What is english trad music

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There isn’t any.

Posted by .

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It’s all revival & holy rollers… πŸ˜›

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Wooly jumpers and caravan camping? 😏

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There is actually lots and lots of it. The English tradition of actually playing it was very run down when the post-war folk revival began - far more so than in Ireland or Scotland - but (as in Scotland, but seemingly much less in Ireland) many tune-books have survived compiled by players in the c18-19. More may turn up yet.

The tunes are very much in the same diatonic family as Irish and Scottish tunes (with occasional minor-key, etc., exceptions). The standard rhythms are the same, plus English trad uses the 3/2 rhythm a lot: Scottish music has 3/2 tunes, but it’s rare in Irish trad afaik. Also, a number of English Morris tunes elongate notes and have changes of rhythm within some of their parts.

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I knew that would drag you out of your cave… πŸ˜€

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The problem with much so called ‘English’ folk is the tendency for it to either sound like Oxford dons deciding to add a little ‘folk music’ to their repertoire of easy listening classics… Or, like a bunch of concert band and school orchestra rejects trying to find something they can play that possibly will escape criticism, especially if they can play it really LOUD… So, you can’t really do a decent job on your oboe or bass clarinet, but why not try folkin’ around with simple wee country melodies… There’s more ‘gosh and begora’ in the English take on things than in Ireland.

Where’s the good old fashioned brew ‘Old Peculiar’ to be found nowadays, eh? So much shight is produced for the commercial market…

Hmmmm, now I need to find some eye of newt and a few feathers from a jackdaw…

What’s wrong with (some) English Trad?

Sometimes one can try too hard to be ‘cool’ or ‘cute’…

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"Hardcore English Set" ~ book of 300 tunes & 2 CDs
(& has been on my Christmas wish list ever since it came out…)
Compiled and Edited by Barry Callaghan
Tunes Set by Pete Stewart


"Hardcore English: 50 Tunes From Manuscript, Recorded And Aural Sources"

More from Veteran ~

More from Mally’s ~

You’ll find something of that ‘history’ in the music and dance, and these books, and others. It may seem I’m being flippant, but there is also the case for regional identity, so you’re asking a BIG question, for example ~ Northumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire, the Borders, etc… And "Where did it come from" is pretty big too. There have been some great works written on the subject, including the work of the Fletts. It would also be foolish to divorce the music from the dance.

So, one root, one root only ~ and only going back so far, the 1500s ~ "Playford’s Country Dance Master", in print in various editions up to the 1700s, and packed full of music and dance… Back to the "where from?" ~ It hasn’t been an island in the sense of disconnected, and ties to Europe, and waves of immigration still affect what we do, say, eat and other cultural influences, including dance and music…

Music includes song too, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the works of Roy Palmer… If I had my library at hand I’d recommend a few other reads as well. Roy’s stuff is priceless, if song-centric…

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YES! ~ The Village Music Project!!! ~ I was trying to remember that… 😏 Good one RichardB…

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Various different strands (I don’t mean "beaches")

-Northumbrian - Almost a separate tradition. Lots of 3:2s Scottish and smallpipes influenced.

-Melodeon music - A lot of the tunes seem to be C19 continental imports. Loads of polkas.

-"Playford" From pre-melodeon, pre-polka tunebooks.Often sounds a bit rennaisance and minor-ish. Quite a lot of classical crossover. "Oxford Dons" etc as above.

-Morris - Dance traditions various types.

- Modern - French & Scandinavian influenced. Chris Wood, Methera Quartet etc.

- British - Lots of the tunes from the Peter Kennedy fiddlers tune books that can’t really be confined to any of the countries of the Bristish Isles.

..and no doubt others.

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The English didn’t come to these isles, these isles made the English…

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… and did the Celts bring the trad with them when THEY came to these isles?

Anyone here claiming exclusive descent from them that walked across? (We expect genetic proof.)

Every wave of peoples who settled here brought their traditions with them, including those from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Like waves, the move in and out, disturbing the sediment and adding other things to that cloudy mix. There were no ‘English’ before ‘England’. There were Anglo Saxons, Celts of different forms, the Norse, the Picts ~ a longer list than TomB-R’s introduction to forms… ~ and the Fae folk too… 😏

Re: What is English ~

A language made up of many others, an evolutionary process, and it too has many forms…

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Yes, leaving Jamaica, Robert and Mary English arrived on this barren rock in 1946, just after the war, bringing with them their extensive collection of American 78s, a library full of tune books, a cheap German concertina and a guitar missing two strings. They went forward and multiplied. From that all music on this island evolved and came to be known as ‘English’…

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I thought the Romans gave it to y’all around the year 50 AD.

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I’ll deal with ceolachan in my own good time…(!)…

History of English trad, then: (Mind, this isn’t Gospel, just my take on it…)

Derives, like Irish, from Mediaeval diatonic (major + modal keys) music. Wouldn’t know extent to which it derives from folk, courtly or church music - any or all of these.

