Traditional English Tune playing????

Traditional English Tune playing????

I come from a completely Irish trad background, but I have recently grown quite fond of listening to good english music. I know almost nothing about it, but from an uneducated ear, I feel that rhythmically, tonally, harmonically and structurally it is very interesting.
I want to learn a bit more about this tradition. Can anyone shed a bit of light on the matter?? Would really like to know if England has equivalent types of tunes to Ireland i.e. reels and jigs. I’ve heard about tunes like rants and various types of hornpipe and a lot of waltzes in England. I’ve also heard about crooked tunes in the English tradition and would like to know in what circumstances these come into play. I’m assuming, like irish music, it is all related to dancing??
cheers
Matt

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I suggest that the English Folk Dance and Song society would be a good place to start.
Their website is http://www.efdss.org

If you’re in the UK (or can get there), try to go to some of the many festivals that take place in the summer. Chippenham is particularly good.

A lot is related to dancing, but there’s also a strong vocal tradition.

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EFDSS is a great idea. English dance tunes can be found in Playford’s English Dancing Master (series from 1651-1728) and in the 18th century collection of 24 dances by Apted. One of my favourite jigs in the latter is ‘The Happy Captive’. There are also some gorgeous folk songs - High Germany, The Seeds of Love, The Blacksmith to name three well-known ones. Try the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, or EFDSS as rbs suggests.
Happy hunting! 🙂

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Can’t believe this is not a troll !
But anyway, seriously, The English Folk Dance and Song Soc has a vast library of stuff. Much can be found on youtube too; just look up one piece by, say, John Kirkpatrick ( despite the name he IS English ), and follow the links on.

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The nice thing about the English tradition is the variety. I’m a Northerner so I love the hornpipes & rants of the North but the lovely Dorset reels & Southern Morris tunes are fab too. And there’s lots of borrowing & interconnection. ‘Never love thee more’ is a Scots song that was very popular in England in the 17th century. The English-Scottish border is a theoretical construct - so found the maker of the Oxford English Dictionary, J.A.H. Murray, when he taught on the borders. There was no difference at all linguistically between his pupils from each side of the line. Re ‘is this a troll’, Celtic folk music is so prominent that a lot of people don’t know there’s an English folk tradition. Only last night a Dutch lady said this to me - she’d only heard of one English folk song, and that was Greensleeves. Henry VIII, the great folk poet - LOL.

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The Paul Roberts lectures on The Village Music Project at http://www.village-music-project.org.uk/roberts.htm are interesting - but I think they need to be read critically. There has been a tradition of jigs and reels in England which has constantly exchanged tunes and styles with the surrounding countries and I don’t think the music has respected the borders at all. Now there is such a complexity of living native traditions alongside imported, reimported after export, exchanged and revived styles that you really don’t know when you go to an English session what on earth you are going to find!

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Every so often in a session where English music is a main ingredient, I hear something quite outlandish-sounding and ask if it’s from the Balkans or a Continental accordion tradition or some other source. It usually turns out to be English, often but not always from the Playford collections (c18). Without knowing for sure, I imagine a lot of the tunes of that time accompanied, or derived from, songs performed during plays in the theatres of London and elsewhere; and that the musical inspiration for these, as in today’s West End musicals, could be quite eclectic. This probably applied in Dublin also, seen as maybe Britain’s second city before the Industrial Revolution caused others to grow in size and importance, and certainly a centre for concerts and drama.

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gosh

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I think you’re right, Nicholas - a name like ‘The Fopling’ or ‘Cupid’s Garden’ suggests that. On the other hand, the tunes in the earliest version of The Dancing Master often go back to Tudor or medieval times & that could be why they sound strange. I often think that medieval European music has an ‘oriental’ quality to it (ditto The Chieftains, on a good day with the wind behind them).

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About 30 years ago I found a book in Manchester library dated 1730 and published by a man called Ward containing loads of ‘Folk Tunes’. I can’t remember exactly how many tunes were in the book, between 30 and 50 I guess, but over half of them were 3/2 hornpipes. I rarely see these in Irish music but in the 18th century they were big news in England. My favourite of these is called ‘The Downfall of the Ginn Hornpipe’ and bears some very close resemblances to a piece by Purcell called the ‘Rondo from Abdelazar’ which got pinched by Britten for his young person’s guide to making money from ripping off other peoples work. If anyone is familiar with these pieces which do you think came first. The folk tune or Purcell’s version?

