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Thread: English fiddling essay (no mando)

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    Default English fiddling essay (no mando)

    I'm posting this for anyone interested in English traditional music, which is commonly played but little talked about when compared to so-called "Celtic" music. I play some English tunes from my time as a Morris dance fiddler, and also ones handed down through aural tradition such as "Harvest Home" and other hornpipes. I've listened to Dave Swarbrick, and other fiddlers in folk bands, as well as traditional northern English fiddlers on Folkways. However, outside of Morris circles, I've heard little talk of English fiddling. this is a good article for those curious about its subject.

    http://www.fiddlingaround.co.uk/english/
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    I enjoyed reading that. Thanks, Ranald.
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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    There's a strong link between English fiddle and our Mandolin Orchestra of Devon (MOoD) which was set up by Devon fiddler and clog champion Matt Norman in 2010
    He handed over the reins to his musical confederate, English fiddle specialist Nick Wyke a couple of years back. Nick has now moved on and Matt is back with us until the new year. Nick & his partner Becki Driscoll specialise in English fiddle tunes, you can see what they do on their site https://englishfiddle.com/

    Nick & Matt are in a band together called Gaderene, they take the old English tunes and really rework them into something very different https://gadarene.bandcamp.com/
    Eoin



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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    There's a strong link between English fiddle and our Mandolin Orchestra of Devon (MOoD) which was set up by Devon fiddler and clog champion Matt Norman in 2010
    He handed over the reins to his musical confederate, English fiddle specialist Nick Wyke a couple of years back. Nick has now moved on and Matt is back with us until the new year. Nick & his partner Becki Driscoll specialise in English fiddle tunes, you can see what they do on their site https://englishfiddle.com/

    Nick & Matt are in a band together called Gaderene, they take the old English tunes and really rework them into something very different https://gadarene.bandcamp.com/
    Thanks for that. I enjoyed the music, though as Nick and Becki themselves say, "The musical partnership of Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll has its roots in the traditional music of South West England but explores a contemporary sound that draws on inspiration from across the globe." I don't mean to take anything from these highly skilled musicians, but with both groups, I'd be curious to hear more England and less "globe".
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Their playing out as a group has more of the colouring you get for modern folk festivals and gigs, with lots of stuff like the Postman Poet project.
    It's the reality of modern folk scenes that you have to add the bells and whistles of modern folk flavouring, or to hang them on projects as a peg to catch the audience. Their playing out in the community is much more straight up english traditional, more specifically Devonshire & the SW. It's an interesting reality that you'll mostly only catch the real stuff on the ground here, otherwise it's all filtered for folk industry consumption.
    Eoin



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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    ...It's an interesting reality that you'll mostly only catch the real stuff on the ground here, otherwise it's all filtered for folk industry consumption.
    Yes - but I suspect 'twas ever thus'? There's a recording out there called 'Stephen Baldwin - English Village Fiddler' which may however display the opposite. The disk has English dance and other tunes recorded in a village hall and played by a Gloucestershire fiddler who hadn't picked up his fiddle for a long time. It was made the year before he died, at which point he had 'neuritis' in both hands. Some folks listen to that recording and assume that's the way the man played when he was younger and fit, but was it? On the face of it, the playing sounds prettty 'rustic'. However there appears to be a good deal more to it, there's a comprehensive discussion here:

    https://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/baldwin.htm

    Also, the 20th C English 'classical' composer collectors (Grainger, Bax, Delius, Vaughan Williams, Britten etc) often appear to have sanitised English tunes in the course of arranging them for orchestra etc. , and not infrequently subverted the rhythm of the original tune to the 'classical' idiom. Then there's the question of 'does this matter and is there any genuinely representative original available? For my money, I'm happy to hear and play this music in whatever style happens now, because in some cases geographical variation and variation over time was so great that all one can do is play what seems to work now. For example, 18thC Scottish music recorded in the early 20thC can sound astonishingly 'classical', because the players tended to adopt many of the classical idioms of the day - Fritz Kreisler style slides, etc.