English Reformation ends Catholic Church in England. During c17, especially after Restoration, the then new and rising European Classical music culture begins to permeate England. It is adaptable to many levels of aspiration and many tastes. My guess is that trad became marginalised and looked at askance because it was seen as archaic / not with it, and because its very nature as music came from the Catholic / Mediaeval period most people seem to have had no nostalgia for. Like the Blues, it would reveal its nature in a few notes, and people would be attracted to it or reject it at least in part because of the extra-musical connotations it had for them - that’s my guess.

Art culture in modern-period England has been consistently top-down and very pervasive. Classical music was very much promoted. Methodism from the mid-c18 enjoined people to leave the pubs, but enabled choral music and brass bands instead - there was a lot to like in all this. Meanwhile, West End show and operetta music was available to all who wanted it from Charles II on. With increasing wealth (for some) more people bought pianos - or at any rate pubs did.

Trad dance music, though, continued to be played - even if older tunes might have been dropped for newer "hits" from shows or band repertoires, etc. Going by tunebooks I’ve heard of, there was definitely a bias towards the countryside in the survival of the traditions. (Though I should add that the English concertina was played by organised groups and regarded as a civilised instrument because one could play at least some Classical music on it! Such a band existed in Mexborough (Yorkshire), and no doubt in other urban settings.

Antipathy to Catholicism subsided, and the now very remote and intriguing area of pre-modern music inspired Vaughan Williams to rediscover the modes and trad and to compose according to their principles - Dives And Lazarus, The Lark Ascending, etc. Meanwhile Elgar, saying "I write folk music!", stayed with the Classical and sub-Classical mainstream tradition of music he’d grown up with. (btw, he was a Catholic…) He was right, in that he wrote in the idiom(s) the great majority of the English population were most used to. But these great men were not in conflict - they were friends, or at least well-disposed towards each other.

I’ll stop for breath…

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Dodger - No, I’m saying it’s in the groove of pre-Classical Mediaeval music, as Irish music is - though with maybe a few more Classically-tilted tunes in it than there are in Irish music. These latter can be both original tunes and tunes that have been "tweaked" by compilers of collections.

I am saying Classical music dominated English musical life to a great extent, and that this marginalised trad to an extent, I’d say, that made it a quite peripheral part of English music in general. This goes for both trad tunes and trad songs.

When I referred to Elgar saying "I write folk music!", I wasn’t implying he wrote trad. Nor would *he* have claimed to be writing what we call trad. He was claiming, I take it, that "folk music" was music a majority in a given country would take to and embrace, that purism about its nature and history was irrelevant, and that he was writing this for the English of his time. And they did take to it.

A tongue-in-cheek definition of "folk music", perhaps - but I won’t get into definitions of folk music right now!

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Those damned Mediaeval diatonic accordionistas… Them and the pipe and tabor bashers, a pain in the pub…

Damn, ConΓ‘n McDonnell, I was sure the aliens had abducted you…

A bucket of English trad music

Your digging a mighty big hole nicholas. I’ve no worries, you won’t be getting yourself out of there anytime soon… πŸ˜€

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They did, C but they’ve got the interweb on the planet Zarpton too, y’know!

And it’s "gweeeble" from me.

What is ‘English’ trad music ~

~ whatever an English musician chooses to mud wrestle with and make their own, with a little down to earth dirt in it…

After too many swigs of this the road will surely rise up to meet us and we’ll awake the following morning regretting it, with asphalt embedded in our faces…

P.s. ~

~ whatever an English musician chooses to mud wrestle with and make their own, with a little down to earth dirt in it… ~ and then passes on to others down the line… 😎

ConΓ‘n McDonnell & alien abduction ~

It’s good to be connected…

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I’ve composed two dazzling and witty ripostes to the question today, and neither of them have ended up being posted for some obscure technical reason I can’t fathom. Anyone else have the same problem ?

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Anybody ever seen songcatcher, it’s about and American music researcher discovering English ballads in the mountains of Appalachia, in an unbroken aural tradition.

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Bellowhead are an awesome english folk band. I think they won best live band at the radio 2 folk awards last year.

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GP ~ remember that old folk song ~ who was it that wrote and sang it, Bryan Adams ~ "Don’t Give Up!"

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Dodger ,
It is arguable ( and will be after this post I suspect ) that the idea of a separate tradition for Scotland ,England and Ireland is a mistaken concept such was the interaction and migration over the last two hundred years. In the 20th century over a million Irish men and women came to live in the UK. Never mind the century that included the famine. Look in O’Niels for instance The Keel Row is a Northumbrian Tune yet its in the slide section and the two well known tunes The Scholar and the High Level Horn Pipe were written by a bloke who lived most of his life in Gateshead about 5 mile from where I am writing. How many Scottish tunes are played in Ireland ? How many Scottish Piping tunes are known to have come from Ireland ?
If you think that they are separate traditions you could argue also that Northumberland /Durham has a separate tradition maybe also in Cornwall. Cotswold any one ?
In a way it’s a simple question that does not lead to a clear answer

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Baz is in the scrum. Let’s see if this will last for 100 posts…

I gave up on counting how many sunglasses Dodger has. Do you wear them to bed too?