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Fiddle Aunt - Agreed, on Mediaeval music before the great polyphonic choral music right at the end of the period (and into Tudor times, of course). It comes across to me like the music of an alien culture, difficult to relate to for all that one can respect its accomplishments. I note how Mediaeval singing mainly(?) endeavours to produce a pure, hard note to carry very clear-cut vocal sounds to a distance, presumably in cathedrals, churches, halls etc.

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Fiddle Aunt - Agreed, on Mediaeval music before the great polyphonic choral music right at the end of the period (and into Tudor times, of course). It comes across to me like the music of an alien culture, difficult to relate to for all that one can respect its accomplishments. I note how Mediaeval singing mainly(?) endeavours to produce a pure, hard note to carry very clear-cut vocal sounds to a distance, presumably in cathedrals, churches, halls etc. without very sophisticated acoustics.

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One thing I’ve noticed is that in "English sessions" (I mean session where they play English music, not sessions in England) there are often rules where you are not allowed to play Irish tunes. I’ve never ever been to an Irish session where English tunes, or tunes from anywhere for that matter, were banned.

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How do they police it? Given the musical influences through the centuries that have affected England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland, and the travelling musicians & singers, it is hard to be definite about where a tune hails from, as Gallopede suggests above.

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Difficult to judge because there are all sorts of borrowings between "art" music and folk. Purcell was involved in editing Playford’s Dancing Master and wrote an elegy for John Playford.
Britten has a lot to answer for - Pete Townsend of the Who has also claimed Purcell as an inspiration.

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Better to have rules about what’s allowed than to let a good tune get murdered.

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The sessions Michael Gill describes may be a bid to ring-fence a sanctuary for English tunes out of apprehension that too many of them might be crowded out of a night’s playing by the playing of Irish tunes - and maybe the playing of them none too well by newbies who haven’t grown up (I mean, been ‘raised’…) in musical families in County Clare. This was the case in places decades ago, at a time when the Irish and Scottish trad booms seemed to have left English music stuck in a corner, but I’d have thought the contemporary English trad scene had outgrown any reason to fear being swamped.

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I find the harmonic structure of SOME Irish and Scottish tunes, more complex than the vast majority of English tunes, having said that there are some good English tunes, and there is some crossover between English and Irish tunes.
lodge road is a tune in O Neills that i have heard at english sessions, the following tunes i have heard at both irish and english sessions, off to california,cock of the north, jenny lind polka[ turns up as a sliabh luchra slide], far from home,haste to the wedding,harvest home[cork hornpipe], soldiers joy.o carolans concerto[princess royal ],st patricks day and so on
if you want musical rules, look no further than comhaltas, they have more rules than a shop selling stationery.

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🙂

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Fair point from Michael, and I think Nicholas is right in his reply, that exclusive defensiveness might have been needed fifteen or twenty years ago, but not now. Partly because a phalanx of melodeon players can more than stand up for themselves!


I’d suggest four identifiable sectors to the English instrumental-music tradition, though the overlaps are considerable.
- Northumbrian, which stands fairly separate from the rest of the English tradition, and as mentioned above, reaches easily across the Scottish Border.
- "Playford" - old tunes who’s age is often confirmed by published and manuscript sources from before 1800. Mainly fiddle and winds obviously, sometimes quite "weird," minorish, and harmonically rich. Unstable notes and minor keys. Lots and lots of 3:2 "double hornpipes."
- "Melodeon" - Lots of polkas in particular, fairly foursquare in tune and harmony. Tunes drawn from all
sorts of sources, including, (I suspect but unproven) mechanical music and "German" bands, so quite a lot of unacknowleged European influence.
- "Franglonavian" Not so "new wave" now, but effectively a new form of English music, new tunes or heavily arranged old tunes, strong French and Scandinavian influences. Chris Wood and Andy Cutting particularly influential.

