Week #509 ~ Hut On Staffen Island

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  1. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    This week's winner is Hut On Staffen Island, which was suggested as a hornpipe. It is also known as Hut On Staffin Island, The Hut On Staffen Island, The Little Hut On Staffin Island.

    Here is a link to five settings of this tune on thesession.org.

    From what I've found, this tune is commonly played in a set!

  2. Robert Balch
    Robert Balch
    When I saw this one winning in the polls I decided to risk it and work on it early.

    Mandolin - Collings MTO
    Guitar - Gibson J45 Studio

  3. David Hansen
    David Hansen
    Very nice Robert, I had the same idea but I decided on playing it more like a slow reel than a hornpipe.

  4. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Ha, ha, Robert and David, I really am lost for words!
    What’s cool for me though, is that I’m just beginning to understand why the two versions are amazing.

    Here’s TAB:
  5. Ginny Aitchison
    Ginny Aitchison
    I absolutely love both of these versions. So great.
  6. Frithjof
    Robert and David are you silly! To set the bar this high!
    I can’t stop listening to your fine recordings – so I don’t have time enough to practice myself.
  7. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Frithjof, that’s what I was thinking too.
    Soon people will be tuning in to Song A Week just to listen!
  8. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Great job, Robert and David!

    I have now also recorded my version, as a mandolin duet with tenor guitar backing, using a transcription by the Dunedin Scottish Fiddle Orchestra at:


    1921 Gibson Ajr mandolin (x2)
    Vintage Viaten tenor guitar

  9. Gelsenbury
    Tuning in just to listen? That's what I've been doing for years.
  10. crisscross
    WOW! The winner was announced only yesterday, and we already get to hear three great versions of this hornpipe.
    Nice job, gentlemen!
  11. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Nice one Martin, and many thanks for the book.
  12. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    A quick response this week, everyone. Three fine and different interpretations of the tune so far, and here is my version now, with what I hope is a bit of Scottish Snap. Played on mandolin wtih acoustic guitar backing. It is interesting how many ways we can interpret a tune and still keep the essence of the tune there.

  13. Frithjof
    Good job as a chamber trio, Martin.

    With John we now have the authentic Scottish version.
    I like the slightly different rhythmic touch and different accompaniment you gave the B-part in the second round.
  14. crisscross
    Nice version John! I especially like the places, where you play a short note first, followed by a longer note, this is the Scottish Snap I guess.
    Well, mandolin-wise, almost everythhing is already done with this tune, so I tried a different approach: I played the melody on my electric tenor guitar:
  15. Robert Balch
    Robert Balch
    Wow so many great versions. So many contributions right out of the gate. Just a really great tune.
  16. Frithjof
    Good idea, Christian. That adds something.
  17. Ginny Aitchison
    Ginny Aitchison
    Jeez - so many excellent renditions of this great song. Sometimes one comes up that just every one loves.
  18. JL277z
    All enjoyable versions. Crisscross especially caught my attention with the electric tenor - very nice!
  19. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    This really is a popular tune, more lovely versions.
    Very Scots-elegant there John!
  20. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Fine version, Christian. The electric tenor adds a new dimension to the sound.

    You are right in your comment about the Scotch Snap. It is a semiquaver followed by a dotted quaver, and is a staple of many Scottish tunes and especially in the repertoire of fiddlers. Pipers use the combination too, and also the reversed ordering of dotted quaver then semi quaver, which they call the dot and cut, for obvious reasons. Listen for them in 2/4 and 6/8 marches and in Strathspeys, and indeed in many other places in our music. They give that bouncy lift to the tunes.
  21. Frithjof
    Martin gave us a link to a transcription by the Dunedin Scottish Fiddle Orchestra.
    I just found a site with abc-code for this transcription. Please scroll down to find the button “Show ABC Source”.

    Now I can easily transpose the sheet music in any key. Very useful for my purpose.
    May be others are interested too.
  22. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Last minute entry. Bad student!
  23. Ginny Aitchison
    Ginny Aitchison
    ALL so very nice. Simon is a good student. very nice, I enjoyed it.
  24. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    A well played version, Simon. Your last minute entry with the included live sounds of water and gulls is really enjoyable.
  25. Ginny Aitchison
    Ginny Aitchison
    I have a tune I'm working on with 'rain effects'..I wonder if I can use Simon's shorebirds too?
  26. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Here’s a link, Ginny. There’s eleven and a half hours of the stuff.

    -though I have to admit that I only included the additional sounds because I wasn’t happy with my ‘amount of work to final performance quality’ ratio.
    Meaning I worked a lot more on this and yet didn’t feel a large improvement.
    Maybe because this last week I’ve been mixing different rhythm exercises.
  27. Gelsenbury
    I've worked out recently that folk music really does sound better by the seaside. And the title of this tune even says that an island is involved. So you just took this melody to where it wanted to be. Great, composed playing!
  28. Frithjof
    Simon, I very much enjoyed your version. The backing with natural sounds works very well. I should steal this idea at a suitable opportunity.