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No, it just makes it crap

Posted .

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Northumberland was possibly the only part of England that had a real surviving fiddle tradition lasting into the postwar folk revival, as well as that of the Northumbrian smallpipes. And luckily for us the small number of trad players included individuals who were seriously good (Billy Pigg, Willy Taylor, Will Atkinson, e.g.).

Isolation is a key factor, I think, in the development of Northumbrian trad. Northumberland was and is a deeply quiet rural time warp into most of which there was no reason for people to immigrate. At the same time, it was and is joined at the hip to Newcastle, an unusually isolated but always important English city, to which Scots and Irish did indeed immigrate. In the c18-19 city and county shared a trad music culture (lots of bellows-pipe innovation, James Hill, 4/4 hornpipes etc.). By the folk revival this had pretty well gone from Tyneside - but out in the sticks the trad players were still playing James Hill’s tunes from 1840 or so; smallpipers were grinding their way through preposterous sets of variations jotted down by someone in the year dot, because by now they were Holy Writ and it was just what one *did*; and the gentry of Northumberland - who run the place, are numerous and tend to be amiably unhinged - had given smallpipers and smallpiping continuous support. (Students of trad may underestimate how much it was a music of the aristocracy.)

I see Northumbrian music really as a kind of musical Galapagos Islands, in which various tunes and forms were generated, or arrived from elsewhere, to develop cheek by jowl into things rich and strange - or sometimes, just strange. There are those tunes with extended variations. There was the early one-octave major-scale smallpipe, maybe a follow-on from the English bagpipe that died out everywhere else, whose legacy is lots of dementedly constricted tunes some of which still manage to be catchy. There were the Border Pipes in the quite different GHB scale that had their time, left a tunebook repertoire, vanished - and are back. Northumbrian music thus strikes me as a conglomerate of traditions, rather than a single fairly easily definable one. I like to think "I know it when I hear it…" But every now and then I hear a new tune, ask what it is, am told it’s Northumbrian, and would never have guessed.

Players like Pigg, Taylor, Atkinson played a lot of Scottish (including Shetland) stuff, reflecting radio and other contacts with Scotland. A lot of music from older times is of arguable provenance - Northumbrian or Southern Scottish - so people call it "Border". It is characterised by rather a lot of primitive pipe tunes. Don’t get me wrong, some of it’s kosher. There’s certainly been a lot of historical connection musically with Scotland, but though connected, Scottish and Northumbrian music are not a seamless web.

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Not a bad question Dodger .
When does a transplanted tradition become a local one ?
Is this question worthy of another thread ?
For instance the number of scottish influenced tunes in the far North West of Ireland are they traditionally Irish or Scotish ?
If they are Irish when did that happen ?
Llig ?

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I would second Nic ‘scomments about the gentry . I was looking at a set of Northumbrian Pipes made from Ivory in 1840 ish wonderful they were played in our session a fortnight ago only the very rich could ever afford such things .

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Didn’t Joe Hutton play a set of ivory pipes? Were they his that you saw, handed on?

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I first thought they were pale wood they looked new, so clean but I was told they were ivory from 1840sand the metal work was silver. I dont know who had them previously

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The Scottish Highland Bagpipe tradition is definitely a Gaelic product, and that whole culture and maybe the GHB itself originated in Ireland. Although the Gaels didn’t invent the bagpipe - the GHB was developed seemingly quite late in the Middle Ages, presumably from the base of other bagpipes that were widely known.

The frame-harp seems to have developed in these islands, but the evidence does not seem conclusive as to where this was done first.

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And the Irish Pipes?
I know someone who believes they come from the North East of England .
Ar’n’t you playing tonight Nic ?

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I will thank you on behalf of Mally for the advert πŸ™‚
And tell him next time i see him πŸ™‚

Go to the sources ~ a few recommended listens with reads

One of my all time favourite melodeon players, and musicians in general ~

Bob Cann ~ Proper Job: Melodeon Playing From Dartmoor

Bob Cann ~ West Country Melodeon

& for a bit of fun, with Ashley Hutchings & others

An interesting and informative few samplers ~

"Stepping Up: English Country Dance Music"

~ & from Reg Hall’s anthology "The Voice of the People", all with informative booklets, on the music and the musicians…

"Ranting And Reeling: Dance Music Of The North Of England"
* This is full of favourite musicians, including fiddlers Willy Taylor & Ned Pearson, and the rest of "The Shepherds", Will Atkinson and Joe Hutton…

"Rig-a-jig-jig: Dance Music Of The South Of England"
* More great characters ~ Scan Tester, Bob Cann, Stephen Baldwin, etc…

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bazouki dave - I don’t know any evidence of the Irish Pipes (as they are now) being pioneered in Newcastle, though for all I know Geordie pipes freaks may have found or concocted such evidence in spades.