Although music for dance is very important in the English tradition, it nearly all falls into the above categories, as do all the tunes shared with traditions of other countries.

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English music’s pretty simple compared to Scotch/Irish. Rhythm guitar vs lead if you speak rock and roll. I think their draconian tax system took away most of the notes.

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????

"I’m from here. I play an instrument."

Oepindaormuh Ylintcieeocec

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" If anyone is familiar with these pieces which do you think came first. The folk tune or Purcell’s version?"

Purcell’s version came before Walsh’s (Ward???) published version, that’s for sure. By a good 35 years.
At least Britten didn’t claim it as one of his own compositions.

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The website asked me some questions so I answered as best as I could. Pretty friendly website if you ask me. Some websites are real turds.

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The *website*?

Somewhere people are asking questions, Oepindaormuh Ylintcieeocec.

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Hey Weejie, this time your right. It was Walsh not Ward. My bad. What I wonder is did the folk tune printed by Walsh in the 18th C exist before Purcell wrote Abdelazar in the 17th. It’s known that Purcell was not unfamiliar with pub culture. Maybe he heard the tune and used it. I don’t know, I’m just speculating.

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Update, I googled Downfall etc and the first version I found was attributed to Ravenscroft. It appears that Ravenscroft died 19 years before Purcell was born so if that attribution is correct then Purcell used an already existing folk tune. I’ve not found Downfall in any Ravenscroft collections so far and it’s now time for the wooden hill. Maybe more tomorrow.

Purcell?

Yes, quite familiar w/the pub culture, etc.

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"I found was attributed to Ravenscroft"

Ok, so who attributed it to "Ravenscroft"? Which Ravenscroft - Thomas or John or another?

"Hey Weejie, this time your right"

I often get it right - not always.

"I often get it right"

Weejie, are you boasting or stating an objective fact?

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Downfall of the Gin
"This is a version of Purcell’s "The Abdelazer Rondeau" (q.v.) by the later composer John Ravenscroft, and published in John Walsh’s "Third Book of the Most Celebrated Jigs, Lancashire Hornpipes, Scotch and Highland Lilts (etc)" (1730). The tune’s sheet music is more easily accessible today in John Offord’s "John of the Green, The Cheshire Way" (2008)."
Posted by Trevor Jennings October 20th, 2012
https://thesession.org/tunes/12250#comment659917

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I’m looking at things objectively, of course. I’d be boasting if I said I was always right.
In this instance, I’m open to whatever evidence may come to light. It’s just that there isn’t really much going to support the earlier Ravenscroft composing this tune, or even "collecting" it - and it doesn’t seem likely that the title would have been his at any rate, given the history of gin consumption in England. It seems that it only started to "take off" after changes in the law in 1689, bringing the price below that of ale, and the "gin epidemic" seems to coincide with the period in which Walsh published the tune. Perhaps he was fond of a tipple himself.

Fond of a tipple.

I’d say you’re right again.
;)

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I don’t understand how you can say a major composer from "The Catch Club" was unfamiliar with pub culture. And I am quite sure that the tense throat singing style sometimes attributed to Medieval song has only some basis in fact and is not known to be the only style. The basis is primarily iconographic, at least to my knowledge.


My concern here is with the many semi-substanciated statements I see on these lists. I know that this sort of "I know what it is all about" attitude on the part of folks who don’t know has driven at least one fine musician off the site.

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Chuck, which statement(s) are you challenging?
Will Harmon (I assume you are referring to him) made his own decision to leave the site. He is missed by many who are still here. But I know of no evidence, whatsoever, to indicate anyone here *drove* him to make his choice. I sincerely wish him the best in his musical pursuits.

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Does it matter if Purcell nicked a tune? Look what he made of it.
And it started out as a really nice friendly discussion… 🙂

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@TomB-R:

"Franglonavian" - that’s great! I know exactly what you mean.

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G’day Nicholas!