    I seem to remember that in the later 1970s the Oyster Band labelled some of their own English based music as 'Celtic' as that was the only way to get it into record shops.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    I'm posting this for anyone interested in English traditional music, which is commonly played but little talked about when compared to so-called "Celtic" music. I play some English tunes from my time as a Morris dance fiddler]
    Do you ever play for English Country Dance?

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    I seem to remember that in the later 1970s the Oyster Band labelled some of their own English based music as 'Celtic' as that was the only way to get it into record shops.
    A local folksinging English immigrant said about fifteen years ago: I'm an English man singing English songs in the English language in an English style, with nothing Celtic about me. If someone wants to pay me to perform and advertise me as a "Celtic" musician, I'll be there.
    Last edited by Ranald; Sep-28-2021 at 9:24am.
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    David Shepherd does a good workshop on English regional fiddling styles if anyone ever gets a chance I'd highly recommend going along to one.
    He does a lot of French regional examples too, really catches the differences, although I still find it very difficult to shift between styles like that. What he does is really impressive.
    As with the Irish regional differences he's not convinced that what is declared a regional style in instrumental playing isn't often an individual style difference. However that's also where the differences often originate so it all gets ingrained in the local style eventually & then changed again.
    Eoin



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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Do you ever play for English Country Dance?
    Only a couple of times with pick-up bands, i.e., those who turn up play. I joined the Morris dancers in my early fiddling days. My main fiddling interests were Canadian "old time" and Cape Breton music, but Morris dancing gave me a chance to play with and for others. At the time, I was going to grad school while being a single father, so I wasn't able to immerse myself in as much music as I'd have liked to -- three styles and tune groups were more than enough. Still, a few tunes overlapped the old-time, Cape Breton, Morris, and English country repertoires. "Haste to The Wedding" comes immediately to mind.
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Here’s one of the Bertie Clark recordings where he’s about 80 years old.
    Yes. Pretty awful fiddling.
    So why is this beautiful playing?
    I really like the tune Bacca pipes here.


    https://youtu.be/laJjuzXYvDs

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Here’s one of the Bertie Clark recordings where he’s about 80 years old.
    Yes. Pretty awful fiddling.
    So why is this beautiful playing?
    I really like the tune Bacca pipes here.
    Thanks, Simon. I could get a good sense of Bertie's style from the video, straightforward and unsubtle with a driving energy. I see Morris dancers standing near the fiddler (Bertie?) on the album cover. Bertie was a Morris musician, and his playing reminds me of Morris musicians in North America, many of whom were from England or guided by English immigrants. I assumed that part of our loud, aggressive, percussive style was a result of having to be heard above modern urban traffic. (Ideally the musicians, stood in a group at one end of the two rows of dancers. However, at times, in Toronto, the dancers at the far end couldn't hear us, so I would have to stand where I could hear the other musicians and the furthest dancers could hear me.) However, Bertie's fiddling makes me think this may an old style. Of course, despite our bucolic images of Morris dancers on the village green, they were also dancing on streets, where the musicians may have been competing with smithies, cooperages, abattoirs, factories, horses and wagons, and so on. Sadly, arthritis and impaired hearing are common problems of old age -- I suffer from both. I guess we'll never here what Bertie Clark was like in his prime, but Bacca Pipes" is a good tune.

    For those, like me, who couldn't get the video, click on the URL below or search YouTube for: "The Maid of the Mill / Bacca Pipes / Jockey to the Fair --- Bertie Clark".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVKZ...tieClark-Topic
    Last edited by Ranald; Sep-28-2021 at 1:48pm.
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Interesting thread, as is mentioned at the top of the article, native folk music in England isn't as "mainstream" as it is in say Scotland or Ireland, but it does exist.

    E.g. there is an English fiddler who lives near me (Tom Kitching) who's style may be of interest http://www.tomkitching.co.uk/about/

    Here is him playing with a four piece band - the jazzy drums probably aren't very "English" though...



