The Big Ship

Here’s a fab reel to see us into half term; The Big Ship also known as Glise de Sherbrooke, La Grande Chaine and Reel de Tadoussac. Many of you will know the first section from the children’s playground game and song The Big Ship Sails on the Ally Ally-O (or Illy Ally O, or Eely Ally O etc), a thread-the-needle game found across England, Ireland and Scotland which dates back to at least 1916 when it was published in a book of London street games (children’s games were not a source of interest until relatively recently). There is much debate and speculation over what the Ally Ally O refers to, with no definitive answer. The thing I find more interesting is that this tune is often cited as being French-Canadian in origin. I haven’t been able to find out anything more the journey this tune has taken around the world, but it’s certainly in the Canadian, American and English repertoires still.

Here is a demo of the tune with slow and faster version:

Here are the dots:

And a PDF of the tune and chords are available here:

We had two challenges with this tune. The first was to take out as many notes as possible to create a basic skeleton of the tune. There are many reasons to do this as an exercise but here we looked at a) creating a basic version into which we could slot different melodic figures later on and b) taking out just a few notes to create an immediately usable melodic variation of the tune. More on this later in the term! The second challenge was looking a ornaments, applying the turn ornament and introducing a double cut to emphasise notes on the main beats of the bar. Here’s a short video to explain:

The Bourton Six

Here’s a tune to go with Ladies’ Breast Knot. The Bourton Six in question seem to be the six bridges that span the River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds. The tune itself is a version of a tune that was widespread across Europe in the 19th century, it is also known as I Have a Jacket Made of Blue, and the Liberton Pipe Band amongst other titles. It originated in what is now Poland, specifically the Krakow region, as a tune for a dance called a Krakowiak. There is a video at the bottom of this post showing some tiny and adorable dancers dancing to a version of this tune.

Here is a slow and a faster version of the tune – forgive the title on the video, autocorrect got the better of me. Note the passing notes and the turns, as discussed last week:

Here are the dots:

We experimented by adding passing notes in between small interval and turns in places where the melody moved by step or small interval to create subtle variations.

As promised, here are the tiny, adorable dancers:

Ladies’ Breast Knot

Here’s the tune from Monday 5th’s session, Ladies’ Breast Knot. It seems to be a widespread tune, with versions found across England, Scotland and North America. There are various versions dating back to the mid-1700s, making it a country dance tune and not a polka (oops!).

Here’s a demo of the tune, a slow version and a faster version, with the dots below.

Here’s a PDF of the chords, mine and the ones printed in the fantastic Dave Townsend’s English Dance Tunes book:

Challenges were adding some connecting notes in places where there is a gap of a third (so G to B for instance) and adding turns in places where the melody moves down by step or by small jump, for instance on the F# in bar 4.

Balance the Straw (Fieldtown)

Our (possibly) last jig of the term is an English Morris tune, Balance the Straw (Fieldtown). The reason for the brackets is to specify the Morris tradition, and to therefore distinguish the tune from others that share the title.

Here is a demo of the tune:

We started by learning a skeleton version of the tune, as written out here. This gives you a sense of which notes are essential, and which can be swapped or even removed.

From there, we added slow skips, fast skips, fidgets, scales and repeated notes to create the full tune:

Here is a video of the walkthrough:

I gave an optional extra challenge of creating melodic and rhythmic variation to the tune. As with Rig a Jig Jig and Dory Boat, we played with substituting some of the melodic figures for others. By ‘melodic figures’ I mean short notable phrases in the tune. Below, I’ve laid out some of these shapes and pointed out which ones you can substitute fairly easily:

Here’s a video that talks through this process:

Finally we have the ornament of the moment – the turn. The turn is essentially made of a start note (G in the example below), a finish note ( an F# in the example below) and extra two notes that come in between. These two extra notes are normally a step higher than the start note and then a reiteration of the start note, and they ‘steal’ time from the first note. They are best used when notes move by step or in small jumps and they can emphasise the smoothness of the melody. Here is an exercise to try (slow and steady, and then faster with the notes pushed closer to the final note:

And finally a video about this ornament. Try it out on all of the jigs from this term, in places where the melody moves by step or in small jumps.