I’d have thought the biggest evidence against this would be the fact they weren’t retained and perpetuated in Geordieland, as a good thing! They would have fitted in perfectly well with the local fiddle music.

I’ve never seen an established chain of links between bellows pipes in France (where they seem to have started) and the recognisable uilleann pipes in Ireland, through Newcastle or anywhere else. Unless I do, I’ll assume their devising happened in Ireland.

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Musette ( French pipes ) are reputed to be the origin of the Northumberland pipes . I would visit the piping museum in Morpeth where they have more details if you want more information.
I was told that the Uilleann pipes aka the Union pipes were first made in the North East under this latter name .

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English trad looks like trad and quacks like trad, therefore it’s trad!

It is not a figment of our own imagination. It is we who are that…

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Sometimes you just need to leave the road where it is and do your own work walking down the path open to you… Trust me, the road ain’t gonna come to you, you gotta go to it… 😎

~ just a sample…

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My, but Dodge’s spelling has suddenly taken an extraordinary leap forward! πŸ™‚ marvellous - must be all the practice he’s getting on here (either that or the disguise is slipping) πŸ™‚

Maybe Dodger’s question is - What do the English actually KNOW?..

A bit of lateral thinking: what do we English *in fact* grow up with?

It’s past my bedtime, so I’ll be brief:

Kiddyhood - Rhymes, jingles from school or TV. Christmas carols, pretty universally known (I like to think) to a greater or lesser extent. Lots of hymns and Christian songs if church-going or in a church school, some even if one isn’t. Movie songs, show songs, odds and ends that float down from the grown-up world.

Adolescence parts the ways. Girls learn how to pick up and sing instantaneously the product of utterly pappy bands and remember the stuff for ever. Boys like to learn songs with bold anthemic tunes and lyrics of a questionable nature so as to sing them with their mates on occasions when a group statement is called for. These occasions tend to coincide with terminal drunkenness, forgetfulness of the words and a massacre of the tune. Youths who disdain or recoil from this when young generally just end up getting into it later.

This is avoiding major issues, like the role and achievements of musical education and whether Mozart would be a rapper today. One could argue about these forever. The above paragraph, though, is unarguable. It is what people actually do!

As, I imagine, they do everywhere else.

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Mozart would be under sedation in a mental institute… 😏

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I remember from schooldays music masters who were formidable and seemed scary and mad.

They were, actually, live wires.

People don’t necessarily love these.

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Yes! The second half of it has her and the band playing The Welcome Home, a reel she wrote some years ago. It doesn’t come through *quite* as well here IMO as on her album "Debateable Lands" and as when they played it on the C4 programme "Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbria", but I think it’s still a pretty good advertisement for the ongoing Northumbrian pipe tradition…

(The slower tune btw is Our Kate, another KT composition.)

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Oh, B*LL*CKS! It doesn’t link after all.

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It was a clip of them at Ingleton Festival - it can be found if one looks for it.

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"I’m more interested in the history of english trad, Like where did it come from, How did it evolve and what is it today ? " etc etc

……aaaaaaaargh - this site is turning into Mudcat πŸ™

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Dodger - you have proof that "English" music is celtic? Can we see it?

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The English trad has origins, I believe, in Mediaeval and maybe pre-Mediaeval music of which I know far too little, but was diatonic / modal and widely shared across Western Europe: in other words, was *not* principally or solely a product of what are now seen as the Celtic nations. I think diatonic / modal trad music has survived and developed particularly notably in these because it was less pushed aside in these by the later Classical music culture.

So - my hunch is that English and Celtic trad to a large extent arise from a common base.

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"Is it to much for you poor Domnull ."

…..’fraid so, Dodge!

the devil eat the road

English Trad ~ roots and branches ~

The Kathryn Tickell Band@Ingleton Folk Weekend 2008
~ another attempt for nicholas’s sake

Are we forgetting other strong influences on the ‘revival’, which also is an aspect of what folk choose to call ‘English Trad’, those slingin’ it about in its many forms.

Just for a few slots left empty ~ American blues and the subsequent branches that spread out from there, and not forgetting the roots, all plural, as is true for this other lazy susan of music ~ ‘English Trad’.

Give that tray a spin, I want some nuts, since there’s an abundance of those… 😎

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Samuel Pepys refereed to Barbara Allen as an old scotch ballad,Idont know whether it is scottish, irish or english, but here it is sung in an English accent

Posted .

English Trad ~ pasts and futures!? 😏

Kathryn Tickell - ‘Lads of Alnwick’
Another traditional Northumbrian tune, 8 notes worth and a sweet nugget of history…

πŸ™‚ Once more for good measure and because it makes me smile, sweet playing, though the accompaniment is overblown, twee, IMO… Sometimes when you work it that hard, all that heavy arrangement, it just gets in the way…

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Another tack:

Kuntz’s online Fiddlers’ companion is a gigantic compendium of tunes many of which are denoted as English. Maybe in cases Irish and/or Scottish as well. Any number of other sources attest to English trad tunes, transmitted from tunebooks, from mouth to mouth or from organ to organ by the tradplayers of the land. We are neck deep in them.