"The sessions Michael Gill describes may be a bid to ring-fence a sanctuary for English tunes out of apprehension…"
Was that not why the Romans built Hadrian’s and the Antonine Walls? 🙂

All the best

Brian x

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What a lovely theory! 🙂

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Gill’s spot on re the English only zealot line peddled by some English sessions. Never really understood this as a policy, as I see it as being somewhat counter productive, by coddling something so close, you just smother the life out of it.

In my experience traditional English Trad is alive and well in both Northumberland and the English part of old Cumbria, ie the modern county of Cumbria. There’s a piper and pipe maker along the road from me who’s steeped in Cumbrian trad, picked up from his many years spent working and playing with locals in the county.

That said, the only 3/2’s (6/4’s??) that I’m interested in playing are from the isles and loachaber, I keep an open mind mind, but perhaps I should be spending more time along the road, as there have to be more that’ll take my fancy 🙂

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Nonononononononononoooooo !
The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to regulate trade. There’s no evidence that english sessions are ringfenced to increase revenue, unless it’s by frustrated musicians returning to the bar for another drink.
PS By a happy coincidence, wandering round my locality after watching a friend carry the Olympic torch ( that puts a date on it ) I met a musician that I knew, who said he was off to find a session, but was deliberately avoiding a particular english one, because, he said, it usually consisted of "15 bad melodeons" to quote him. I must admit that is a received opinion I recognise.

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I’ve never been to an Irish session where English tunes were banned, either. But I’ve been to plenty where they’re never played.

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Can’t people get together in a pub and choose to play whatever sort of music they want to ? And if it becomes a regular occurrence can’t they choose to put a label on the tin that gives a hint as to what they have put into it ?

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I’ve never agreed with deliberately restricting sessions to one type of music and it’s much better if the repertoire evolves on a "de facto" basis rather than imposing rules.

I’d imagine that many of those who set up "English Music sesions" feel that their tradition is in someway "under threat". So, they will try to stipulate that there should be "no Irish", "no Scottish" and so on…they used to do this in boarding houses too!
Singers frequently introduce rules in their get togethers(You can argue at another time as to whether these should be described as sessions or not…that’s another bone of contention)
ranging from "No tunes", "Instruments only for accompaniment", or even "All songs to be unaccompanied".
Again, I think the reason for this is that they feel they are being hard done by compared to the tune players.

So, as has been suggested already, whereas Irish music and even tunes generally may be "banned" in some sessions, it doesn’t tend to happen the other way around. Probably because those who are tune players especially of Irish and(increasingly) Scottish music feel much more secure and don’t tend to worry about whether or not their music is "safe". Instead, they just enjoy it!

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with people of similar interests getting together and, by all means, you can describe something as an "Irish session", "English session", "Singers night" or whatever. It does give one an idea of what to expect and most sensible folk will make a choice accordingly. However, I don’t believe that things should be "set in stone". After all, if you are passing through a strange town and it’s the only session, it would be a shame if they wouldn’t even let you play one tune from somewhere else.

One of my favourite festivals is Newcastleton which has always had a good mix of of Scottish, Irish, and English music. Even there though, some most of the sessions seem to be predominantly more one than the other. However, there’s often a good mix as well.

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I think most sessions are protectionist in some form. I’m certainly not a fan of the sort that descends into a blues jam. Personally, I’m not a fan of songs either … though I’d rather hear a decent version of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars any day over some unaccompanied dreary "folk" song with 20 verses about some long forgotten love lost irrelevance.

But I do like to play and hear tunes, good tunes. And I don’t care where or when they come from. And the fact that most of them are broadly Irish in origin is, I think, not just merely a testament to the general quality of Irish tunes in general, but a testament to the Irish style/styles of playing them. However, a good proportion – on some days not much less than half – are not Irish. And sometimes, occasionally, an English tune can creep in.

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"Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"

Ain’t no such song (got my pedant’s cap on again - is it ever off?).

Isn’t "Ziggy Stardust" based on a fragment of a song heard sung by a flower seller in Ballynagalliagh?

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Matt, check out the brilliant fiddler Stewart Hardy, (google him and you’ll find links to others) who is unearthing the lost heritage of English jigs and reels. I don’t claim to know a lot about it, but I attended his inspirational course at a summer school last summer and learnt some lovely English tunes, White Joke and Idbury Hill among others.

