Willie Is a Bonnie Lad

Here’s tonight’s tune, Willie Was a Bonnie Lad. It’s a 16 bar reel from England that goes rather nicely with Allonby Lasses and that you can practise your clave rhythms on. It feels rather like a pipe tune to me, but I’ve not been able to find out much about it – I have it in a couple of tune books but there is no info forthcoming! Here’s a video with a slow and a faster run through on it:

Here are the dots:

Here’s a PDF with the suggested emphasis, achieved with accents or slurs/phrasing, your choice!

Allonby Lasses

Allonby Lasses is a reel from the Lake District, from the 1825 Browne family manuscript. It’s is undoubtedly similar to a number of other tunes, specifically the Flagon Reel (present in the 1770 Vickers manuscript from around Newcastle, also widespread across the Scottish Borders at the same time) and the related Flogging Reel (Irish). As I’ve said before, a good tune will travel! It seems to be very much a pipe tune, which would go some way to explain why there are versions in G Mixolydian and G major, according to the limitations/quirks of Northumbrian/Border/Uillean pipes.

Here are the dots:

We played with the emphasis of different notes to create different kinds of drive or groove. Here is a PDF of the things we tried:

Lastly here’s a video: a run though, and then examples of the different emphasis.

Substitutions!

On Monday we explored the idea of substituting melodic figures for others that appear elsewhere in the tune. Sounds a bit complicated, right?

By melodic figure, I mean a short pattern of notes that makes one particular tune to sound like that particular tune. For instance, in The Big Ship there is a melodic figure at the end of the first bar that we ended up calling a ‘tick’ (because if you were to connect the dots, you would create a tick shape):

This shape also features in its inverted or upside down form, for instance at the beginning of bar 4. We can drop this figure into other places in the tune, as shown below. As you can see, I’ve used both a ‘tick’ (red) and an ‘inverted tick’ (blue) and I’ve just put a couple in in each section, so that it doesn’t get too repetitive.

These substitutions work well because they are similar to the basic version of the tune, follow the same direction as the basic tune and don’t change the harmony, as the extra notes come on the quaver off beats. They will also fit if some people use them and others don’t, allowing substitutors and non-substitutors to play together!

We can also apply this substitution to Reel de Gaspe – since this figures comes at the beginning of bar 4, it won’t sound out of place. Here, the ticks and inverted ticks can be used effectively in the B section.

Some tunes have more opportunities for substitutions than others, but you might want to try this one out on The Buffoon in particular – there are many other instances of this figure popping up in tunes we have learned, with some having more space to experiment than others (if you want a heads up, you could try using it in bars 13-14 of Mount Hills, in bars 10 and 14 of Lollipop Man to name but a couple!).

Reel de Gaspe

Here’s a fantastic French-Canadian reel that fits rather nicely with last week’s tune The Big Ship. It’s a well known reel with lots of different versions, some of which have a third and fourth section, but we’ve kept it simple here with lots of space for ornaments and minor variations. You can hear some of these in the faster version in the second half of the video.

Here are the dots:

with a PDF available to download here:

We added turns in places where the melody moves down by step or by small jumps, as demonstrated on the video, and added a few passing notes for instance in between the first and second A sections.

Lastly, here is a link to an amazing video of French Canadian legends La Bottine Souriante that demonstrates the foot percussion that I explained rather badly over Zoom last week:

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!