    I also know someone who plays in this group (Boldwood) who play English music from the 17th and 18th Centuries and feature 3 fiddles. https://boldwoodmusic.com/home#about

    I also think that there is not one definitive English fiddle style and the types of tunes also vary from region, i.e. the North East of England has its own style which also feature the Northumbrian Pipes - probably influenced by its proximity to Scotland. My understanding is that the 4/4 style of tune called a "rant" also comes from that part of the world.

    I've been an occasional attendee at an English session in the Pennines to the North East of Manchester where they play tunes from the NW of England, they played a lot of triple hornpipes in 3/2 at that session, the tune played by Tom in the video is one of these types of tunes.

    I'm certainly no expert on any of this...
    Last edited by Paul Cowham; Sep-28-2021 at 6:52pm.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Cowham View Post
    Interesting thread, as is mentioned at the top of the article, English folk music isn't as "mainstream" as it is in say Scotland or Ireland.

    There is an English fiddler who lives near me (Tom Kitching) who's style may be of interest http://www.tomkitching.co.uk/about/

    Here is him playing with a four piece band - the jazzy drums probably aren't very "English" though!?

    I also know someone who plays in this group (Boldwood) who play English music from the 17th and 18th Centuries and feature 3 fiddles. https://boldwoodmusic.com/home#about

    I tend to agree that there is not one definitive English fiddle style (as with Irish and Scottish music). The types of tunes also vary from region, i.e. the North East of England has its own style which also feature the Northumbrian Pipes - probably influenced by its proximity to Scotland, my understanding is that the 4/4 style of tune called a "rant" also comes from that region.

    I've been an occasional attendee at an English session in the Pennines to the North East of Manchester where they play tunes from the NW of England, they played a lot of triple hornpipes in 3/2 at that session, the tune played by Tom in the video is one of these types of tunes.

    That said, I'm certainly no expert on any of this...
    Thanks, Paul. I enjoyed Kitching and his band, but I suspect they're a long leap from folk tradition. I can't imagine a sailor leaping to his feet to dance a hornpipe to that interpretation. Apart from my experience with English folk music, I would be very surprised if a country with the area and population of England had one distinct style of fiddling, singing, folk dancing, or anything else -- think of speech. Even little Prince Edward Island, Canada, with a population of 160,000 has distinct regional and cultural musical styles. I'm a folklorist, so I have an interest in old, traditional styles of cultural expression, or perhaps, I have an interest in old, traditional styles of cultural expression, so I'm a folklorist. However, I think all forms of music are valid as long as no one is making false claims about them. That is to say that if someone is claiming to be a "traditional musician," they should be playing something close to a traditional style. If I went to hear a traditional English fiddler, I wouldn't expect to hear jazz-influenced arrangements of folk tunes. Similarly, if I go to a rock 'n roll show, I don't expect to hear complex progressive rock. This comment isn't meant to reflect on Tom Kitching, who I don't think is claiming to be anything he isn't. Still, I'd put him into the "progressive trad" category --have I coined a term?
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Only a couple of times with pick-up bands, i.e., those who turn up play. I joined the Morris dancers in my early fiddling days. My main fiddling interests were Canadian "old time" and Cape Breton music, but Morris dancing gave me a chance to play with and for others. At the time, I was going to grad school while being a single father, so I wasn't able to immerse myself in as much music as I'd have liked to -- three styles and tune groups were more than enough. Still, a few tunes overlapped the old-time, Cape Breton, Morris, and English country repertoires. "Haste to The Wedding" comes immediately to mind.
    Thanks for the post.

    Until Covid, there was a local ECD band AND a lot of dancers that had regular events.

    https://www.celticweddingmusic.net/mendoengdance.htm



    Plus, a number of the musicians, aprticularly at Lark Camp, had been involved over the decades with the North CA "Pipe and Bowl" Morris dancers, a group that performed and still does at the Renn fairs and the Dickens fair.

