Northumbrian Tunes

Northumbrian Tunes

My high school chemistry teacher was quite a well-known Northumbrian piper who used to run a trad music club at lunch times. I remember when I graduated I asked if I could rummage through all his sheet music, and he produced a binbag full! I spent hours sifting through it all, and came across many traditional Northumbrian and Borders tunes, some of them copies of the original manuscripts by well-known pipers and fiddlers in the area. 10 years later, I still have them, and feel as though I have something valuable which should be shared with people. Posting them here will also allow me to put together some sort of tunebook for myself, since a lot of the tunes I know were learnt during childhood and have not yet been posted on this website.

I would also like to post some triple hornpipes in 3/2 because they’re fab, and perhaps a slip polka or 2, but they are not listed in the genres. Jeremy?

I feel a bit small and unrepresented in the huge world of Irish trad, and I sometimes feel as though the English tunes are being forgotten. I’m quite interested to find out how widespread they are. Has anyone come across any of these tunes played at their local session?

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

As a Scotsman on an Irish music website I shouldn’t really be consorting with the common enemy, the English, but, as it’s all varieties of folk music, ie music of ordinary folk, here goes.

Firstly, being the bearer of such a great legacy, the responsibility thrust upon you seems almost as great as that thrust upon Frodo the Ring Bearer!

2ndly, There’s a lively tradition of English Traditional Music near where I live in London, with a whole gang of real enthusiasts, in Greenwich, one of whom is John Offord, who, as well as being a fiddler, is also a noted collector of English tunes. These guys hang out at The Cricketers on Tuesdays, and have a web site:

http://www.greentrad.org.uk/

Get in touch, and they should sort you out. There’s loads of links from that site if they can’t help you. Or get in touch with bigdave (a contributor to this site), or maybe I’ll try to, if you can’t raise him.

3rdly, Many English tunes, particularly Northern, have got some whacky twists & turns & key changes, so don’t feel you have to underestimate that body of music on this site.

Good luck.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

I’d love to see some Northumbrian tunes posted at The Session. I’m only really familiar with some tunes through the playing of Kathryn Tickell and the great Billy Pigg.

That’s a tricky request with hornpipes in 3/2 time, though. Is there perhaps another name for those kind of hornpipes? I’d rather not have the tune type "hornpipe" listed twice (but with two different time signatures) - that would probably just cause confusion.

That must have been one cool chemistry teacher. ๐Ÿ™‚
The Northumbrian small pipes rock.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

I’ve tried to pick up some English tunes and had a hard time with them. Glad to hear they really do have some "whacky twists", ect. and that it wasn’t just me. I also can’t keep them in my head for the life of me! No-one else I know plays them but I was going to try to learn a few just for my own pleasure. I hope you do post a few!

Here’s a some links I’ve found with English/Northumbrian stuff:

http://www.birchmore.info/index.html
http://www.btinternet.com/~radical/thefolkmag/music.htm
http://www.nspipes.co.uk/nsp/

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Jeremy,
If you could create a completely separate genre for "Triple Hornpipes" I’d be eternally grateful. Although these are the precursor to the more modern 4/4 hornpipes, they tend to be played "unswung" these days, and quite fast too. So they end up being a bit like a 2/2 common time reel with an extra half bar. They don’t sound like hornpipes at all and have a completely different structure. Some people just call them "triples" or "3-2’s", but the proper name is Triple Hornpipe. Northumbria is famous for its rants as well, but I can post them under the reel section so they won’t need a genre of its own. There’s nothing there to cater for 3/2 though…

…I think another name for the T.H. is "English Hornpipe" also, but that’s probably even more confusing because there are lots of English hornpipes in 4/4…

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Wow Christine my chemistry teacher’s on one of the websites you’ve listed - the one about the pipes (Anthony Robb). His daughter was in my class and his son was in the year above me - both good musicians also. I should catch up with him and collect some more tunes one day.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Great! The only interesting thing any of my H.S. science teachers did was collect vintage cars. The guys loved it when he took us out to the parking lot to admire his newest aquisition.

