2021-02 Tune of the Month - Fisher's Hornpipe

  1. HonketyHank
    The tune of the month for February, 2021, is "Fisher's Hornpipe". It is a rarety among the various TOMs -- a repeat. I don't know how that happened in the Song A Week group, but we just follow their picks, in order, from their first. Their first pick was "Road to Lisdoonvarna", followed by "Fisher's Hornpipe" for week #2 (link here ). Then it showed up again as their pick for week number 58 (link here ). And they are still doing it. The thread for the Song A Week #2 has a bunch of very recent entries as the social group's members recycle golden oldies. It seems that after 500+ songs of the week, some folks have opted to start over again rather than learning yet one more new tune.

    Some of us old Newbies who have not yet graduated to the next level may well remember doing this tune a few years ago. No fair re-embedding the old version.

    The provenance of "Fisher's Hornpipe" can be traced back to the late 18th century, but then it gets murky. Most sources claim it was first published and maybe even written, by one "J. Fisher" or "J. Fishar". The problem is that nobody seems to agree on who this "J. Fisher" actually was. There are several plausible candidates. But given that the tune is attributed to a composer in its early published forms, it is pretty safe to say that said "composer" either did compose it or adapted and claimed it as his own some time close to the date of its publication. But if it was a known tune before it was published, it does not appear to be a close relative of anything else known from that period or earlier.

    The tune, as published, was a standard hornpipe with an A part and a B part. In later years a C part was added in some versions. I haven't seen any reference as to where the C part came from.

    Fisher's Hornpipe was one of the most popular hornpipes in the USA in the 19th century. The tune is still fairly popular here among bluegrass and old-time string band musicians, espescially as a show-off piece played far faster than anyone can imagine dancing to. As is common with most hornpipes that survive in the bluegrass genre, the hornpipe swing is often omitted, yielding a tune that is difficult to distinguish from a standard reel, but perhaps easier to play REALLY fast.

    There are numerous sources for various versions of the tune. www.thesession.org has over a dozen even though the consensus there seems to be that Fisher's Hornpipe is definitely not Irish music. Baron Collins-Hill has a nice video lesson at his always free www.mandolessons.com. There is a version in Fiddler's Fakebook. I found a version in the key of F and which may be close to the version published back in 1778 in Ryan's Mammoth Collection, published in 1883. www.ibiblio.org has about a million sources listed for the tune in its Fiddlers' Companion section. Mike Marshall has a free lesson at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28gK9tvEwNM. Banjo Ben Clark has a reasonably priced lesson at his site, www.banjobenclark.com.

    I am a big fan of Don Messer who hosted a very long running musical review TV show on CBC. Here is his version:

    We hear a lot about Dave Harvey in reference to his job as chief mandolin luthier honcho at Gibson. I didn't know he was a champion mandolin player as well until I found the following:
  2. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Yes, this was our second TOM in the current form of the newbies TOM, Henry didn't link it, but here is the newbies thread: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...527&do=discuss

    My first inclination was to re-post all the newbies' videos from that thread into this one, mainly because Henry said not to in his second paragraph above, and I rarely follow instructions. But, that would be too much work, so my laziness ruled over my rebelliousness in this case

    At any rate, I had a very fun stroll down memory lane reading that old newbies thread and re-watching our earlier efforts. The magic internet machine is great at capturing memories.
  3. HonketyHank
    I didn't say we couldn't compare and contrast. Like, for instance, that was about the closest buzzcut haircut I ever had. Lucky it didn't leave scars on my head.

    I am going to work on the 1883 version I found in the key of F -- primarily in the spirit of "that which does not kill me makes me stronger." The A part is not bad, but the B part is a real finger twister. No C part -- that is a plus.
  4. phb256

    That was tricky and involved some stretching, but I think I didn't mess it up too much.
  5. HonketyHank
    phb, that was quite nice. It was interesting to watch how a well-behaved pinkie finger helps when playing that long-necked instrument. You use yours well indeed. Good job, all around!
  6. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Nice rhythm, phb. It just rolls on along, top to bottom. To second what Honkety says, great fourth finger control!
  7. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Here's another hornpipe.

  8. HonketyHank
    Geez, Louise - that sounds good. And steady. Interesting version. It seems like there are a lot different sounding versions. What was your source?
  9. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    This was from a book I got from Mel Bay a couple of years ago called Irish Reel Book. It looks like they still have it. The author is German, interestingly. Reels, jigs, slip jigs, flings, hornpipes, O'Carolan tunes, and more. It was a great addition to my library.
  10. bbcee
    Phb, that certainly is a stretchy way to play it! Not that there's any other choice on that bouzouki.

    Louise, great arrangement as always, and sounds just great on that Pava.
  11. HonketyHank
    Here is my version in F. I found out the secret to mastering the fingerbusters in this tune. About a 50/50 mix of focused practice and enforced patience. So far, that usually works on just about all the stuff I have attempted. Eventually.

  12. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Yeah, Hank, you got that fourth finger over to the fretboard! Sounds good. Using a version in F is a good exercise, after all the tunes in G or occasionally D.
  13. NDO
    Well done Hank!
  14. HonketyHank
    Thanks, guys!
  15. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    Well played pbh Louise and Henry. My version is from Butch Baldassari's 15 Fiddle Tunes for Mandolin vol 1 which I chose because it includes a C section. However I found it very difficult on mandola as just about every bar has fingering at the sixth fret so the playing is a bit hesitant.
  16. HonketyHank
    Wow, That is quite a workout. I especially like the C part.
  17. Ellsdemon
    Nice job from you all, and with all the Mandola's as well.
  18. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    That takes a lot of scooting up and down the finger board! Nice work.
  19. bbcee
    A little late to the dance this month. This was one of the first "tough" tunes I learned way back at the dawn of ... 2015 or 2016. I thought for this, I'd just revisit it and do a quick post, and hey, why not play it on mandola as well? It was a slog getting my fingers to re-remember it, and playing a notey tune like this on 'dola wasn't a breeze.

    Mine is a mashup of Butch Baldassari's version per Maudlin (it's a great book BTW), plus some ArtistWorks passages stuck in there. Still loving the octave-strung mandola!

  20. HonketyHank
    That's mellow, man. Sounds great, bbcee!
  21. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    What is the string length on the mandola, Bbcee? It doesn't look like you have to stretch much at all to reach. Great tone, nice arrangement well played.
  22. bbcee
    Thanks, kids.
    Louise, it's a 16" scale length according to Eastman, so a little bit more of a stretch, and the neck is chunkier than a mandolin. It has thin, vintagey frets on it, which I don't care for on mandolin, but on this instrument they seem to suit it well.
  23. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    My Trinity College has a 17" scale. Your 16" looks easier to handle!
  24. HonketyHank
    Uh-oh. Initial symptoms of an impending MAS attack include ME (mando envy).
  25. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    I think I can fend it off for now. Having acquired my Pava, a Japanese bowl back, and my MAS epitome, a Lyon & Healy, in the past 12 months (OK, it was only 10) it's time to just love the ones I'm with. An hundred-year-old one, a new one, one from the 70s, one from the 80s, one F with ff holes, ovals, a mandola, even if it is pretty big, I'm feeling complete.
  26. bbcee
    Wow Louise, I didn't realize you got a L & H as well. Knowing a bit about your background, it must sound marvelous on some of the stuff you play.
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