    Anyway, it seems ECD is a growing dance and music genre. The fiddlers that seem popular come from a variety of backgrounds - early music, classical, "Celtic", Morris dance, etc. - but they all seem to find a way to make the music work for the dancers.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    ...I can't imagine a sailor leaping to his feet to dance a hornpipe to that interpretation...
    -if they play this ‘tune’ in the village the same way each time, oh, yes, there would even be a set dance choreographed for the music. Pretty cool dance it would be too.


    And I was half expecting Peter Hammill of Van de Graff Generator to start singing.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Thanks, Paul. I enjoyed Kitching and his band, but I suspect they're a long leap from folk tradition. I can't imagine a sailor leaping to his feet to dance a hornpipe to that interpretation. Apart from my experience with English folk music, I would be very surprised if a country with the area and population of England had one distinct style of fiddling, singing, folk dancing, or anything else -- think of speech. Even little Prince Edward Island, Canada, with a population of 160,000 has distinct regional and cultural musical styles. I'm a folklorist, so I have an interest in old, traditional styles of cultural expression, or perhaps, I have an interest in old, traditional styles of cultural expression, so I'm a folklorist. However, I think all forms of music are valid as long as no one is making false claims about them. That is to say that if someone is claiming to be a "traditional musician," they should be playing something close to a traditional style. If I went to hear a traditional English fiddler, I wouldn't expect to hear jazz-influenced arrangements of folk tunes. Similarly, if I go to a rock 'n roll show, I don't expect to hear complex progressive rock. This comment isn't meant to reflect on Tom Kitching, who I don't think is claiming to be anything he isn't. Still, I'd put him into the "progressive trad" category --have I coined a term?
    Thanks Ranald,
    I've heard it said that to be healthy, any tradition needs both conservative traditionalists and progressives. Without either of these components, the tradition is in danger of imploding or stagnating.

    What do you mean by folk tradition though? E.g. Irish traditional music has a strong sense of identity and features the bouzouki and/or guitar in most modern groups, but these instruments weren't adopted until the late 60's, does that mean these modern groups aren't traditional?

    I've also noticed that instrumentation used by English folk musicians tends to be somewhat random, e.g. in the Tom Kitching clip there is a clarinet, which sounds great and is a mainstream instrument in klezmer music, but isn't normally associated with folk from the Uk and Ireland. In say Irish music, there is a recognised core of instruments which are "acceptable", and this is even more the case with bluegrass. Maybe because there isn't a particularly strong English tradition, there is a more laissez faire attitude towards these type of things.

    Perhaps this is analogous to wine. In the Uk and Ireland there isn't a tradition of producing it due to the weather, and wine from all over the world is popular, but in France it is mostly French wine that is drunk. My impression is that contemporary English folk bands have quite eclectic world influences because there isn't a clearly defined notion of what contemporary English folk should sound like.

    Here is the other band that I mentioned (Boldwood), maybe this is more traditional although their website says that they don't claim to be authentic..

    Last edited by Paul Cowham; Sep-28-2021 at 7:53pm.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Cowham View Post
    What do you mean by folk tradition though? E.g. Irish traditional music has a strong sense of identity and features the bouzouki and/or guitar in most modern groups, but these instruments weren't adopted until the late 60's, does that mean these modern groups aren't traditional?
    That's the big question isn't it? Scholars have used up a lot of paper and breath on that subject. Essentially, we're talking about music or other forms of cultural expression passed down orally, aurally, or visually through particular groups with shared commonalities. However, folklore (or "traditional culture") has elements of conservatism and dynamism as you suggest. Traditions do change, but can be remarkably conservative as well. As an example, there are oral stories and jokes that have retained their essence for hundreds and even thousands of years. New traditions are being invented as well (e.g., workplace or university legends and pranks), but they're not "traditional" until they're being spread around by informal processes. Musical tradition is now complicated by modern media technology. We know the authors of many folk songs and tunes: Burns wrote "Annie Laurie," "Peter Milne composed "John MacNeil's Reel," a.k.a, "Big John MacNeil." But if you hear me singing "Me and Bobbie McGee," which has clearly become a folk song, you can now go to YouTube and hear Kris's original or Janis's version, then learn it from that source, rather than from hearing me, and attempting to remember my version. This leads to far less variation in lyrics and tune than in past centuries.

