats, and gaudy pants and shirts, the four Virginia Minstrels were an often rowdy, fun-loving group."

Let's have a look at them:

 

Virginia_Minstrels_1843.jpg

 

Not the most realistic image, of course...they look as purposefully grotesque as Hollywood actresses with lip implants!

 

Try this for a real photo (I failed to capture it, so you'll have to go to the site):

http://books.google.com/books?id=rRc5AAAAI..._brr=3#PPA13,M1

 

If you go to page 22, you'll see where they mention Joe Sweeney's trip with this group to Dublin, and how he took the original gourd off the banjo and used a hoop instead.

 

If you go to (I think) p 287 (or was it 277?) you'll find a low res version of the photo of Fields and Hoey (Fields with concertina) that I used in my US Anglos article.

 

If you do a search on that book for Irish or Ireland, you'll see the extent to which Irish comedians and musicians were employed in the minstrels (and look up England to get an idea how popular they were there). The more one looks at this amazing book, the more one begins to appreciate how enormous minstrels were both in the US and Britain....of a similar relative scale as R&R in the past 50 years, in a day when racial mores were still at a primitive state of course. But then, we are thread creeping!!

 

Cheers,

Dan

Edited by Dan Worrall

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Not the most realistic image, of course...they look as purposefully grotesque as Hollywood actresses with lip implants!

But that's the whole point, aren't the acts of both based on them being caricatures... ;)

 

Try this for a real photo (I failed to capture it, so you'll have to go to the site):

http://books.google.com/books?id=rRc5AAAAI..._brr=3#PPA13,M1

I'm afraid that, in my browser, your link only takes me to a listing for the book, and using the Search in this book feature only shows me a small portion of a page (where the keyword is) - so I've had to get up from my computer chair and lift my copy of Monarchs of Minstrelsy* down from my bookshelves, to look at it manually... :(

 

However, though there are individual portraits of the four members of the Virginia Minstrels on page 13, they were all taken in later years when they were much older. I think (especially for my purposes) I'd rather have the caricaturised "action shot", where the tambourine can be seen literally "in full swing".

 

If you go to page 22, you'll see where they mention Joe Sweeney's trip with this group to Dublin, and how he took the original gourd off the banjo and used a hoop instead.

Exactly what Sweeney did, or did not do to the banjo seems to be a great bone of contention in banjo circles, though he was certainly hugely "instrumental" in turning the banjo into a "white" instrument. But (just to keep somewhat on topic for a moment) it's worth noting that early banjo hoops are very similar to tambourines of the period (be they "tackhead" or "tunable"), and in fact several of the early banjo makers were originally tambourine makers!

 

For that matter, my friend Pete Stanley in London makes primitive "tackhead" banjos out of 12" bodhrans!

 

If you go to (I think) p 287 (or was it 277?) you'll find a low res version of the photo of Fields and Hoey (Fields with concertina) that I used in my US Anglos article.

It's page 277, the only one I had marked from reading the book when I first bought it.

 

If you do a search on that book for Irish or Ireland, you'll see the extent to which Irish comedians and musicians were employed in the minstrels (and look up England to get an idea how popular they were there). The more one looks at this amazing book, the more one begins to appreciate how enormous minstrels were both in the US and Britain....of a similar relative scale as R&R in the past 50 years, in a day when racial mores were still at a primitive state of course. But then, we are thread creeping!!

I know.

 

* By the way, thanks to your link I took a look at what copies of Monarchs of Minstrelsy are fetching these days, and I'm stunned! :blink: I thought £22 was expensive at the time, but then it was a good few years ago... :rolleyes:

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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When I was at the session in Doolin in 1975(?), there was an older fellow playing the bodhran/tambourine, and a boy (about 10 years old?) with him. I was told that the man came down from Galway and that the boy was his grandson. The grandson took an occasional turn on the drum, and he too was quite good.

 

The tambourine had jingles on it, which were old English pennies, pierced through their centers. When the drum was braced on the player's thigh, the jingles were still. I recall that the main technique of getting noise out of the jingles was to bounce the drum on the player's leg.