Some played in Scotland and Ireland may have started here. But let us bulldoze aside the nice ones for a moment, and contemplate the ones that are devoid of qualifications as music - the NEETs of the tune world. The best friend of English trad has to admit there are rather a lot of these. Like pitheaps that cannot be removed, like stockpiles of nuclear waste, these are permanently with us. We cannot give them away. No-one else will play them. No-one else could have composed them. If I say these exist, will you not believe me?!

This is *a* definition of English trad…must go, my coffee’s ready…!

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Anyone out there who reckons that there is no such thing as "English Trad" is talking out of their backside.

For example, there are the Playford dance tunes and the Morris dance tunes, apart from what’s already been mentioned.

But do you want to play this stuff? That’s the real question.

With a few exceptions, the ETM tunes tend to be quite a lot easier than the ITM ones, and they are also taken at a much slower pace. For this reason, an ETM session is a good place for a beginner to get started. Experience gained at such a session will stand someone in good stead as and when they want to move on to an ITM or some other type of session.

For the same reason, they’re also a good place for the more experienced player who his starting afresh with a second or third instrument.

As to the Morris dance tunes, the tunes in themsleves are certainly amongst the easiest ones to play. But is playing for Morris dancers easy - not particularly!

None of this straightforward AABB or AABBCC way of playing. If you’ve never seen Lionel Bacon’s book: "A Handbook of Morris Dancing", try and get a hold of a copy, and read it. A "music formula" is notated for each tune, which looks like something that you would only normally see in a maths book!

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.. but does the "Bacon" also smell nice … ? πŸ˜‰

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"For this reason, an ETM session is a good place for a beginner to get started. Experience gained at such a session will stand someone in good stead as and when they want to move on to an ITM or some other type of session"
I wouldn’t be sure about that myself Mix. There’s enough learning in both traditions without wanting to use one as a launching pad to the other. Having said that I’m surprised that the English folk/trad song tradition hasn’t been explored in this chat.

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"English music sounds easy, that’s what’s hard about it."

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There you go again Dodger, making assumptions without producing your evidence (Bless you!) You know what Thought did?


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Well, patkiwi, I’m not saying that *everyone* would want to use ETM as a springboard into ITM.

But there is much commonality - e.g. time signatures 2/4. 4/4, 6/8 . 9/8, tune lengths 32, 48, 64. The tune keys used are also the same, though ETM has a preponderance of major and relatively little Dorian, Mixolydian etc tunes.

Recently my band played at a ceildh for English language students. We played a mixture of Irish, English and Scottish material.

Afterwards, one of the English language students ( a German)commented (favourably!) on our rich variety of music. She went on to compare it with the equivalent of what you would get in Germany - just oompah band music - nothing else.

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Well Dodger, you’re dodging the issue yet again.

Morris dancing is depicted in English medieaval woodcuts, so I think that anything as old as that could rightly be considered as being English traditional.

There is a theory (entirely unproven), that "Morriis" derives from "Moorish". But even if that is true, that would be North Africa - not Spain…

… May the bog rise up to swallow you … πŸ˜‰

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Jigs came from Italy.
Reels came from Scotland.
Polkas came from… I can’t remember, somewhere else in Europe.
Hornpipes came from England.

Everything comes from somewhere Dodger, do you think the music has to be borne out of the ancient peat and mountains of the Land for it to be considered traditional?!
Yes, morris dancing is English, wherever it may have come from a thousand years ago!

May the road stay exactly where it is….

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And as has already been said, and was quite clearly not heeded: THE ENGLISH DID NOT COME TO ENGLAND FROM ELSEWHERE. The people today known as "English" became who they are, with all their traditions and so forth, BECAUSE THEY LIVED IN ENGLAND.

Sorry. Sometimes you gotta shout at someone for them to hear you.

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Post #100

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Well, the etymological theorists usually make reference to the various crusades etc. Morris dancing is closely associated with mummers’ plays. The characters in most mummers’ plays include a "Saint George" and a "Turkish Knight".

If they did bring Morris/Moorish dancing back withem them from the crusades, they didn’t bring any melodeons with them at the same time. These came much much later - from Germany.

The Morris musican (as depicted in the mediaeval woodcuts) is playing a pipe and tabor. The tabor pipe can only be played in one key, and its range is very limited. Which probably explains why many of the Morris tunes (especially the older ones) are fairly simplistic.

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You’re probably better off going to English music from Irish than the other way round. The latter is a bit of a quantum leap. But the abilities and tricks you acquire to play Irish do you no harm at all when playing English, as far as I see. Also, a lot of tunes from the older ETM tunebook repertoires are a whole lot more nimble than the German-inspired polkas that came along in Victorian / Edwardian times and characterised the Southern English trad, as far as I know, that was still being played when the folk revival began.

