Lots of fun this one. I’m not quite sure where this cheery polka comes from but I remember learning it from an Irish friend of mine - so maybe it hails from there. Who was or is J. B. Milne? Would be interesting to know. This tune is a great laugh to mess about with - a little pizzicato in the repeated quavers of the B-section gives a comedy touch (but only if you like to fool around with your music like me). Hope you enjoy it - if anyone can shed some light on its background I would like to hear from them.
J. B. Milne
This is the lead tune for a great Scottish country dance. I’ll check for medley tunes and background info when I get home tonight. You’re right, it’s a great fun tune.
…Angus Fitchett apparently.
It’s a relatively recent composition by Angus Fitchet of Dundee. It was a favourite of Will Atkinson who used to play it on his moothie.
Oops sorry Conan - cross-posted!
This tune makes me think of Will Atkinson. I must post some of his compositions one of these days. His tunes are amazing.
BTW it sounds a bit strange played as a polka. It’s really a Scottish country dance tune.
Yeah, I always thought of it as a barn-dancey type tune.
I guess you’re right. I think someone told me it was a polka once. But thinking about it now I seem to remember seeing sheet music for it in 4/4 with the note values doubled - is it worth me reconfiguring it in this new meter as a barndance or should I leave it as it is? If I change it is there a quick way of doing this?
Maybe someone can do this for me if they have the know-how…
It’s stuck in 2/4 now - well the sheetmusic is anyway. I don’t think it really matters to be honest. It’s one of those difficult-to-categorize tunes isn’t it?
Certainly is. I’ve heard it played two ways - I normally play it fairly straight and not too quickly, although I have heard some folks who dot the semiquavers (which should probably be quavers) giving it more of a barndance type feel.
Yeah. I’ve heard it both as well. I mean, the way you’ve written it out is fairly representative of how it’s "supposed" to sound, even though the whole structure of the tune isn’t like a polka.
- - - Everybody on the floor for a contra dance - - -
This swings that way, and I’d be surprised if it hasn’t found its way into New England traditions and been put to that use, including contra dancing in on this isle. They’d make a ‘reel’ out of it, in that style. I can hear it and see it now, but then the midi is repeating over and over again in my headphones as I’m about to ‘balance and swing’…
Barbara McOwen medleyed this with Hey Johnnie Cope and Come Let Us Dance and Sing in one of her many versions of Leaves of Cabbage, a tune book for Scottish country dancing.
I’ve always thought of the skip-change-of-step for Scottish country dancing as a polka done ballet style, because I learned polka as hop-step-together-step, but some folks don’t see it that way -
Barbara McOwen - fiddler, band and music director - New England, Massachusetts, Boston RSCDS!? Is the publication in print or available? If not, it would be interesting to see an ABC here of her arrangement for this tune, if you could and would…
Never the twain shall meet - - -
‘cj’, you mention the difference between RSCDS and and how you’ve learned to ‘polka’, that difference is also between those ‘RSCD-ized’ and the more relaxed and unaffected styles as danced in some ceilidh in the Scottish and Northumbrian countryside, towns and isles where it would be more akin to how you’ve described as your stepping - definitely not ‘balletic’…
RSCDS, originally the SCDS, are the ones with the ballet in their style of dancing, with intent, a short history going back to only the last century, the 1920s, and a phalanx of passionate and fiercely dogmatic people lead one formidable lady, Miss Jean C. Milligan, with the ‘best of intentions’, under the influence of formal dance and physical education training, for young women and of that period. In their opinion, an excerpt from that time:
"The delightful national dances of Scotland were being performed in such an uncorrect or vulgar manner as to lose all their national characteristics."
Some still hold that opinion about the ‘lighter’ ceilidh dances mentioned previously. Similar divisions exist in many traditions, for example in Cymru/Wales, between their commission and ceilidhs, Cymdaithas Ddawns Werin Cymru and their Twmpath Dawns (Barn Dance). There aren’t a lot who cross both ways, tending to be one way or another. ‘CDWC’ is the Welsh equivalent of RSCDS, mainly classes that feel like rehearsals, performances and the occassional ‘ball’. The ‘Twmpath Dawns’ is similar to an English Ceilidh.
Back to the tune, it would be a great one for either faction of Scottish dance. It also makes a good ‘polka’ in the couple dance tradition, or ‘Schottische’/’Barndance’. My biases are clear, and I’m hoping maybe ‘Jakki S’ might consider putting it in with that group of dances. Often tunes like this swing both ways well, straight or skipped…
Swings Both Ways - - -
Here’s one way I’ve been dancing it, with and without the ‘skip’, but offered below with it:
|B>c|d>ed>B G2 E2|D>G B3 ^A|B>dc>B A2 B2|c6 A>B|
c>dc>A F2 E2|D>2 F2 A3 ^G|A>cB>A G2 A2|B6 B>c|
d>ed>B G2 E2|D>G B3 ^A|B>dc>B A2 G2|e6 e>f|
g>ec>G E>G (3cde|e>dB>G D2 B>d|d2 ^c2 =c2 f>a|g6 B>c|
|d2 B2 e2 B2|d2 B2 e2 B2|(3ded ^c>d e>d=c>B|c6 A>B|
c2 A2 d2 A2|c2 A2 d2 A>B|(3cdc B>c d>cB>A||B6 B>c|
d2 B2 e2 B2|d2 B2 e2 (3bcd|g2 f>g a>gf>g|e6 e>f|
g>ec>G E>Gc>e|g>dB>G D>G (3Bcd|d2 ^c2 =c2 f>a|g6|
Yes, that’s how I hear it, and at quite a lively pace as well. Only I have the 1st bar as |d>ed>c B2G2|D… as posted.