    In the late 1990's, most of my students in Newfoundland thought that "Danny Boy" was brought over from Ireland by their ancestors. Well, Danny Boy is a song, written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly in 1913, and set to a traditional Irish melody, then brought to Newfoundland (likely through John McCormack's recordings, performances, and sheet music) well after the major waves of Irish immigration. Still, in Newfoundland and most of North America, Danny Boy is now a traditional "Irish" song, passed on orally, definitely a folk song. As well, many students believed that their ancestors brought with them Irish music played in an ensemble style, with every musician doing solos -- a style created in Ireland in the 1950's and 60's. However, though this style was not the traditional music of their older ancestors, it was the traditional music of many of my students, who were raised in homes where their parents and neighbours, perhaps even grandparents, participated in sessions of this style, while passing the music on to their children. i personally have an affinity to many older styles of folk music, played by nonprofessional musicians, but understand that "folk" or "traditional music" doesn't necessarily mean extremely old or amateur music. In truth, I have little idea what the music of my ancestors sounded like before sound recording was invented in the late 19th century. Even then, no one was recording Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island folk music. In summary, I can't give you any exact boundaries between traditional and other music, though my intuitive response is that the music of Boldwood sounds far more traditional than the music of Tom Kitching, posted above. Clear as mud, eh?
    Last edited by Ranald; Sep-28-2021 at 10:59pm.
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    I think Sam Sweeney's fiddle playing is really beautiful. Sometimes it seems to have a Nordic influence, maybe?

    Last edited by Dagger Gordon; Sep-29-2021 at 6:16am.
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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dagger Gordon View Post
    I think Sam Sweeney's fiddle playing is really beautiful. Sometimes it seems to have a Nordic influence, maybe?
    I agree with both points.
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    That's the big question isn't it? Scholars have used up a lot of paper and breath on that subject. Essentially, we're talking about music or other forms of cultural expression passed down orally, aurally, or visually through particular groups with shared commonalities. However, folklore (or "traditional culture") has elements of conservatism and dynamism as you suggest. Traditions do change, but can be remarkably conservative as well. As an example, there are oral stories and jokes that have retained their essence for hundreds and even thousands of years. New traditions are being invented as well (e.g., workplace or university legends and pranks), but they're not "traditional" until they're being spread around by informal processes. Musical tradition is now complicated by modern media technology. We know the authors of many folk songs and tunes: Burns wrote "Annie Laurie," "Peter Milne composed "John MacNeil's Reel," a.k.a, "Big John MacNeil." But if you hear me singing "Me and Bobbie McGee," which has clearly become a folk song, you can now go to YouTube and hear Kris's original or Janis's version, then learn it from that source, rather than from hearing me, and attempting to remember my version. This leads to far less variation in lyrics and tune than in past centuries.

    In the late 1990's, most of my students in Newfoundland thought that "Danny Boy" was brought over from Ireland by their ancestors. Well, Danny Boy is a song, written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly in 1913, and set to a traditional Irish melody, then brought to Newfoundland (likely through John McCormack's recordings, performances, and sheet music) well after the major waves of Irish immigration. Still, in Newfoundland and most of North America, Danny Boy is now a traditional "Irish" song, passed on orally, definitely a folk song. As well, many students believed that their ancestors brought with them Irish music played in an ensemble style, with every musician doing solos -- a style created in Ireland in the 1950's and 60's. However, though this style was not the traditional music of their older ancestors, it was the traditional music of many of my students, who were raised in homes where their parents and neighbours, perhaps even grandparents, participated in sessions of this style, while passing the music on to their children. i personally have an affinity to many older styles of folk music, played by nonprofessional musicians, but understand that "folk" or "traditional music" doesn't necessarily mean extremely old or amateur music. In truth, I have little idea what the music of my ancestors sounded like before sound recording was invented in the late 19th century. Even then, no one was recording Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island folk music. In summary, I can't give you any exact boundaries between traditional and other music, though my intuitive response is that the music of Boldwood sounds far more traditional than the music of Tom Kitching, posted above. Clear as mud, eh?
    Thanks very much for your detailed reply Ranald, and I agree with your broad interpretation of what tradition is. It will be interesting to see how youtube impacts on traditional culture, although the same challenges and opportunities youtube and the internet bring are probably similar to those experienced when recorded music first became available some 100 years ago.