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Stewart is a gem indeed. He gave me some good Swedish tunes a while back. Glad to hear that he’s unearthing English tunes.

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There’s a substantial shared repertoire of tunes which are found throughout the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English traditions, although the styles in which they’re played differ enormously. Within England, there are distinctive regional styles.

I’ve never been to a session where Irish tunes are banned (how would you define them?) but they are usually discouraged just as someone playing blues or rock would be discouraged. Irish sessions may not ban English tunes either, but most Irish musicians I come across show no interest in playing English music so they are effectively discouraged. I don’t see anything wrong in this, if people understand the type of session they are going to.

English music is largely dance-based, but the dances are different and so are the tunes. English jigs and hornpipes are played differently from the Irish versions. English music tends to be played more slowly and with less ornamentation, but the rhythms can be quite subtle (although this can easily be lost in a large session)

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Do you not think there’s difference between something not happening because it’s being actively discouraged and something not happening because it’s of no interest?

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I remember a thread here that put forward the idea that the reason Irish music had more interest was that the Irish as a people suffered so much more than the English. The line I remember was the one about English folk music being a soundtrack for "riding round the countyside collecting the rent"

don’t know if that’s fair or not, I don’t know any English tunes, but it sure was easy to remember.

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Do the presence of wigs in the tradition indicate a crossover from England to Ireland or vice versa?

Btw, u know this is a windup in the op due to the removal of capital letter "e"

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Nate, that isn’t really fair; folk music is the music of the country people/peasantry and it wasn’t English peasants riding round Ireland collecting the rent. On the other hand, it was Anglo-Irish ‘Toffs’ who made it possible for Carolan to learn the harp and compose. I rate a tune on how good I think it is, not on how much political baggage it carries.

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People take an ‘interest’ in what they like. Out of English, Scots, Irish & Welsh traditional music, I like Irish best, followed by Scottish, then English - & I don’t know too much about Welsh, I’m sorry to say. Irish music is definitely the most beautiful. On the other hand, I can identify most with Scottish music as it’s ‘in my bones’.

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so for the sake of the uninitiated, what exactly is it about English tunes that makes them less interesting? Does it actually have something to do with wig glue, or is that just an old wives tale?

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I think it’s because it’s a broken and revived from nothing but historical manuscripts tradition.

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It’s fine to be loftily open minded and eclectic about other people’s sessions being visited by a bunch of strangers who keep playing tunes that none of the regulars know, in a style they’re not interested in playing. When it’s your session?

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No - it’s the stiff upper lip that tenses up the fiddlers’ arms & dancers’ feet. Also the little fingers crooked round teacups which add an off-putting quaintness. 🙂

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Sorry - two conversations going on at the same time.

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But Michael, that’s wrong. English folk songs & dance tunes were collected from oral tradition. Ever heard of Cecil Sharp? (Who also collected in the Appalachians, Nate.)

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Help! How did I get drawn into this? Scottish blood making me hot under the collar.
What a great site for argy-bargy.
Cheerio. Off to practise some Bach for light relief.
Any fab folk tune is fab, whatever passport it carries.
Live long & prosper, everyone. 🙂

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@Nate "so for the sake of the uninitiated, what exactly is it about English tunes that makes them less interesting?"
It partly depends on which part of the tradition you are talking about, but the English tradition does have a lot of tunes that are easy to play badly, and that’s what a lot of people hear. English doesn’t have the built-in hurroosh of much Irish/Scottish that helps them sound good. Playing English well is all about the not-obvious aspects of rhythm, but it’s very easy not to see past the simplicity.

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Did the English tradition die out and then get revived from manuscripts? Or is there actually a continuous tradition? Are there regional styles, or is it all just English tunes? I’m asking because outside of sea chanties, I don’t think I ever heard any English tunes.

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"Or is there actually a continuous tradition? Are there regional styles, or is it all just English tunes? "

We’ve been here before. Northumbrian piping is an unbroken tradition for one. Mighty fine tunes they are too. Some are undoubtedly indigenous, others adopted.