I thought maybe your chem teacher was Alastair Anderson. Isn’t he a piper? I met him once a long time ago on a music tour of England and Scotland but I can’t remember many details. Must have been all the beer ๐Ÿ™‚

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

No, but according to my Auntie up in the borders I’m related to him somehow. I think my dad’s dad is his dad’s dad’s brother or something silly. We have the same surname which is fairly good evidence. He’s why I took up the English concertina.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Interesting. Well, I do remember he was a really nice man and took us on a walk along the sea by Alnwick. We were introduced to his mom and wandered around a ruined castle for awhile. Beautiful area.

One thing I worried about trying to learn some of the tunes from the Folk Mag site was how the stuff was supposed to sound. The midis aren’t really enough. I learned a couple of polkas (Blue Dick and Lasses Keep Your Legs Together) but they sure didn’t feel like Irish polkas and I wasn’t sure how to handle them. I’m sure by the time I finish with them they won’t sound very "authentic"! Any suggestions on who I can listen to for examples? I have Eliza Carthy’s cds and one Kathryn Tickell, but I don’t know if those are what I need.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Alistair Anderson’s band "Syncopace" were excellent when they were still together. They have a CD but it’s quite hard to get - try Black Crow(e?) records. I think the best new stuff coming out at the moment is by Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. They do a lot of Triple Hornpipes and that sort of stuff. They’re playing here in Sydney on Friday yay! When I post the tunes I’ll put some ornamentation in and try and explain how I play them as best I can in the comments section. Of course a tune is what you yourself want it to be…

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Christine,
I’ve just had a look at those 2 tunes you mentioned. I haven’t heard the tunes before, but they aren’t polkas. They are actually English/Scottish style reels. Sometimes if there aren’t very many notes and the reel is full of crotchets they get called "rants". At least that’s what I’ve always called a rant. These reels are usually played about the same speed as Irish reels, but their structure is different. They are closely related to hornpipes in that you tend to get 3 crotchets at the end of each A- or B-part or whatever, and indeed sometimes they are "swung" and played as hornpipes, especially in Ireland. This is why people argue about the genre of tunes like "Staten Island" and "The De’il Amang The Tailors" (aka "The Devil’s Dream"). An English or Scottish person will swear blind that these tunes are definitely reels, always have been, always will be. However, the "swung" style caught on in Ireland and that’s why this style of tune is often played like a hornpipe. The exception I would have thought is places like Co. Donegal where there has been a lot of Scottish influence on the music - for tunes like the Shetland "Da New Rigged Ship" on e.g. Altan’s "Harvest Storm", the unswung reel style has stuck, despite those final crotchets. It is this style of tune which people dance reels to at barndances in England and Scotland. Until recently, a lot of the Irish style reels I’m fairly sure would have been unfamiliar to musicians at least in the borders, and they might have been considered a bit complicated with "too many notes". I bet these Scottish style reels are still played quite a lot in some parts of North America. When I went to Tasmania, I found there to be quite a strong Scottish influence still, and I bet it’s the same in New Zealand. Anyone know?

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

I’ve added the tune type "Triple Hornpipe" to the database.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

I recently bought Kathryn Tickell’s CD, ‘The Northumberland Collection’. The first set of tunes features The Morpeth Rant and the lesser known Old Morpeth Rant. It says in the sleeve notes that the rant is actually a specific type of dance, peculiar to the Northeast of England.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Mark,

Thanks for all the info. I was trying to bow them like polkas because the time sig. was 2/2. They do feel more like hornpipes to me. Comparing them to Staten Island and Devil’s Dream makes it more clear. When I get more comfortable with them I’m going to introduce them to the "laid back" session I go to and see if I can get folks to learn them. I’ll look for those cds. I lost track of Nancy Kerr when she left off playing with Eliza.

Jeremy, thanks for being so open-minded!

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Yeah thanks Jeremy,
Christine: just make sure that with the Northumbrian rants and reels you don’t swing them like hornpipes. They’re meant to be played in undotted rhythms like you’d usually play an Irish reel, and quite fast. I think they’d sound a bit odd played like hornpipes.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Mark,
Those are exactly the kind of hints I was looking for. I can’t wait to try some of the Northumbrian tunes when you get them posted. Thanks again.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

I’ve already posted a couple - "Elsie Marley" (v. common old jig) and "Shirley’s Reel" (not so common new reel).