Also, it’s interesting to note that a lot of Eng trad songs are modal, whereas few tunes are. My guess is that the latter reflects ongoing change in dance band repertoires in line with current tastes.

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Actually Spain was under Moorish rule for over 700 yrs.

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The earliest English *did* come to England from elsewhere. They even brought the names England / English with them - some of them came from Angeln, round the German / Danish border, and were Angles, aka ‘Englisc’.

They took over the Romano-Celtic provinces in England very much on their own terms, not maintaining the Roman stuff and not adopting the Celtic language. They very likely IMO drove out or killed much of the populace, as the oldest sources claim. Hostility with the British / early Welsh was bitter and prolonged. Though they had better and more fruitful links with the other Celtic peoples (Irish, Gaelic Scots, Picts), their technological and religious links with Rome and Europe probably came to matter more.

The Vikings came and treated them similarly - nearly trashing them. Then the Normans - Viking-descended but French-speaking. So England became a country settled and dominated by three immigrant groups, the early AS period being a kind of Year Zero. But England exists because the first lot came from somewhere else and gave it the name.

The extent to which the actual geography, climate etc. of a country shapes its people and culture is another matter, possibly best pursued over drink.

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Like you, wicked hacker, I know my history. Agreed, the Moors did occupy Spain - and the date of their earliest occupation predates the date of the earliest crusade by about 300 years

But how would that explain "The Turkish Knight"?

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107 ~ we broke the 100 mark, and in the process I forgot the link to ~

Kathryn Tickell - ‘Lads of Alnwick’
Another traditional Northumbrian tune, 8 notes worth and a sweet nugget of history…


Re: What is english trad music

Irish Gaelic has its roots in Celtic - originally an Indo-European people. So maybe there’s not really any Irish trad at all, as it’s really Indo-European trad.

And that’s not even mentioning the Nordic influences resulting from the Viking invasions. And later still, cross-migration between Scotland and Ireland, and the English occupation of Ireland.

But this demarcation and slagging off other peoples’ traditions is pointless and counter-productive. We all have more in common than we have differences. History has dictated that.

The upsurge in interest in one particular tradition normally leads to an upsurge of interest in related traditions. Those of us old enough will remember the big revival in the late 1960s / early 1970s. There has been another revival (albeit to a much lesser extent) in the last couple of years, and most of us have benefited from it ….πŸ™‚

English Trad just is ~ and a many coloured coat it is too

Sigh, yes! πŸ™‚

~ and on previous posts ~

nicholas was more interested in his coffee than offering a link to his point of reference ~

The Fiddler’s Companion ~ Andrew Kuntz

I had the same problem with the missing Kathryn Tickell link, but I’m being espressed up as I type… πŸ˜›

With what Mix has offered above, though Playford did get mentioned early on, some of those that have fallen under my influence have been enjoying various sessions, each taken for what they are ~ Irish, English and Euro… None of them consider one the launching pad for the other, though some prefer one or the other…

On the Morris Dance issue, there were some remnants of similar traditions in Eastern Europe… Note, I only say similar, like with evolution, maybe they have a related root? 😏

Howdy Joe, good to see you, and have the hundredth contribution marked…

Hmmm, I’m sure I remember reference to a melodeon in the Bible?

Yes, over drink ~ an interesting correlation with cultural influences can be traced with the material remains, not just instruments, but pots, metalwork, cloth, foodstuffs, technology, etc. With the fashions of dance and music there also came other things of the time and influence, and there are always remains, like the many jaw harps, bits of jewelry, shards of pottery, and literature too…

May the road sneak up behind you and give you a good smack… (Where’s a cross-eyed smilie when I need one? It’s probably un PC…)

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With regard to where the older English inhabitants went, there is now strong archeological evidence that they didn’t. The Anglo-Saxon invasions cannot be supported by any archeological evidence as modern techniques allow burial remains to be identified by area of origin - there’s very little proof, it’s mainly old documents from people like Bede complaining.
On the contrary, there was a recent press report on a cave-burial near the Cheddar Gorge - a DNA match was found with a man living 20 minutes away - so he obviously hadn’t moved far from his ancestors.
So what we find, when the music changes, is incoming influences, but not large numbers of incoming people.

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Well, I’m away now for some music, and it’s all Irish tonight, with maybe one set of mazurkas and possibly even another set of varsoviennes, mixed in with a slew of reels and jigs and hornpipes, etc… πŸ˜€

Re: What is english trad music

Melodeons in the Bible, Ceol?

Harps, trumpets and dulcimers maybe - but melodeons?

Quote us chapter and verse, please! 😏

But come to think of it, Joshua needn’t have knocked down those Jericho walls using trumpets …

If he’d used massed melodeons instead, the inhabitants would have probably surrendered immediately … πŸ˜‰

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I dont get ya Mix, is the Turkish knight a tune? or a Morris dance?