Harmony! - what a start eh? Yeah, I’ve been doing it anywhere from 135 - 175 bpm…
You’re right about contradancing to it ceolachan
The Kaynors featured a zany version of it on their "Fourgone Conclusions" album back in the ’80s. It’s great fun to dance to.
Perhaps from the Kaynor recording, this tune has made its way into the contra dance repertoire. It will be in Vol 2 of The Portland Collection. Kerr Corporation of Scotland, which holds the copyright (composer is Fitchett) has sent me their version. It is in 4/4, labeled "reel," and in the key of A. The version they sent is close to the setting here, and that’s what we will print.
When we play this tune for contra dances, we usually medley it with marches.
Who was JB Milne
In answer to the original question, JB Milne was an Aberdeen(?) cinema owner. The dance is a grand dance, particularly the final 8 bars.
Is it not on one of Kathryn Tickell’s albums?
(Do youse REALLY like that sort of tune??
They may be fun to play but most irritating to hear!)
On the contrary - this is a really nice tune. If you play it with plenty of bounce - dotting the quavers slightly it brings it to life. Its the kind of tune you can play around with - due to its upbeat character, and still get away with it. If you find it irritating to hear then change things a little until you find it more satisfying (or alternatively don’t bother listening to it..). Of course there are ways in which you are "supposed" to play certain tunes - but people naturally adapt them to their own style and way of thinking.
I agree, it’s a kick to play, ears wide open, and to dance around the house to… But there are all sorts in the world and there are even those that refuse to play anything in a major key…
It’s daggy - I love it. If I were dancing to it I’d probably turn my feet inwards and waddle along doing a choo-choo train impression. God I love tunes like this! They’re excellent to torture Irish musicians with in sessions. You’ll have them at your knees in tears and begging you to stop. You could use tunes like this to get you free beers! I wish I could claim this tune was from the Northumbrian underground scene, but unfortunately it’s most definitely Scottish. :-)
At your knees? Maybe I meant on their knees, at your feet, begging you to stop, playing I mean, as in playing the tune.
Yes, that Barbara McOwen, ceolachan. Hm. Don’t know that Leaves of Cabbage was ever "in print" exactly - I sent her some money as "royalties" once for a bunch of copies we had made, and she sent back that Leaves was a "work in progress." It’s been the basic tune book for the musicians at the Los Alamos, NM RSCDS for better than 20 years.
I’ll work on the abc’s for the J.B. Milne set. I’ve been meaning to do a couple of other Scottish things that were requested, too, so maybe I’ll get on it this weekend -
This is the Barbara McOwen version in A (like the Kerr’s, as Sue Songer has) from Leaves of Cabbage:
T:J. B. Milne
S:Leaves of Cabbage/Barbara McOwen
c/d/|e/f/e/d/ cA|EA c2|c/e/d/c/ BA| d2d B/c/|d/e/d/c/ BG|EG B2|B/d/c/B/
AB|c2c c/d/|e/f/e/d/ cA|EA c2|c/e/d/c/ BA|f2f f/g/|a/f/^d/=c/A a/g/|f/e/
c/A/E g/f/|(3e/f/e/ ^d/e/fg|a2a c/d/|ecfc|ecfc|e^d/e/ f/e/=d/c/|d2d B/c/
|dBeB|dBeB|dc/d/ e/d/c/B/|c2c c/d/|ecfc|ecfc|ag/a/ b/a/g/a/|f2f f/g/|a/b
/a/g/ f/a/g/f/|f/e/c/A/E g/f/|(3e/f/e/ ^d/e/ fg|a2a||
Barbara has it played abab for the Scottish country dance. The biggest difference, besides the key signature, from the version posted here is the arpeggios in measures 13 & 14. There’s a sort of piquancy in the McOwen version there that sends shivers through my ears.
Here’s the short version of instructions for the dance, from Leaves (one of my favorite dances, too, alancorsini):
1-8 1st man 2nd woman set, turn RH. 1st woman 2nd man set, turn RH.
9-16 1st cpl set, turn 2H, cast, Petronella into position, W btwen 2nd cpl, M btwn 3rd cpl.
17-24 1st cpl set, turn 3/4 by RH, rpt WHILE 2nd & 3rd cpls cross by RH up & down, set, cross by RH across, set.
25-32 1st cpl set, cross, cast, WHILE 2nd & 3rd cpls cross by RH up &down, set, cross by RH across, all set.
The version of Hey Johnnie Cope here at The Session is essentially the one in Leaves. I’ll post Come Let Us Dance & Sing, the other medley tune, next.