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Hi Dow.
It’s great that you have this collection and are putting it on the net. If you want any help I don

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Also "The Dusty Miller" springs to mind - that’s mostly played as a slip jig these days. If I’m not mistaken, 3/2’s are called doubles in the west, e.g. Cheshire and Lancashire, and triples in the east and borders. I have to say "triple" does make more sense though! I’ll post some in the next few days.

Re: Northumbrian Hornpipe (Hill) Link

I rave about Northumbrian tunes - the simplest ones written for keyless chanter are excellent for learners and I love the 7th leaps as in Elsie Marley.
There is a large amount of tunes published by the N. Pipers Society and others, all to be found on their website and then their is Whinham and Hill.
These two were the hornpipe kings - as well as the Birchmore site above, have a look at Pete Louds’ site to be found at http://195.60.1.155/mkmarina/tunebook/tunebook.html
For whatever reason, I have always known the 3/2 double hornpipes as "Long Hornpipes".
I will post some more Northumbrian tunes when the Christmas rush finishes.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

I can’t believe you play both English and Anglo concertina - doesn’t it do your head in?

Re: Dance to your Daddy

Ceiliog - yes, the song is called "Dance to your Daddy" and it is a 3/2 hornpipe.

Dow - yes, I played Anglo for 20 odd years, trying to make it sound like an English concertina (fast runs etc). After getting fed up of cross-fingering odd keys, I eventually succumbed and Sandra Kerr (Nancys mother) talked me into starting English. I never looked back BUT - different boxes, different tunes. I don’t play Irish on English concertina and have stopped playing Northumbrian on Anglo.
After 2 years on English, I have no problem swapping from one box to the other even in mid-tune. (I also play B/C and piano accordions which is a similar mind-set)

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

snadra kerr lectures on the course i attend so does karthyn tickell, alister anderson, catriona macdonald, karen tweed, nancy kerr pops into say hello occasionaly. we had nail keegan (the best flautist i’ve ever seen and meet great guy had a couple of lessons with him!) and sandy breechan. just the luxuries of going to newcastle university i suppose!!

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

I’ve never heard 3/2s called Triple Hornpipes, up here Double Hornpipe was the prefered termuntileveryone started calling them 3/2s. Please don’t confuse the music of North-east England with the rest of the country. Northumbrian music is as distinct from its neighbours on either side of the Border as Breton and Basque Music are from other french traditions.
Keepupthe good work, Dow. They are great tunes you are posting and they need diseminating.
Noel Jackson
Angels of the North

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Two points,
Rants are hard to play but quite easy to dance. The rhytm goes
and one, two, three, and one, two three. The leading note is the finalquaver in the bar before. The three is a longer note than a simple crotchet. Conventional notation falls apart for rants. Kathryn Tickell is probably the most accessible player of rants though she does a version of the Morpeth Rant and Old Morpeth Rant which is far too fast for dancing.

Rants are most definately slighhtly dotted. If you don’t they race ahead and become reels. However, this is much less than hornpipe dotting, .As for swing, by which I mean assymetric pulling of the rhythm, I don’t think that this is a characteristic of rants.
Noel Jackson
Angels of the North

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Noel,
Remember, I’m from "up here" too - born in Alnwick and raised in Seahouses. I’ve always known them as "triples" or "3/2s", and am definitely not confusing Northumbrian music with anything from anywhere else ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the info on rants by the way.
Dow

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

…and that’s not to say I’m right - it’s just how I’ve always known them. Perhaps I’ve known wrong! At least the name "3/2s" causes no confusion.

Re: Northumbrian Tunes

Greetings all I am new to the site and am working through the posts this si my first comment…..with regards to rants when teaching dancers the rant step a useful little ditty to remind of the rhythm is "POTATO CRISPS" i.e a-1-2-3 a-1-2-3 ….
it also reminds fiddlers that the bowing should be Northumbrian or Newcastle Style with the up bow on the first beat.