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@Guernsey Pete:

DNA in a nearby living man matching the Cheddar Stone Age one doesn’t prove a lot. But an awful lot of Pagan Saxon metalwork and cremation urns in Eastern England clearly matching / developing from those in NW Germany indicates that a lot of them came here and maintained these customs for a time.

A fairly recent DNA study described on TV concluded that Eastern England was pretty well Germanic-dominated, and the W Midlands / South West (Cornwall especially) had a lot more Celtic makeup than the traditional narrative might suggest. But DNA studies seem to turn up different stories from one to the next, and I have not taken the trouble to understand the subject or how foolproof DNA studies are.

Re: What is english trad music


(assuming that your question was serious one)

As previous explained, Morris dancing is very closely associated with mummers’ plays. The script for most mummers’ plays include a "Turkish Knight" character.

Here’s one example:


Re: What is english trad music

The mummers’ plays I have seen were all the sort of thing that would have made me genuinely, traumatically embarrassed to have been caught watching them by anyone with a hale and extroverted contempt for folk music. To call them offensively tedious and fustian would be a major understatement. Like some forlorn and benighted prison cells that still exist under a Durham street, they were old. That was all. No merit attached to them, zilch was gained by seeing them, one left the experience behind with a shudder.

Maybe in the past few decades enthusiasts have made mummers’ plays a basket of delights, or at least a lurid and gripping feast of contemporary schlock. But I rather doubt it.

*Some* things out of the past are, simply, cr*p!!

Mummers’ play enthusiasts, the lines are open now…

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What is English Trad Music? A bloody pain in the lughole.

I grew up in a house full of that revivalist nonsense.

My stepdad was/is a good singer - there are some songs that make the hairs stand up - weird lydian sh*te and all the rest - but as for the dumpy dumpy pumpy rumpy pom pom pom - well, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot help but feel ashamed at my six year old self, with a compilation recording of that specie of music*, on a brick tape player (that used batteries!) in the seventies, on the corner of the road, hoping to impress the girls.

In Cheltenham Spa.

(bang!) Thud.

[we interrupt this post because the poster just shot himself for the very shame of it]

* - There were two Matt Molloy tracks, and Seamus Ennis talking about the little kicking of the foot on the little cliff, but that doesn’t excuse my vile and reprehensible behaviour. Farewell! Farewell! May you all remember that the auld love is the best!

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You were probably a lot cooler back then than you are now.

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You are probably right. It was bloody cold in the 70s.

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Yodeling with a Yorkshire accent…

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Nicholas, you surprise me - your declared hatred of mummers’ plays seems somewhat extreme!

I witnessed the performance of one relatively recently - about a year ago at a street fair in Bampton, Devon.

The general public appeared to be enjoying it, (including the children), and a collection was made afterwards for the benefit of some deserving local charity..

Just like pantomime, it’s just a bit of traditional harmless fun that brightens up the winter season, and you’re not meant to take it too seriously!

Maybe you should pay a visit to a "ten-pound doctor! .. πŸ˜‰

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@Ceol -

Walter Bulwer’s #1 and #2 - I’ve known both of those tunes for years!

We use that set occasionally when playing for barn dances, though I don’t recall ever playing them at a session.

Both tunes are relatively simplistic, and yet somehow seem to "punch above their weight" . Playing them as a set encompasses three major keys, which I think adds to the interest.

If you know those two, maybe you also know Scan Tester’s #1 and #2 - another polka set of similar ilk.

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Scan Tester! Bless his soul… ~ πŸ˜‰

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But you didn’t answer my question!

Are you familiar with those polkas - Scan Tester’s #1 and #2 ?

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I would say: "yes" - although many would probably disagree.

… and you’ve used up your monthly smiley allowance … πŸ™

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Yes! ~ a papestry of influences, or more like those old ink papers you’d find in old books, you know, the swirly sort…

Mix, keep this to yourself, I don’t want it getting out, I’ve even played a little for Morris Dancers, and knocked a few flagstones and slung swords like a light saber ~ BZZZZZZZZ!

I have known sessions, some locally, that visit Bulwer’s and Scan Tester’s tunes…

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πŸ™ πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰ 😎 πŸ˜› 😎

Re: What is english trad music

Like I said, there isn’t any.

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Oh good, I’m glad that’s all sorted then.

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Quiet Friday afternoon at the office is it, boys?

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English trad music is slow ……. as it is usually danced by geriatric purists (and bearded caravaners in sandals & jumpers …… and their husbands)

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"… usually danced by geriatric purists (and bearded caravanners in sandals and jumpers) ……"

But what about these guys and gals, then?


Or this bunch of likely lads?


Slow, they are NOT!

.. The trouble with cliches, is that they are the wisdom of one man, but the wit of many ….