    Like you say, we can't be sure about how traditional music sounded in previous centuries, I suspect songs form the backbone of most traditional music.

    Your story about Danny Boy reminds me a little of the song "Dirty Old Town". This was written in 1949 by Ewan MacColl who was Scottish but his parents had moved to Salford (part of the Manchester conurbation in the North of England) which the song is about. The Dubliners and Pogues recorded the song and it has become part of the staple Irish pub repertoire. I.e. this is a song about an English town written by a Scotsman and adopted by the Irish, tradition moves in mysterious ways!

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Cowham View Post
    Your story about Danny Boy reminds me a little of the song "Dirty Old Town". This was written in 1949 by Ewan MacColl who was Scottish but his parents had moved to Salford (part of the Manchester conurbation in the North of England) which the song is about. The Dubliners and Pogues recorded the song and it has become part of the staple Irish pub repertoire. I.e. this is a song about an English town written by a Scotsman and adopted by the Irish, tradition moves in mysterious ways!
    I'd heard that a former mayor of Sydney Cape Breton, for many years a steel town, scolded Alister MacGillivray, a local singer-songwriter for recording such a terrible song about Sydney. If the story is true, the mayor's attempt clearly backfired. He had made clear that even he thought Sydney was a dirty, old town. (I'm fond of Sydney, but like Salford, it was a dirty old town until the industry collapsed.) The American, Shel Silverstein's "The Unicorn," and the English folksong, "Lily The Pink," are staples at many Irish or "Celtic" sessions in my area, because popular Irish groups recorded them along the way. There are undoubtedly dozens of similar examples.
    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: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Here is an article in the Guardian from 6 years ago about English folk music and modern bands https://www.theguardian.com/music/20...ving-old-tunes

    I think that the basic point this is making is that whilst there are plenty of old English tunes, they haven't really been part of the vernacular of folk music in England although I'd be very happy to hear contrary views if others have a different experience? Personally I think that it is a good thing that there are contemporary bands and musicians who are engaging with these tunes, and it's interesting to hear other influences on the music and their take on them even if it isn't necessarily traditional.
    Last edited by Paul Cowham; Sep-29-2021 at 6:03pm.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    I just skimmed through this thread, so I may have missed something pertaining to the following.....

    One thing that seems to be a characteristic of English fiddle is that the fiddler often self-accompanies his/her vocals. Dave Swarbrick would/could do it; there are three examples of it on his solo "Live At Jackson's Lane" cd: Jack Orion, The Bonny Black Hare and Two Magicians. And the complexity of the backup is such that it's hard to believe that it isn't two people onstage.



    Carolanne Pegg (who was once in the group Mr. Fox) would also play/sing. Also Barry Dransfield, and Eliza Carthy. I once came across a workshop video from some English music camp where the class was self-fiddle-accompaniment of your singing. And the thing was...it was not for a bunch of advanced players, but for your average non-pro folk players.

    Fiddle self-accompaniment is not restricted to England, but it's not that common. Some of the Cajuns could do it (Doug Kershaw) and I'm sure some of the old-time players like Bruce Molsky can too.

    Niles H

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    i really enjoyed that, Niles. I've seen the American fiddler, John Hartford play and sing at once. I've seen other North American fiddlers do this, though I can't remembered who off hand. I've pulled it off myself, but only with simple tunes and songs that I knew very well.
    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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