Here are some PDFs of the tune and of the various chord sequences we tried out:

The Dory Boat

A tune to go with Rig a Jig Jig, this is The Dory Boat. It has a lot of the same melodic shapes and rhythms as Rig a Jig Jig, and lots of opportunity for trying out varying the tune in subtle ways. Here is a demo and a walk through of the tune:

Demo
Walkthrough

Here are the dots, with a PDF to download below:

Here is a video on the melodic variations we tried out:

Melodic variations

And finally a video on jig rhythms and how to play them. A bit fiddle-centric I’m afraid but I’m sure the strummers and wind people can interpret it all!

The nuances of jig rhythms

Rig a Jig Jig

Here’s our opening tune of the term, Rig a Jig Jig it’s an cheerful English jig, with a lot of bounce! Here’s a demo of the tune:

Here are the dots, with a PDF available here:

This tune contains a lot of arpeggio shapes, so I set the challenge of adding some extra notes in between the small intervals that these shapes give us- you might have spotted some of these variations creeping into in my demo video! So for instance, you could add an A in between the first two notes of bar 2, giving you a quaver run of BAG. These subtle little variations are just one way in which folk musicians play around with tunes, and they can be dropped in here and there for variety and as a way of putting your own stamp of individuality on the tune. Try a few out – maybe one every couple of bars or so – and see what you like the sound of!

Classes remain online until the end of October

Following this week’s governmental rulings about meetings of groups of six or more, we will not be meeting in person for classes.  After much mental wrangling, I think that the best and safest thing to do is to keep our classes online.  We’ll reassess at half term, which is the end of October.  I’m really disappointed but don’t think I can justify the risk to all of you or to myself.  Please keep safe, and if you’re not on the list for the Zoom invite, let me know and I’ll email it to you.

Walter Bulwer’s Polka no. 2

Walter Bulwer was a fiddle player from Shipham in Norfolk. Born in 1888, he was a well known musician in the area, playing for many years in bands with his wife Daisy who played piano and banjo.

Here is a link to a recording of Walter Bulwer himself playing this tune: https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/4oAC9779ZNFrjaWKAWNIqW There is a third part that he adds in occasionally but I haven’t covered that here, as it isn’t commonly played in sessions or at dances.

Here is a video with a slow and faster playthrough:

Here’s a walk through of the tune:

We played with the phrase at the beginning of the B section (bars 9 and 10), varying the rhythm: this included tying repeated notes together, dividing the rhythm into equal notes and subdividing the notes into shorter note values. We then combined these in different ways to create different rhythmic variations – this is a relatively simple but effective way of adding a little variation into your playing!

Here’s a PDF of the tune:

And another with the chords:

The (Other) Rogue’s March

The penultimate tune of the term is a tune that I learned from Laurel Swift. It’s listed in Dave Townsend’s English Dance Music vol. 1 as the C and D parts of the better known Rogue’s March, as sung here by John Tams and Barry Coope:

This well known tune dates back to the late 1700s, and is said to have been used across the British Isles and America to drum disgraced soldiers out of the army. However, I’ve not been able to find any reference to the C and D parts of the tune, so it’s a bit of a mystery!

Here is a slower and faster version of the tune. The faster part includes the turns that we added throughout the tune wherever a step-wise crotchet-quaver pattern occurs on the first beat of a bar.

Here is a walkthrough:

Here are the dots:

A PDF with the dots can be downloaded below, along with a second PDF with standard and alternative chords:

The Sheriff’s Ride

Here is the tune from Monday 29th June, the Sheriff’s Ride.

The Sheriff’s Ride is an English tune used in the Lichfield Morris tradition, in Staffordshire.  The title refers to a unique tradition dating from Queen Mary’s Charter of 1553 in which Lichfield was separated from Staffordshire and made a ‘City and County’ with a right to appoint its own Sheriff.  The Charter commanded the Sheriff to make a complete perambulation of the City to inspect the boundary each September.  ​The oldest recorded collection of the tune as played for the Morris dance is from 1898 (Bacon, ‘A Handbook of Morris Dances’, The Morris Ring 1974) though it is probably older than this, most likely dating back to the mid-1800s, when polka-type tunes originated.

The Sheriff’s Ride shares parts of its melody with some versions of the song Raggle Taggle Gypsies, a song that became particularly popular in the broadsides in the early- to mid-1800s, telling the tale of a rich lady who runs away to join a group of gypsies. 

The first video is a slow and a faster version of the tune, the second is a walkthrough:

Below is the link to the PDF:.