 

The intriguing thing to me was the way they played the head. It wasn't striking with the fingers (as in many other cultures), nor with a stick, but with a small knob of wood on the end of a leather loop. The loop was around one or more fingers, with the knob then projecting from between the fingers and striking the head as the hand was moved similarly to how it is done with a stick. I'm pretty sure that the tension on the loop was varied to accommodate the tempo of the tune. And something very much like the above-described "thumb roll" was accomplished by dragging the knob across the head, with it bouncing repeatedly as it was dragged.

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The tambourine had jingles on it, which were old English pennies, pierced through their centers.

I've seen the old large pennies used, as you describe, or flattened beer-bottle tops, or "pot menders" (large washers that were intended to be bolted over holes in cooking pots), whilst Sonny Davey used what appear to be discs cut out of the lids of tin cans, on the one he made for me. When I was building my own, I did a lot of experimenting to achieve an acceptable sound, and finally scrapped a new Egyptian tambourine for its rustly-sounding jingles.

 

When the drum was braced on the player's thigh, the jingles were still. I recall that the main technique of getting noise out of the jingles was to bounce the drum on the player's leg.

I used to play a bodhran like that, with morris bells tied to the cross-piece (copying Robin Morton with Boys of the Lough), but I hold the tambourine with my hand underneath it and my thumb in the thumhole, as the player in the Maclise painting is doing. I never rest it on my knee, but I can control the jingles by the angle of the drum, and how I hit it.

 

The intriguing thing to me was the way they played the head. It wasn't striking with the fingers (as in many other cultures), nor with a stick, but with a small knob of wood on the end of a leather loop. The loop was around one or more fingers, with the knob then projecting from between the fingers and striking the head as the hand was moved similarly to how it is done with a stick.

I've seen it done, but not recently.

 

Edited to add: I was recently told that Sonny Davey made his tambourine jingles out of shoe polish tins.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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These YouTube clips featuring Packie Russell, and others accompanied by traditional Irish tambourine playing, seem to have generated curiosity and discussion in various quarters, including the 'Bodhran' Yahoo! Group: interesting link to the bodhran on concertinanet and the IRTRAD-L List: The Irish Tambourine, and its replacement the Bodhran, and I've been meaning to write some notes on how the tambourine first became popular in Britain and Ireland, so here goes:

The Fashionable Tambourine

Turkish Origins

The tambourine is an ancient instrument that was mainly associated with the Middle East. It is said to have been first introduced into Europe by the Crusaders, and it was reintroduced and became highly fashionable in the latter years of the 18th century as part of a craze for Orientalism that saw the sound of the Ottoman military Janissary Band, or Mehter, and especially its rousing and exotic percussion instruments, introduced into both European classical and military music under the name "Turkish music". You will find numerous clips of revived bands of this type if you search under either "Janissary" or "Mehter" on YouTube, but I'd recommend this one if you'd just like to get a good taste of what they sound[ed] like.

 

The British Army

These Turkish percussion instruments were introduced into the British Army in the last quarter of the 18th century (and generally played by black musicians in exotic uniforms), starting with cymbals in the 24th Foot (1777), then a bass drum and tambourine in the Royal Artillery (1782), and a Jingling Johnnie and two tambourines in the Coldstream Guards (1785). Below is a Portrait of the tambourinist John Fraser of the Coldstream Guards, c.1790 (notice the Turkish crescent on his turban):


JamesFrazierColdstreamGuards17902.jpg

And here is an engraving of the band plus the fifes and drums of the "3rd Foot Guards [scots Guards] at St. James's Palace, 1790", with their "Turkish music" (in this case, cymbals, bass drum and tambourine) in the middle:

3rdfootguardsatstjamesspalace17903.jpg

These "blacks," as they were usually designated on the muster rolls, were great adepts at the handling of these Turkish music "tools," as Wagner called them, and they became "the rage" by reason of their antics in performing upon them. The modern cross-handed drumming on the bass drum, the leopard or tigerskin apron, and a few other oddities, are survivals of their régime as percussionists. Dressed in high turbans, bearskins, or cocked-hats, with towering hackle feather plumes, and gaudy coats of many colours, braided and slashed gorgeously and gapingly, they capered rather than marched, and flung their drumsticks and tambourines into the air, adroitly catching them in discreetly measured cadence. Their agility with fingers, arms and legs was only equalled by their perfect time in the music.

[Extract from the paper The Turkish Influence on Military Music (1950) by Henry George Farmer.]

Some idea of the "tricks" those tambourine players probably used (I've seen similar techniques, including spinning the tambourine, described in contemporary tutor books) might be gained by watching this amazing clip from YouTube: Karim Nagi performs on the Duff (frame drum)

Whilst this detail from George Heriot's painting Minuets of the Canadians (c.1801) seems to show some similar "tricks" being employed:

MinuetsoftheCanadians.jpg

"Belles of Distinction"

W.T. Parke in his 'Musical Memoirs' (1830) tells us that the tambourinists of the Guards' bands did a roaring trade as teachers to fashionable ladies: "It may be worthy of remark that the Africans, who appear generally to have a natural disposition for music, produced such effect with their tambourines, that those instruments afterwards, under their tuition, became extremely fashionable, and were cultivated by many of those belles of distinction who were emulous to display Turkish attitudes and Turkish graces."

Emma, Lady Hamilton certainly fell into that "belles of distinction" category, often dressing in Turkish costume, and this portrait of her with tambourine, ''Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante'', was painted in Naples, in 1790-1, by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun:

 

EmmaLadyHamilton.jpg

The fashion for the tambourine as a classical instrument around 1800 is illustrated by some forty-odd musical works/songs with tambourine obligato between 1798 and 1816, that are listed in the British Library Catalogue, plus three tutor books:

Bolton, Thomas. Instructions for the Tambourine. [WM 1799]
Dale, Joseph. Dale's Instructions for the Tambourine. [1800]

[Preston] Instructions for the Tambourine, with a selection of the most admired airs, waltzes, and marches, arranged for the piano forte, with an accompaniment for the tambourine. [WM 1813]

So you see, the tambourine really did owe it's rise to fashion and popularity to the British Army, though it also passed through the Big House along the way... tongue.gif

(A bit like sets of quadrilles/set dancing! smile.gif )

Edited to correct link, and for layout (to make it easier to read)

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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... "Sonny" Davey ... having gone over to making only the more fashionable bodhrans (for which his customers had included the likes of Christy Moore and Kevin Conneff of the Chieftains) ...

In confirmation of that, whilst browsing YouTube I accidentally stumbled on some clips of Christy Moore playing with Planxty (in 1974) on what is obviously (to anybody who has one) one of Sonny Davey's bodhrans, you can tell from his signature light-brown paint (I found out the shade was called "Mace", when I needed some to make my replacement tambourine) and band of black tape around the bottom of the rim, as well as the carved cross-sticks that he put in the back of his older bodhrans (later ones had dowels). You can see these details very clearly in this clip: The Rambles of Kitty - Planxty, especially around 2.12

 

And I forgot to mention that Sonny also played fiddle, made his own drum kit (to play in a ceilidh band) which was painted the same shade of brown (as was all the furnture/woodwork in the kitchen of his farmhouse :huh: ), and should not be confused with the well-known 5-times champion bodhran player from the same locality "Junior" Davey (son of the fiddler Andrew Davey).

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Virginia_Minstrels_1843.jpg

Is that Don Quixote in the background? :unsure:

Why no Jim, that's Old Dan Tucker, as described in the second verse of Dan Emmett's song of the same name and popularised by the Virginia Minstrels:

 

Old Dan Tucker went to town

Riding a mule and leading a hound

Hound barked and mule jumped

Threw old Dan right over a stump

 

I guess it must be what they were supposed to be singing at the time... :huh:

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... the (18"?) tambourine in the Packie Russell clips, from Doolin, is of an unusually large size (and it appears to be the same drum in both instances - maybe it too belonged to the pub, like Packie's concertina), whilst the only other one of that size that I've come across has been in the hands of a player in neighbouring Lisdoonvarna, so perhaps made in North Clare by the same person?

 

I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a local musician who knew Stevie McNamara, and he was able to tell me that it was Stevie who made both of the tambourines I was referring to - in fact the lady in Lisdoonvarna is Stevie's daughter-in-law.

 

steve-mac2.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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