Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Johnny, Cock Thy Beaver (Baroque variations, 1684)

  1. #1
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Northop, North Wales
    Posts
    5,607

    Default Johnny, Cock Thy Beaver (Baroque variations, 1684)

    This is an interesting tune to play as it neatly straddles Scottish traditional music and baroque music. "Johnny, Cock Thy Beaver" is a jig, variously identified as Scottish and Northumbrian and appearing in many tune collections under a number of similar names, all of them sounding vaguely rude although the Fiddler's Companion assures us that "The title refers to a beaver top-hat, popular in the late 18th and early 19th century among fashionable men; to ‘cock up’ in this sense would be either to wear it at a rakish angle, to tip it or to brush it so as to make it more presentable." I am not sure I entirely believe that, and even if that was the original meaning surely fiddlers have been sniggering for centuries. The Fiddler's Companion has four somewhat different ABC transcriptions of traditional versions and also says that Carolan wrote variations of this tune, which are No. 204 in the Sullivan edition of Carolan's work.

    Notwithstanding the tune's solid traditional credentials, it is now part of the classical/baroque repertoire more than the folk/Celtic repertoire, in the form of a set of nine baroque variations for violin or flute, set to a ground bass. These variations were published by John Playford (of Dancing Master fame) in "The Division Violin" in 1684/85 and a few years later virtually identically in "The Division Flute". Many tunes from these collections are played and recorded regularly by Early Music and baroque groups, including this one.

    There are at least two free modern transcriptions on the web, as well as a facsimile scan of the 1685 book at IMSLP. I was using the Mutopia transcription, which is fine but has a missing bar in the ground bass (a mistake from the original book which was not picked up by the transcriber). The IMSLP transcription isn't as pretty but has that mistake corrected:

    IMSLP

    Mutopia

    I've recorded all nine variations on the tune on my Embergher bowlback, playing the bass on my Troubadour bouzouki, tuned down to F. I had to raise the occasional low D by an octave to put it in the range of the zouk. I have taken the initial theme quite slowly so that I can play the later variations, which are a lot more intricate, at the same tempo.



    Martin

  2. #2
    Registered User JH Murray's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Burnstown Ontario Canada
    Posts
    656

    Default Re: Johnny, Cock Thy Beaver (Baroque variations, 1684)

    Martin -I love your playing and the telling of the story. Is there a good folk version of the melody out there, or would the first segment of the score be that?

  3. #3
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Northop, North Wales
    Posts
    5,607

    Default Re: Johnny, Cock Thy Beaver (Baroque variations, 1684)

    Thanks! The first segment is how the tune appears in Playford's Dancing Master, which is a much more bare bones publication than the Division Violin. As for folk versions, they tend to go by the name used by Robert Burns when he put lyrics to the tune -- he managed to pick an even ruder variant than Playford a century earlier in calling his song "Cock Up Your Beaver" (yes, really!), so that's your search term for recordings if you don't mind messing up your search history. Here are two folk versions:

    Solo bagpipe:



    The Burns song (with mandolin accompaniment, too, rather a nice arrangement):



    Martin

  4. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Martin Jonas For This Useful Post:


  5. #4
    Registered User Hany Hayek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Egypt
    Posts
    545

    Default Re: Johnny, Cock Thy Beaver (Baroque variations, 1684)

    Thanks Martin, beautiful playing. Do you stay on first position? Is there a transcription showing the position to use.
    “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
    ― Victor Hugo

  6. #5
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Northop, North Wales
    Posts
    5,607

    Default Re: Johnny, Cock Thy Beaver (Baroque variations, 1684)

    Thanks, CM. First position throughout works fine, and as it's a folky tune to start with don't worry about avoiding open strings -- the sustained open strings add extra harmonies. The tricky parts are Variations 4 and 7, where you need to keep the fingering going at a steady pace throughout to stay in time. If you find it awkward in first position you could try to see whether it sits easier for you in second position.

    It's a fairly straightforward piece, though -- have fun!

    Martin

  7. The following members say thank you to Martin Jonas for this post:


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •