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:

Author: debfiddle

Deborah is a violinist and violist specialising in English folk music. She trained in viola and Baroque viola at Birmingham Conservatoire, before returning to her first love of traditional music, song and dance. She is a member of Stepling, a band performing English music, step-dance, song and percussion. She also plays for a number of function bands, performing at barn dances and ceilidhs across the UK. Deborah has played with a number of folk artists, dance and theatre projects. She plays with Folk Dance Remixed, a dance company combining traditional dance with hip hop and street dance styles, performing as such events as Car Fest, the Southbank's Festival of Love and Glasgow's Commonwealth Games Festival. She records on a regular basis for a number of people, including The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra, and for Laurel Swift's 'Travelling with Thomas' musical. Deborah teaches music, song and dance regularly for The English Folk Dance and Song Society, as well as on a freelance basis for various workshop series, festivals and music services. She is currently studying on The Teaching Musician MA degree course at Trinity Laban.

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