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:
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.
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.
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: