Looking For Good Music

Looking For Good Music

I perform at renaissance fairs and my biggest hits are fun tunes however the ones I have are starting to get old so does anyone have good ideas for tunes that would fit a gypsy charater?

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Crested Hens and the Swedish Jig!


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What instrument do you play?

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OK, I looked up your details - violin.

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Okay some of these are okay but it really helps if there is sheet music avaliable. I have no problem trying to figure out the melody but i can learn it faster if it has sheet music but Crested Hens was great! thanks a million

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The Hens’ March To The Midden is a cheerful number if you know that one and can do the emphatic bow-strokes - but do you want to be a cheerful gypsy or a downbeat one?

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Crested Hens reminds me of a gypsy who is so drunk he can’t move, and is taking it out on all of us listening to or playing the tune. It makes me feel paralyzed. Do you know what I mean? When I have to play it (because a dear friend loves it and I’m too nice to tell her to quit it) I often feel like I’M the one who so drunk he can’t move.

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most of the time i’m a happy gypsy because every weekend when i’m at the renaissance fair i’m there for about 10 hours and i don’t exactly have my own stage because i have to share it with others so most of my music is actually just played on the streets of the villege so i have to have a good variaty of happy and sad music.

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Those Buttons & Bows CDs are full of great tunes - two of my favorites are Waltz from Orsa and Iles de la Madeleine

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Sorry are you an Irish Gypsy? or Roma?

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i’m actually roma but i do play alot of irish music which is weird but the only thing is that most of the other performers can’t play most of the music that i like so i have to stick to mainly irish, except when i am playing solo

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Well Child grove is a nice piece of music….medieval I think.
An Old English tune called Nonesuch….
Saddle the pony….
Old ITM like O’Neils march, March of the King Of Laios, Blarny Pilgrim[ march]….

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I see your favourite piece is Csardas. I assume you mean the Monti composition given that name, which is actually a faux Csardas written by an Italian. I like it, though. Used to give it a good go, meself.

Could you get hold of some ‘proper’ Csardas’s (sorry, I don’t know what the plural would be)? I know you’re trying to get things for a Renaissance Fair, which might imply Renaissance music, but you also said you wanted something of a Gypsy character, so I’m assuming that more modern things would be in order. Is that right?

Re: Looking For Good Music ~ for a gypsy character?! 😎

I don’t think we’ve any Hungarian or Transylvanian tunes on site, or those lovely mad tunes of the Vlacchi of Romania and the Balkans, but we do have a few mixed meters, Klezmer, a couple of Greek melodies, things often hidden amongst ‘barndances’ and ‘slip jigs’, for example:

Djinovsko Horo

Gruncharsko Horo

Haneros Haluli



Kolev’s Kopanitsa

Miss Laura Katarina Ribeiro

Mominsko Horo


The Otters’ Waltz

Paidushko Horo

Pamela’s Ruchenitsa

Roumen Sirakov’s Daichevo

Sadegurer Khosid

Sandansko Oro

Shalom Aleichem

Smeceno Horo

Suleman’s Kopanitsa

The Whiz (dedicated to our webmaster Jeremy)

Welsh tunes ~ a definite Romany gypsy presence there, via harp and violin, etc…
Check the ‘Recordings’ and do a general search with just ‘Welsh’ or ‘Wales’…
& then there’s Nansi Richards ~

Nansi Richards: Brenhines Y Delyn

Celfyddyd Telynores Maldwyn: The Art Of Nansi Richards

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Great stuff, ceol. See, I was trying to think of something useful to do, and failed …

Nansi Richards - hmm … I grew up listening to her music - beautiful. There was some legend that she had learnt harp from gypsies, wasn’t there? As I recall, she didn’t suggest this herself, though I see that Wikipedia says she classed the gypsies who lived on her family’s farm as one of her great influences - no suggestion as to whether that would be a musical influence though. She learnt harp from Welsh triple harpist Tom Lloyd.

I’m obviously missing something, though. What’s the Romany influence on Welsh music? I feel I should know, as Welsh music is what I grew up with …

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They passed time in her family’s house… There is one collection, a notebook I came across in the National Library, if my memory is working right, I can’t remember the fiddler’s name, but I believe he was Romany. He travelled about and most of the music I came across and played from that was in general circulation all over these isles. ‘Influence’ is a strange term. There were Romany musicians in Cymru, and this isn’t in doubt, but what has happened to Welsh music can’t be blamed on them, except that they were open to all influences and brought those tunes and ways with them, so those whose ears came within their realm of ‘influence’, would likely pick up a tune or way with the music. There are so many ways for this lovely adaptable art to be influenced and influence. Pinpointing it to specifics is like trying to pin water to a cork bulletin board… Where do you stop when following it back, and back, and back? 😏

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We also have several early dance tunes scattered about, for example a recent orphan and another ~

* not yet named

Hole In The Wall

Knole Park

There are others, but I’ll leave their revelation to others… Also worth consideration, if this is your inclination and intent, is the collections of Praetorius and Susato… I think a few of them are on site here too? 😏

Here are a few more you might consider ~

Horse’s Bransle



Two good collections by Peter Barnes that might interest you ~

The Barnes Book Of English Country Dance Tunes - A collection of 436 tunes with chords…
The Barnes Book of English Country Dance Tunes, Vol 2 - including modern compositions…

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Ben, I just remembered, I might have a book or booklet on just that subject, but whether it is in this house or not, I’ll check and add it here or email you if I find it… The other problem with anything ‘gypsy’ is people’s unwillingness to acknowledge any influence there…

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Reel Beatrice https://thesession.org/tunes/483
is slightly Rom-ish, and easier to play in Gminor ‘cause you stay in the first position.

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wow, thanks you guys this is really helpfull!! I can’t wait to try all of these on my violin =)

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If anyone wants to check out the renaissance fair that i perform at the website is (renfun.com) it might help you figure out what kind of setting the villege is in and that way it might be easier to figure out what kind of tunes work best!

Correction ~ ‘Renaissance’ ~ where did those ms come from? 😏 hmmmmm…

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benhall.1, ceolachan, ‘Famous Welsh Fiddlers’ by the Reverend W. Meredith Morris, 1983, Welsh Folk Museum, St Fagans, written in 1907, has stories of the lives of nine fiddlers. The back page has a photo (1914) of Mathew Wood, (1845-1929) holding his fiddle with Gypsy wagons in the background. I think the Wood family were well-known itinerant musicians and Nansi Richards learned tunes from them as a girl, when they visited the locality to do casual farm work.

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That’s interesting about Reel Beatrice, drone. About the first position stuff I mean. I play it in both keys - though very rarely, ‘cos it’s too show-offy really. But I go up to second position in G minor as well. I go to second position at the start of the second part - it means you can put more interesting ornaments in, and I think it’s marginally easier to play, too.

Ceol, I’d love to see some of that stuff.

e-mail me! e-MAIL ME!!!


"Guild members become part of Doon Douglas, a flourishing medieval village on the border of Scotland and England, and develop personas that guide the outcome of exciting, ongoing dramas which we play out at our numerous performance venues, including the Wisconsin Renaissance Faire."

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Were they Romanies, wolfbird? Frustrating this. I spent hours and hours in the folk museum at St Fagans once upon a time, and I think I even vaguely remember that book, but I don’t remember enough of the *detail*.

More … more… more …

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Aberystwyth is really your best bet Ben, the National Library, it’s a treat, and a hoot too, a great place… But I love St. Fagans too, especially the instruments and all the farming paraphernalia. There are also sessions in Aberystwyth and roundabout, including "Welsh Only"…

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I think it is out of print, Ben. I got it used, last year on ebay. What would you like to know most ? Sadly, it’s only 36 pages, but that’s an edited condensation of the original unpublished documents which might be available somewhere. From memory, the good Rev. had quite a cushy job, plenty of free time to wonder around markets and fairs talking to the fiddlers. What struck me when I read it was that, although the fiddlers were at the bottom of the social hierarchy, they seem to be amazing characters, who liked to live in secluded sanctuaries, woods and waterfalls, away from the world. From there, they’d venture out to tour a few fairs and festivals to make a bit of money.

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WOLFBIRD!!! Welcome! ~ Damn, I missed you, sorry… I’m multitasking, which I’m told we males are incapable of doing right. I’m cooking and half a dozen other things simultaneously, and then dipping in and out of here.

Yes, that’s one of the ones I have and had in mind, a small booklet, lovely… Thanks… If I find anything else I’ll let you know…

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It is at the library in Aberystwyth, but many of those are not available through inter-library loan. You’d have to arrange to view them there, but they are pretty good about that, or used to be…

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If interested, having connections, I might be able to get you a copy. Let me know…

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"Within Wales, a once widespread tradition of fiddle-playing was almost totally lost by the end of the nineteenth century.It seemed until quite recently that whereas the harpist had gained the atteention of researchers into Welsh musical history, the fiddler had been consistently ignored by them. That this is not altogether the case, however, became excitingly apparent, when, in 1974, Mrs Gladys E. Thomas of St. Nicholas ,Cardiff, donated to thee `folk `museum a bulky and bound maanuscript bearing the title ‘De Fidiculis’ "

The author begins:

"The moments I have spent in giving shape to the delicate form which enshrouds the fiddle-soul, and in listening to the strains of some old-world strolling fiddler, have been the happiest moments of my life."

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Back on subject ~ as it focuses on the Medieval ~

Discussion: What One Octave Tunes in D exist?
# Posted on September 19th 2007 by Sarah the Flute

Drones would be well practiced….

"Ringing strings" ~ drones and double stops…

‘harmonics’ are another thing, and that would take more time than you have… 😉

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thee `folk ` ? Dunno what happened there Should be ‘Welsh Folk Museum’.

Ben, you could probably get a cheap copy if you do a search on the second hand book sites.

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"If interested, having connections, I might be able to get you a copy. Let me know…"

I’d be interested! I’d be interested! Me! Me! Me!

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So someone who is excessively prone to fiddling could be called fidiculous…

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Meanwhile, wolfbird, what would I be interested in in particular?

Well, this influence of gypsies; what *was* the influence on the music? Were they itinerants, Welsh or Irish or other, or were they Romanies?

Tell you what I’m kind of getting at. I used to know more about this stuff, but it’s faded with the years. I thought I remembered that there had been a strong fiddle tradition in Wales; that it was stronger among poorer folks, the harp tradition being mainly an aristocratic one, with retained harpists and all that, and also being a more refined tradition; that the fiddle tradition was mainly dance whereas the harp tradition would be based more (though not exclusively) around airs and song; and that the fiddle tradition died out because of the influx of Methodism (and, I always believed, the Baptists as well) and an accompanying attitude that the fiddle, precisely *because* it was a dance instrument, was the ‘instrument of the devil’.

Trouble is, all of the above may be complete nonsense, or stuff I’ve just made up …


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Nice one, nicholas. What a shame the same can’t be said for the melodeon.


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muellehn definitely listen to breton piping tunes.
Venture to the outskirts. Farther shores to the south & beyond without looking back. Hope you catch my drift.

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Well, Ben, I think you’re pretty close in your picture of what happened, as described in the Rev.’s book. I actually bought it because the author was born here, where I live, in the Gwaun Valley, and wrote several books on folk lore and language which I’d noticed in the local bookshop. There’s a fabulous photo on the cover, two gents playing homemade fiddles, built from Fry’s Chocolate square cornered boxes,
(bit like the old blues musicians who made guitars out of cigar boxes.)

The names of the fiddlers are :

Aby Biddle, last of the Pembrokeshire fiddlers.
Swansea Bill.
Ianto’r Garth, the Ballad Fiddler.
John Roberts, the peasant fiddler of Newtown.
Thomas Jones, Crythor Cerdin.
A Nameless Fiddler.
Dick of Dale.
Grassie Busville, the Gipsy Fiddler.
Levi Gibbwn.

There you go…

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I concur, and share a similar impression, also based on the diaspera of Welsh that spread all over this globe… Damn religion on these points anyway…

A first inquiry has gone out for the book for you Ben… I’ll let you know the development…

Ben & Nick ~ melodeon ~ melodious…much too kind… 😉

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ah, the gents in the photo are Cornelius and Adolphus Wood.

Note says (paraphrased) gipsies were numerous as both harpists and fiddlers up to World war 1, David Wood shown playing a single action Grecian harp in the trad welsh manner, against the left shoulder with left hand uppermost, brothers playing fiddle on either side. Fiddles made from Fry’s Shilling Chocolate boxes, produced 1897-1914, examples preserved in Cadbury’s Ltd. archive Somerdale, Keynsham, Bristol.

Both Wood brothers died in tragic circumstances, Cornelius in Denbigh Asylum, Adolphus found frozen with rifle in hand in a Belgian trench 1917. Info from ‘The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Soceity’.

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“Trouble is, all of the above may be complete nonsense, or stuff I’ve just made up …”

No matter, Ben, most history is made up anyway.

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Thanks ceol and wolfbird. this is the sort of occasion when it’s worth being round this place.

‘Fraid I have to go to bed now - early I know.

Ah well, I’ll catch up tomorrow.

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All this reminds me of a book I saw belonging to someone I knew at Oxford. It was by a harum-scarum character who I think was an professor - pretty bright, anyway - and Irish or maybe Welsh, earlier twentieth century: anyway, he was mad on the fiddle, and when the mood took him he’d just take off to Hungary or somewhere and stay with the gypsies, playing czardas-es and whatever and drinking, until he felt he had better go back and catch up on his lectures. I’ve forgotten his name but ceolachan will surely know it.

Those times had their strictures, but once you got a secure position as a don at Oxbridge and maybe other places, you could be as mad as you liked with no accountability whatsoever.

The chap who had the book pined to be a full-time fiddler but became a professor instead. I wonder if he still plays it.

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Yes Bob, for one it too often skirts around the herstory… 😉

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Sounds like my kind of person nicholas… I did know some of the characters around Oxford, music-wise, but mostly to do with the museum and music collection… Your description didn’t catch a memory cell, not yet anyway, but that isn’t unusual for this poor vase full of writhing and freely firing nerves… I did have a friend who specialized in czardases and the like, Hungarian and Transylvanian music, but primarily the dance, and what a ‘kick’ and ‘slap-up’ that was…

Ben, some of the sources for ‘dance’ in Cymru, in particular clog, are also recorded as ‘gypsies’… I do have something on that buried under various other things here…

I haven’t heard back about the book yet, but may know by the weekend…fingers crossed…

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Nicholas, I think you mean Walter Starkie. He wrote two books about his part time gypsying, "Raggle Taggle" in Hungary and Romania and then "Spanish Raggle Taggle." There’s a bio of him on Wikipedia. No one but him knew the balance of tructh and fiction in the books, (and maybe he didn’t.) They’re a good read and where he’s talking about a specific tune, he often gives a bit of notation. He was genuinely an academic as well. TCD, I think.

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That’s the guy!! Thanks there, chadmills.

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Sounds like something I need to add to my reading wants, warning welcomed and taken… Thanks chadmills…

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TCD eh? 😀

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We are all so fortunate that some of the great folk music traditions have survived, but what was lost ?

Here’s a little window into the past, a glimpse of what the musical tradition of my locality was like, as it died. (Something for ben when he wakes up.)

Writing c. 1908, Reverend W. Meredith Morris portrays Pembrokeshire in his grandfather’s day:

"In my grandfather’s early days every village had its fiddler, and at vanity and hiring fairs a small host of them assembled, where they engaged in friendly and sometimes unfriendly rivalry in the performance of country dances. There must have been scores of them, up and down the county. No wake or wedding, no fast or feast was possible or complete without the hero of the green baize bag. The memory of those strolling fiddlers is still green - green as the grass on their unknown graves.

‘Aby Biddle with his fiddle
Merry shall we step
Good rabbet pie without no lie
And wine to maak yea lep’

is the chorus of a ‘bidding’ song touching upon the prowess of the last of the Pembrokeshire fiddlers, Aby Biddle, last seen and heard somewhere about 1852.

During the summer months he itinerated with his fiddle around the fairs of South Wales. From one of these journeys he never returned. About 1852 he was an old man of eighty. It is probable he died on the roadside or in a workhouse. He was friendless and nobody ever bothered to make any enquiries. But his memory lives on. He was considered far and away the best fiddler the countryside could show. At every fair and village green he was the persona grata, and his fiddle was the pivot on which turned much merriment. At wakes he played weird frenzied music to scare the ghouls who lurked near the chamber of the dead. At weddings he played in the light fantastic vein.

He is described as a man with a very dignified and polite manner. His fiddle was a ‘Duke’, carried in a green baize bag. He had a pocket for his resin and strings in the inside of the crown of his top hat, and another for his cash on the inside of his shirt.

On one occasion when two parishes were pitted against each other in a game of Cnapan (Welsh version of hurling) and the game had ended in a free fight, the combatants using their bandos as clubs, Aby prevented the bloodshed by vigorous imitation of various farmyard animals, so that uncontrollable fits of laughter got hold of the mob, turning their madness into mirth.

With the passing of old Aby in 1852, the fiddle as a factor in rural life disappeared from Pembrokeshire, and the village green fair, the wake, and the old type wedding are now among the things that were."

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What a surprise to see Walter Starkie´s name on the mustard pages !
In the early years of WW2, the UK government decided to open an office of the British Council in Madrid. Spain was officially neutral in the war, but was openly sympathetic to the axis countries, and Britain needed a foothold in continental Europe, albeit a cultural one.
Starkie was invited to head the BC office in Madrid partly because of his deep knowledge of anglo-spanish cultural affairs, but also because of his alleged sympathy towards the Franco dictatorship, which would have made him acceptable to the régime.
He was certainly a larger than life character and one of those people you´d love to have met. I´m sure the BC in Madrid was actively involved in espionnage in those troubled times.
The BC in Madrid continued the tradition of employing eccentric characters in more recent years in the person of Pamela O´Malley, a relative (sister or cousin, I´m not sure) of the Irish politician Desmond O´Malley.
Pamela was another larger than life character who, when she came to Spain, promptly joined the Spanish communist party and was jailed by Franco for her activities.
She taught English for many years at the British Council and one of the characters in J.P.Donleavy´s "The Ginger Man" was said to be based on her.
Not much ITM content, I´m afraid, except to say that on St Patrick´s day, 1985, I played at an irish music session hosted by the BC in Madrid and Pamela O´Malley was there .
I´m sure the ghost of Walter Starkie was there playing the fiddle !

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Thanks wolfbird, I know Ben will be chuffed, and murfbox too. Now I know I’ll have a good sleep tonight, for a change… Pleasant dreams all… 🙂

Gypsy Serenade ~ a respect and consideration

# Posted on February 21st 2008 by ceolachan

Since we’ve moved in that direction, and I had more to offer, I thought we might open it up and move this particular discussion to a new thread, with the focus on Gypsies…