Oops - another cliche …. -:(

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May his pipe never smoke, may his teapot be broke
And to add to the joke, may his kettle ne’er boil,
May he keep to the bed till the hour that he’s dead,
May he always be fed on hogwash and boiled oil,
May he swell with the gout, may his grinders fall out,
May he roll howl and shout with the horrid toothache,
May the temples wear horns, and the toes many corns,
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

… But who was this brother, the son of whose mother?
The culprit was Dodger - himself, and no other … πŸ˜‰

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Scan Tester’s #1 (or 2, can’t remember) was one of the ‘massed tunes’ at the Folkworks Summer School this year, so should have been heard and learnt by quite a few people.

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Yes, ‘tis the curse of the flattened seventh, Mr Dodger ! πŸ˜‰

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A quick "scan" of thesession org tune db, and I can’t find either of them. …

But I”ll post them up when I get five minutes to spare …. πŸ™‚

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Nor should you Mix, if it’s English tunes you want you won’t find more typical examples; along o’ those you should have a look at Walter Bulwers No.1 and No.2. Cracking good tunes all.

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Its a wild creature with the left legs longer than the right legs so it can run faster round the hills of Scotland

Re: What is English trad music

Haggis came over from the steepes of the far East and finding ideal conditions in the highlands and islands of Scotland bred like midges… Then an awful disease, I think it was MIxamatosis πŸ˜‰, nearly wiped them out…

Damn, where’d I put that key, I think the spring on this wind-up needs tightening…

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The answer, my friend (Ceolachan), is blowing in the wind(up) πŸ™‚

Yer drunk (on tunes), ye silly old fool,
Blind drunk, and cannot see,
That was lovely (Mix)amatosis
That Ceolachan sent to me …. πŸ™‚

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Dodger, I’d love to show up at a session with one of those… It could be the sart of a whole new tradition over here, group bodhran banging… Gather round, and pass the pipe…

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Nice second link Dodger, I love it, including the woodworking shop. I want one like that…

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It would take some patience to play in that band

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Haggises run clockwise round the mountains, as bazouki dave points out.

The ones that ran anticlockwise were eaten as witches.

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"English Music enters Scotland"
Just getting back to the discussion briefly, I was at a session in Moniave (nr Dumfries) and some local lads with accordions started playing tunes that sounded familiar. They told me they learnt them from Morris teams from Cumbria or thereabouts (they pronounced it "Moorish") — and then proceeded to play some tunes they had written themselves in the Morris tradition. English tunes written by Scots. Whatever next….

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Scots running the English Parliament?

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Well I tried to stay out of this, but just can’t.

1) There’s been little mention of the rather huge repertoire of english traditional song. Surely songs are music (now there’s a direction someone can hijack the topic…), and are not directly a part of the irish and scottish song traditions (beyond using the same general scales).

2) How old does something have to be to be trad.? Is Carolan trad Irish? Is so, why? If not, why not? (Yeah I know the arguments. Don’t go off on that tangent. Understand my general point) Do all the trad irish tunes go back into ancient antiquity? I think not. You can’t discuss this topic without getting this matter of age out of the way.

3) It seems to me that it is clear that England was fought over and invaded by more folks more thoroughly than the rest of the isles. So, celtic traditions remained more previlant (however you spell it…its late here) outside of England and the cross fertilization of cultures was more common in England. Hence English traditional music developed in other ways.

4) Music historians generally give credit to the English for being among the first to recognize thirds as consonant and among the first known in European music history to sing in harmony. Not so important as a fact, but an indication that early on things were different in England.

5) Musica Brittanicus (spelling again!) has whole volumes devoted to early music that frequently divide things geographically…. Might this also have relevance in the trad world??

Sure there are celtic elements in english trad, but lumping it into celtic music in anything but the most general of ways is a bit like lumping all the indo-European languages into a common language. It just won’t work. You can like or dislike Playford and Morris and the ballad repertoire but it is a repertoire. BTW leave America out of the discussion. Just too many other issues to lump them in.


The road can go do whatever it wishes…

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Looking at your Details, I feel your CV gives you a very good position to overview all this.

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Awww, he’s been suspendered…. πŸ™‚

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… and is now winding up the Mudcatters….

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Thanks nicholas. I probably got some skill at overview from my training, but I bow low before the personal knowledge and insight of many folks out here.

Oh yeah…who’s suspendered? or for that matter what does it mean. We’re a bit slow across the pond.

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Ah ha! A Terry Prachett lover! How are things at The Mended Drum? Is the Sergeant of the Watch still coming around??

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Dodger’s suspendered…. or is he…..

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~ until November 29th, so he’s out his cell again by now. What did he do? Were they colourful suspenders, formal, or the kind that advertise chain saws or woodworking? 😏

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"Dodger’s suspendered…. or is he….."

……..he’s been hanging around elsewhere


As I said above a week ago
"……aaaaaaaargh - this site is turning into Mudcat "
Seems my fears were well founded - we’re being infiltrated!πŸ™

Re: What is english trad music

That’s November 29th, 2010, Ceol.

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Re: What is english trad music