    If yours was the last minute entry here comes my last second entry (the next tune isn’t announced until now):

  29. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Really nice Frithjof! That instrument is amazing with all those harmonics.
    I nearly bought one of those from a young woman who lived in a tiny cottage up in the Dolomite mountains, Italy, about 30 years ago. But I didn’t.
    My values were different then, and I thought she wanted too much for it.

    Where did you find yours? I guess it’s not tuned in fifths...
  30. crisscross
    Two really nice last day entries: an octave mandolin version with birds in the background and a Thüringer Waldzitter!
  31. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Great ringing sound from that instrument, Frithjof!
  32. Frithjof
    Thanks Simon, Christian and John.

    My Thüringer/Thuringian waldzither is a sibling auf my mandolin. They both were built by the same luthier, Kurt Roth, 60 years ago.

    The Waldzither has the tuning C3*G3 G3*C4 C4*E4 E4*G4 G4.
    I stumbled over this unique instrument on ebay in 2016. The next day I drove to the Harz Mountains and bought it from a local folk musician. He had saved it in bad condition from an attic somewhere in Germany. Then he gave it to one of the old traditional mandolin makers in Markneukirchen/Voigtland where it got a complete overhaul.
  33. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Nice playing and nice waldzither. You're braver than me -- I have two waldzithers but keep both tuned in fifths. My little brain can't cope with open tunings.

  34. Ginny Aitchison
    Ginny Aitchison
    Very nice Frithjof. I like that waldzinger thing too. Oh sorry, waldzither...got it. !
  35. Gelsenbury
    The Waldzither sounds really good. My only suggestion would be to avoid the triplet because it seems to combine with the long stretch afterwards to slow you down on this bigger instrument. It's the only place where you lose the rhythm for a moment.

    As I've been listening to everyone's great renditions of the tune here, it occurred to me that it might work well in a set with Spootiskerry and the Staten Island Hornpipe. But I don't play any of the tunes well enough to post them here anytime soon!
  36. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Come on Gelsenbury, you play both those tunes very well... at the right speed!
    Put the metronome on VERY, very, very, very, slow, make sure the pick direction is coherent (if necessary, mark up the notation), then record and post the result.

    Have to ask John about it, but we can probably get at least 47 points just for a very slow A part. 49 points if it’s professional quality.
    Whatever we post, I don’t think we can get less than, what, 43-45 points?

    This is what I love about Song A Week, we can’t lose!
  37. Frithjof
    Thanks Dennis!
    I understand you very well. You brought up the painful subject. That was of course the phrase I had the most difficulties with especially on the Waldzither. I could do it slower or without the triplet. I tried that but it didn’t feel right either. I’ll woodshed to solve this problem.
    I’m hope to get it right within the next three decades. May be 46 points are possible.
  38. Njugglebreck
    I'm a bit late with this one, considering I knew it anyway ... but, you know..... things......

    I always feel a bit nervous posting these, considering how good the other versions are..

    With only a barely muffled foot for accompaniment....

  39. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Jim, a very creditable performance, and I really enjoyed the double stops coming in around the 40 second mark.
  40. Al Trujillo
    Al Trujillo
    So many great versions of a beautiful song! And the bonus of seeing David dance a bit!! Cheers!
  41. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Nice one Jim, really intimate, I like the tone on your mandolin.
  42. Frithjof
    Jim, your version is very enjoyable. I do agree with John about the double stops and really like your triplets in different places.
  43. crisscross
    Me too, I enjoy your triplets and the sound of your mandolin!
  44. Gelsenbury
    Yes, it's a very mellow and smooth sound from that mandolin. I enjoyed that.
  45. Gelsenbury
    I needed a bit longer to practise, but here's that set I was talking about!

    Hut on Staffin Island, Spootiskerry, and the Staten Island hornpipe - all slow reels that want to be hornpipes, or vice versa. I played both the chords and the melody on my Fylde Touchstone Walnut mandolin.

    This is a little milestone for me because I don't normally get along with reels. But I also desperately wanted to get it done for Burns night, so I'm aware that this can still be improved with more practice.

    I solved the problem of that triplet in the same way David did ... by just not playing it!
  46. Simon DS
    Simon DS
    Nice flow to that set Gelsenbury, well done!
    I have yet to record a set, sail off-shore as it were.
  47. Frithjof
    Nice set, Dennis. Well played.
    I like to look out for these other hornpipes/reels too. And then try to do it with your relaxed feeling.
  48. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    That is an interesting combination of tunes, Dennis, and you put the set together really well. I like the backing on mandolin as well.
  49. Gelsenbury
    Thanks Simon, Frithjof and John! The positive feedback means a lot to me.

    The video is the best I could achieve for today. But listening back to it, something that bothers me (minor flubs aside) is the tinny, staccato sound on the E string towards the end. I've been working on playing more relaxed, but perhaps I tensed up towards the finish line and my technique suffered. Why does it affect only the E string, though?
  50. David Hansen
    David Hansen
    Well done Dennis, you sure look relaxed enough to me, especially when you are smiling!!! I'd give anything to be able to do that.
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