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.

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.

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 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:.

Old Adam was a Poacher

Here is Old Adam was a Poacher, a tune collected from William Andrews of Devon by Sabine Baring Gould in 1892. The B part is very similar to versions of the jig Hunt the Squirrel as listed here https://www.folktunefinder.com/tunes/198732 however I’ve not been able to find out if this version of the tune is also from the South West of England. Chris Bartram speculates that the tune may have French origins, explaining the dual mode – it seems plausible but it’s almost important to remember that it’s speculation and not fact! Here’s the slower and faster versions:

Here are the dots:

And here are PDFs of the tune and the chords:

Lastly, here’s a version on the song by the fabulous Blowzabella: