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Thread: Flora MacDonald

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    Default Flora MacDonald

    Has anyone worked out the notation for Flora MacDonald, especially Natalie MacMaster's fiddle version? I found a couple jpgs of some older versions, but not as lovely as Natalie's.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    I have music to a Cape Breton/Scottish reel, not jig, called "Flora MacDonald." I'm not set up to send it electronically right now, but if you send me a PM, I could copy and mail it to you. I don't know if this is the tune Natalie plays, but she is certainly familiar with the musician who transcribed this one.

    In the 1990's, was hitchhiking in South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, and a driver let me out by a cleared village of stone houses without roofs. I went to find a place to have lunch, and saw a plaque marking Flora MacDonald's birthplace. I sat in her old house, and enjoyed lunch, with the company of a friendly dog.

    Added: Oops, I read "jpgs" as "jigs."
    Last edited by Ranald; Sep-18-2020 at 1:49pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Here's Natalie MacMaster's rendition:



    Multiple transcriptions in general of the tune are here on The Session.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Thanks gentlemen. Should have thought of The Session. Impressive.

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    Ranald 

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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Ranald, How do I PM you on the Cafe? Would love to see the notation you have. However, if it is the same as on The Session, than you needn't go thru with the effort.
    Thanks, Doug

  9. #6

    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Lovely Natalie McMasters version. Here’s the session page, not sure which version is most similar:
    https://thesession.org/tunes/2629

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    The version I have looks to be the same tune as the Session ones, but a different arrangement than any of these. Natalie seems to be playing this reel as a "slow air."
    Here's another good source for Cape Breton music. Note the Search Engine at the top of the page.
    http://www.cranfordpub.com/

    Doug, to send a PM or Private Message, click on my name on the left of this message, and you'll find options, including Personal Message. If you give me your name and mailing address, I'll send it off.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Progress report on MacMaster's "Flora Macdonald":

    The closest notation I have found has been on "The Session" with the post from Javi V (Spain). MacMaster uses a long (gorgeous) lead in with guitar and piano. Using Amazing Slowdowner, I hope eventually to figure out something there, but just before the fiddle comes in those instruments play simple pickup notes G, F#, E and Natalie joins in on the E. Using hammer ons imitates the little bow-shuffle ornament that she plays. (Is there a name for that fiddle ornament?) The transition from Part 2 -> Part 3 sounded abrupt but evens out with the addition of a low E to the written B that starts Part 3.

    Digging around the internet, there are many versions of this tune. Supposedly the one she plays, a Cape Breton version, has four parts. It is the last part that I'm still having trouble connecting the written notation sound like what she is playing. Any thoughts?

    This 4 part, Cape Breton version is apparently written down, but in a book that is no longer in print, "The DunGreen Collection." It is possibly in a book called "The Skye Collection" which is available on Amazon. That version may however be just a simpler, shorter version. I could find nothing on the Macmaster website that would link me to the notation of the tune.

  14. #9
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    The Skye Collection (1887) from Scotland is an influential collection for Cape Breton fiddlers. It's now published by Paul Cransford, who's website I provided in Post 7, above. As in most fiddle traditions, some CB fiddlers are strictly ear learners, and many others learn a tune from a book, then give their own interpretation to it. Other than at gatherings where fifty fiddlers played at once, I've only seen one Cape Breton fiddler in my life, Winnie Chafe, perform with a score in front of her. The version in the Skye Collection has only two parts. Perhaps Natalie created the others.

    (Sorry, Doug -- the letter's already in the mail.)
    Last edited by Ranald; Sep-23-2020 at 7:35pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Ranald, thank you. It was your suggestions that got me going on digging thru the internet. In your musicology studies, do you know anything more about the DunGreen Collection?
    Thanks for letting me pick your mind.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Yes, it was put together by Kate Dunlay and David Greenberg, a couple at the time. They are both classically-trained musicians with a passion for Cape Breton music. He was the concert master, I believe is the term, for Tafelmusik, a Toronto-based Baroque orchestra with an international reputation. I believe Kate played with them too, but they moved to Nova Scotia to be closer to Cape Breton music. They're both excellent Cape Breton fiddlers, truer to the style than most classical musicians ever get, though neither is originally from CB. David did a great CD of CB fiddle music called "Tunes Until Dawn." He also did a couple of CD's showing the links between Cape Breton and "Celtic" music. I took fiddle lessons from David thirty yeas ago. He was an excellent teacher who'd analyzed CB fiddling right down to the bow hold, different "cuts," and foot tapping. He taught me entirely by ear and observation. We won't blame him for the results in my case. The DunGreen collection was compiled from field recordings of CB fiddlers, complete with all their idiosyncrasies and ornamentations. Unfortunately, the book been "temporarily out-of-print" for over a decade. It's a rarity on the used book market. Believe me, I've been trying to get it for a long time. It's rumoured that a fiddlin' brother of mine, 2,000 miles or so away, has a copy.

    Post 9 should read "Paul Cranford."
    Last edited by Ranald; Sep-23-2020 at 10:29pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    David did a great CD of CB fiddle music called "Tunes Until Dawn." He also did a couple of CD's showing the links between Cape Breton and "Celtic" music.
    I'm terrible at proofreading my own writing, though I'm quite good with others' work. THe previous sentence should say "Baroque" and not "Cape Breton" music. THat statement must have baffled many readers.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    Ranald, Thanks for these details. They are fascinating.

    I'd like to continue to pick your brain. On the "Flora..." rendition by Natalie. Do you know the name of the ornamentation she does on a regular basis thus the piece - the little bow shuffle? I am making progress on notating her version, although it is slow going with my poor music ear and Amazing Slowdowner. I am using hammer ons and some slides to ornament where her bow does.

    Gracias.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flora MacDonald

    The little stutters are called "cuts", a series of usually three short notes, dug in, rather than lightly bowed. This tutorial demonstrates more or less what Natalie's doing. However, Cape Breton fiddlers have their own ways of going at it. At least one I know of played a quadruplet rather than a triplet. In Cape Breton music, there's quite a bit of freedom for personal interpretation, but within the bounds of tradition. Folk tradition tends to be conservative, but often allows for a great deal of personal interpretation, even innovation. However, when one "pushes the envelope" too far, he or she generally loses the local audience. This isn't only true of Cape Breton fiddling but a great many other folk traditions. (Think of quilting; though a few experimental artists have taken it up in recent decades, quilters don't usually stray far from traditional design, but still, if you go to a quilt show, you'll see great variation in materials, colour, size of pieces, sewing techniques, etc.)

    As you were saying, Doug, you'll have to interpret this bowing technique for mandolin. There are excellent Celtic mandolinists at "Celtic, U.K., Nordic, Quebecois, European Folk "on the Forum page who can advise you on that. I generally don't play "fiddle music" on mandolin, only because I play it on fiddle and play other music on mandolin. By the way, I was thinking about the DunGreen book, and realized it's a more valuable resource for fiddlers than mandolin players, because of its detail on fiddle technique, rather than its being a tune book.

    This tutorial is good, but keep in mind that this fiddler's approach isn't the only one. You'll get a sense of what Natalie's doing from this. If the links don't work, search YouTube for "The Cut" Gracenote: Scottish Fiddle Technique Tutorial by Hanneke Cassel".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDYiiMVLNFQ

    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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