I don’t have a paragraph of bio, ceolachan, but I try to do long posts occasionally :>)
Every time I play this / hear it / read it, this tune reminds me of Christopher Robin and the Winnie the Pooh Saga (s). I think it’s more than simply in the name. And Dow … it does do a marvelous job of driving hard core ITM advocates nuts.
We need more of that.
Oh totally :-)
jb milne was an entrepreneur in Dundee between the 1930’s and the late 60’s. He owned a large number of cinemas in the Angus area. The writter of this reel work for Milne at his Dundee cinemas, the reel possibly written as an intro theme to the days film sessions.
J Milne - recording
Mairtin O’Connor does a version on his album Perpetual Motion. I don’t think it is named as such but forms part of set titled Happy Hours.
“J. B. Milne” ~ for Jack, with some other variations
K: G Major
dedc B2 G2 | DG B3 ^A | BdcB A2 B2 | c6 AB |
cdcA F2 E2 | D2 F2 A3 ^G | AcBA G2 A2 | B6 Bc |
dedB G2 E2 | DG B3 ^A | BdcB A2 G2 | e6 ef |
gecG EGce | edBG D2 Bd | d2 ^c2 =c2 FA | G6 ||
(3ded B2 (3efe B2 | (3ded B2 (3efe B2 | (3ded ^cd ed=cB | c6 AB |
(3cdc A2 (3ded A2 | (3cdc A2 (3ded A2 | (3cdc Bc dcBA | B6 Bc |
d2 B2 e2 B2 | d2 B2 e2 B2 | g2 fg agfg | e6 ef |
gecG E2 ce | gdBG D2 (3Bcd | d2 ^c2 =c2 F2 | G6 ||
“J. B. Milne” ~ simply A & G
K: A Major
efed c2 A2 | E2 A2 c4 | cedc B2 A2 | d6 Bc |
dedc B2 G2 | E2 G2 B4 | BdcB A2 B2 | c6 cd |
efed c2 A2 | E2 A2 c4 | cedc B2 A2 | f4 f2 fg |
afdA F2 ag | fecA E2 gf | (3efe ^de f2 G2 | A6 ||
e2 c2 f2 c2 | e2 c2 f2 c2 | e2 ^de fe=dc | d6 Bc |
d2 B2 e2 B2 | d2 B2 e2 B2 | d2 cd edcB | c4 c2 cd |
e2 c2 f2 c2 | e2 c2 f2 c2 | a2 ga baga | f6 fg |
abag fagf | fecA E2 gf | (3efe ^de f2 G2 | A6 ||
K: G Major
dedc B2 G2 | D2 G2 B4 | BdcB A2 B2 | c6 AB |
cdcB A2 F2 | D2 F2 A4 | AcBA G2 A2 | B6 Bc |
dedc B2 G2 | D2 G2 B4 | BdcB A2 B2 | e6 ef |
gecG E2 gf | edBG D2 fe | (3ded ^cd e2 F2 | G6 ||
d2 B2 e2 B2 | d2 B2 e2 B2 | d2 ^cd ed=cB | c6 AB |
c2 A2 d2 A2 | c2 A2 d2 A2 | c2 Bc dcBA | B6 Bc |
d2 B2 e2 B2 | d2 B2 e2 B2 | g2 fg agfg | e4 f2 ef |
gagf egfe | edBG D2 fe | (3ded ^cd e2 F2 | G6 ||
JB Milne, the man
He was my grandmother’s cousin.
Brief biography of him is as follows (found it on the web)…
"John Bannerman Milne was born one of three sons of Charles Milne, a Dundee coalmerchant, in 1902. When he was nine, he bought his first violin. By the age of sixteen, he was working at Dura Works (a jute mill) from 5.30am to 6.00pm, teaching the violin from 6.00pm to 8.00pm and then playing in a dance hall until midnight.
His first entertainment job was at the Variety Theatre, Dundee, as a 19 shillins a week "musical director and cleaner". He eventually bought the theatre in 1925 for £360 (actually with his sister, Lizzie, though this is not mentioned on the web - my mum told me this!), installed "talkies", and never looked back. Within ten years he … presided over a theatre, cinema and bingo empire that stretched from Stornaway to Galashiels …
The dance was devised by Angus Fitchet who dedicated it to J.B. Milne as "the man who gave him his start in his show business career".
Some other stuff - he bought Lizzie out at some point early on and then expanded his "empire" - he died in 1968 - never married and lived in Ruthven Hall, near Meigle. He taught my mum to drive in a Rolls Royce in a field on his estate and also once told her in conversation that he had more money than he knew what to do with - he couldn’t even manage to spend the interest on his money, no matter how hard he tried! Don’t know what happened to the money !!! Unless mum has kept it very well hidden all these years!!!
Described in another report as a "fiery redhead" - whatever that means!
Thought this might flesh out the answer for anyone who is interested in knowing more about the man the tune is named after …
“A. M. Shinnie” ~ jig, another composition of Angus Fitchet
Key signature: D Major
Submitted on March 7th 2007 by ceolachan.
Brilliant tune. Not one to try and noodle in a session without practising the fast bits first!