Monday 28th’s tune is Hector the Hero by James Scott Skinner. Written in 1903, the tune was composed as a tribute to Major General Sir Hector MacDonald (1857-1903), a celebrated and decorated military officer who died of suicide following public accusations of homosexuality. Scott Skinner’s tune has remained popular since it’s composition.
Here is a video of the tune, with a slow and plain version followed by a faster and more decorated version of the tune.
Here is the download of this tune, and a second version with suggestions of bowing, variation and ornamentation.
Our last tune of the term – McKinnon’s Lament. I found it in Michael Raven’s English Country Dance Tunes book, which was first published in 1984, but I’ve not unearthed anything else about it. We varied the dotted crotchets by splitting some of them into crotchet-quaver.
Here is our last tune of the term, Les Poules huppées which translates as the Crested Hens. It was written in 1983 by French hurdy gurdy player Gilles Chabenat but it has found its way into various traditions. I suggest that it follows Munster Cloak in a set – while Munster Cloak is a mazurka, Crested Hens is a bouree in 3 however I think they go well together, and especially in this order as the complexity of the rhythms builds through the whole set, giving it a sense of direction.
Here is a video of the tune played slowly and then a little faster:
Here are the basic dots, with PDF available to download. I’ve written out the tune in full rather than adding repeat marks, as this makes it easier to demonstrate different options in the development stage!
We discussed various ideas for varying the tune, including subdividing the longer notes, adding fidgets and using a pedal note. Here is an example of how some of these ideas might fit in this tune – please note this is not a definitive version or official alternative, but just something to give you some ideas!
We looked at several ideas for varying the tune, using specific musical landmarks:
Repeated notes – here we tried two different ways of varying the tune. The first option was to combine or tie repeated notes together to create a longer note. This is demonstrated in bar six of the example. The second idea was to insert a ‘fidget’ in between repeated notes, this being a note that it a step higher or lower than the repeated notes. The technical term for these is ‘auxiliary notes’ but I prefer the term fidget as it indicates a reluctance to sit still on one note for too long! These are demonstrated in bar one of the example.
Descending scales – these are often a good place to put a turn, or alternatively a triplet, as these emphasise the smoothness of the melody.
Scales in general – here we added some pedal notes, as demonstrated in bar 12. This is where a note is repeated or held, while the harmony in other parts changes. In this tune, you can try holding or repeating an A in the section from bar 10 to bar 13.
Skips, or thirds – wherever you have an interval of a third (e.g. D to F#), you might consider adding a passing note in between (e.g. to make D E F#). An example can be seen in bar 2.
The idea in general is to experiment with these ideas, and to find the combinations that you like and that work for you on your specific instrument. I’d suggest focusing on one idea at a time and getting comfortable with that before trying the next, and ultimately limiting yourself to a couple of variations per phrase – sometimes less is more! Exploring and experimenting with the tune in this way also helps to internalise and memorise it.
Here is the video and dots for The Munster Cloak, also known as The Spanish Cloak and An Fhallaingin Mhuimhneach. I haven’t been able to find out much about it; it only seems to appear in manuscripts from the 1960s onwards and there is some suggestion that it originated in Spain, with comparisons drawn to a melody by Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916). I’ve put a video of this tune at the bottom of the post so you can draw your own conclusions, but I would always resist the urge to fill in the gaps – it’s a tune that’s in the Irish tradition, and it’s gorgeous!
The third in our trilogy of 3/2 hornpipes – this three-part hornpipe, first published in 1742, has some similar musical figures to the previous 3/2 tunes covered recently and follows on rather nicely from the Rusty Gulley.
Here is a video with a slow and a faster play through, with another faster play through courtesy of Spiers and Boden:
In addition to the rhythmic variations we covered last week, there are some nice melodic variations available in this tune. Our first idea was to substitute existing melodic shapes for others in the tune, for example in bars 2, 4 and 8. The second involved substituting a figure that often comes up in 3/2 hornpipes. Have an experiment, try these and the rhythmic variations and find what works for you!
Here’s another 3/2 hornpipe to go with Rusty Gulley, known as ‘Adam Glen’ or ‘Pawkie Adam Glen’ – the word pawkie means ‘artfully shrewd’ and is still in use in Scotland and northern parts of England, from the English ‘pawk’, meaning trick.