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For me the difference isn’t in the tunes, it’s in the attitude. I don’t see any great difference between English, Scottish and Irish tunes - they have more in common than different, and very obviously share common roots.

But in England traditional music is a much more academic pursuit. Everyone wants to intellectualize about the origins and history of the tune, authentic instrumentation and just about everything else. Being right is far more important than having fun.

In Scotland and Ireland we just play the tunes.

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But you can have fun with an academic pursuit.

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Did the English tradition die out and then get revived from manuscripts?
No

Or is there actually a continuous tradition?
Yes

Are there regional styles, or is it all just English tunes?
Yes

I’m asking because outside of sea chanties, I don’t think I ever heard any English tunes.
Albert Farmers Bonfire Tune from Lingfield Surrey
http://lesters-tune-a-day.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/tune-4-albert-farmers-bonfire-tune.html

Beatrice Hill’s Three Handed Reel, from Bromsberrow Heath, Gloucestershire
http://lesters-tune-a-day.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/tune-1-beatrice-hills-three-handed-reel.html

etc etc

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Did you forget one of these 😉 skreech ? 😏

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Thanks, Goldfrog, those were nice tunes. I see how the rhythm is different. Sort of has the leisurely canter of a fella rambling around the countryside collecting the rent! (sorry, just had to , you know). But seriously, I do appreciate that you took the time to share some actual English tunes. That was a different kind of tune than I expected. I liked that tune Albert Farmer’s a good bit, so I may learn that one

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"But you can have fun with an academic pursuit." Key Maniac Lad

Christ, I almost choked on my herbal infusion and slice of organic carrotcake.

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I have fled from sessions which weren’t just Irish only but were Irish reels only. They were all in the north-west of England.

I once made an attempt to categorize "English" styles and I had something very like Tom-B’s "Franglonavian" in it. "Franglonavian" gets mixed up with Border Morris. I also had a Cecil Sharpe style which was played fast and without ornamentation and included Cotswold Morris and the first edition of Playford - because Cecil included the 1650 Playford in with what he collected. He said that English music hadn’t been corrupted by French until the Restoration in 1660. I had Northumbrian as well, so that’s three. Then number four was the East Anglian living tradition, which has been rather enlarged and gets called "English Country Music". That’s the style which sometimes exaggerates "lumpiness" and playing slowly to annoy the Irish, and it’s probably what Tom-B calls "Melodeon". Number five is a North-West English style. The industrial north-west got so many people crowding in from Ireland and Scotland and from south of the Trent in the 19th century that it got an indescribable mish-mash anglo-Celtic style. There were lots of Irish and West Scottish tunes played very fast, but mixed in with the military sounds of North-West morris - and this is also the real 3/2 hornpipe country. I was just getting all my categories sorted out when I discovered they were getting mixed up because people were moving round sessions and festivals - just as I was - and learning from each other. They were also reading things like the Paul Roberts lectures and studying colonial styles believed to be in origin English. The results are very interesting - especially the different fiddle styles.

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Jeez, what’s wrong with ye Solid? Afraid to eat a good honest bit of horsemeat?

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Interesting follow-up to Gallopede’s comments - there was a conference somewhere on Folk Music in the UK, and someone pointed out that, if we were really going to have as much influence and recognition across the globe, by numbers of population, as Irish music, we would need to have 11 different regional areas in Britain, each promoting their own distinctive brand and style of music.
Scotland alone, I guess could divide into; Highlands and Islands/Gaeltacht; Western; Eastern; Borders;
Then England; English Borders; NW; NE; Lancashire; Yorkshire; East Midlands; West Midlands; Fenlands/East Anglia; London & surrounds; SE; Wessex; West Country; Cornwall.
Anyone want to re-draw my borders ?
And where do we all fit ? Where do you fit ?
PS Think I’ve made too many different areas….I’ll be happy for a re-drawing of these mythical divisions.

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"Scotland alone, I guess could divide into; Highlands and Islands"

You’d need to separate the Highlands from the islands - and the islands from each other.

Anyway, I reckon you have made too many English divisions, and possibly drawn the lines in the wrong places.

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Perhaps there should be Flying Bishops, to cater for congregations of one or another of the musical genres scattered around the country.

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"But in England traditional music is a much more academic pursuit. Everyone wants to intellectualize about the origins and history of the tune, authentic instrumentation and just about everything else. Being right is far more important than having fun."
Golly gosh

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"But in England traditional music is a much more academic pursuit. Everyone wants to intellectualize about the origins and history of the tune, authentic instrumentation and just about everything else. Being right is far more important than having fun."

Balls!

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Balls seconded.

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"Balls!"

Ah yes, I know that one. Child ballad number 297 if I’m not very much mistaken. The earliest manuscript is written in Bb, but I’m going to sing it in B - I’m not afraid to experiment a bit. I’d be grateful if you DIDN’T accompany me on concertina, given that there is a transcription of the song from1692, and the concertina wasn’t invented until 1829.

Maybe I’ve just spent too much time in English folk clubs.

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Maybe I’ve just spent too much time in English folk clubs.

For this reason I found I prefer sessions to folk clubs many years ago. Who goes to folk clubs to hear tunes? I’m sure less go to folk clubs to play tunes. I learned a lot from folk clubs but the last thing I learned was if I want to play tunes I go to a session.

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And would that be an ‘English tunes only’ session? That rule alone shows that the attitude has carried over, at least to some English sessions. ‘English tunes only’ means you HAVE to research the origins of a tune before you play it.

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"But in England traditional music is a much more academic pursuit. Everyone wants to intellectualize about the origins and history of the tune, authentic instrumentation and just about everything else. Being right is far more important than having fun."

I think it is an English characteristic, to form dense little in-groups that literally live some narrow preoccupation in an intense and bizarre monomania that inevitably involves eyebrow-singeing disputes and displays of pedantry and may sometimes access vaults of historical and other knowledge that could not be reached in any other way, as nobody else in the universe would be unhinged enough to be delving about in their particular zone.

This is, needless to say, caused by the weather. It turns us into grouchy inverts. We have never really got used to it. We haven’t been here long enough. The people living in these islands before the English came had gazillions of years to get used to it and they seem to revel and frolic in it and love it🙂.

Ripostes on no more than three sides of the paper, please!..

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"Think I’ve made too many different areas….I’ll be happy for a re-drawing of these mythical divisions"
Fair enough - if you can show that each of those areas actually have a genuine tradition of their own. Whilst some of those areas do have unbroken tradition, there are great swathes of England (and Scotland too for that matter) where as far as I can see traditional music died out completely, and finding an old fiddler’s tune book in the local archive doesn’t make a tradition.

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I went to a different folk club every night of the week for about fifteen years in the north-east of England, and never heard the regulars sing more than a dozen or so songs that could be said to be traditional (always sung by one person, with the rest of us joining in the chorus). Guest musicians all played material that was learned from records, or else they weren’t English (Stefan Grossman and the Furies come to mind).
Everything else was either music-hall or copied from recent records.There were no instruments apart from guitars, except for the occasional concertina played rather badly by someone dressed in a white woolly sweater singing sea shanties, and possibly a whistle played badly.
One chap I knew worked as an estate agent, and he used to go home and change from his suit into a waistcoat and flat cap. Don’t get me wrong — it was great fun, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. But it wasn’t traditional folk music. Unless you count Lambton Worm, The Leaving of Liverpool and Wild Rover as traditional.

The main difference, as I see it, between English folk music and any other, is that all the English stuff is performed by enthusiasts, who dig the material out of manuscripts and arcane collections. None of it is actually sung/played/performed by ordinary people who grew up hearing the music around them.

My English grandfather played button accordion just for fun, but he played the usual campfire songs and music hall stuff, not trad. My Scottish grandfather, on the other hand, played the pipes, and he was always whistling and lilting tunes that he had learned when he was a bairn, and he had hand-written manuscript books full of bits of tunes that he got from uncles and cousins and neighbours. My English mother didn’t know any folk songs or tunes — my Scottish father was always singing or whistling them.
Of course it might have been different in other parts of England — but I do remember when the mayor of Newcastle revived the post of ‘official piper’ or whatever the name was. Kathryn Tickell was the reason.

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I play English music because some of the tunes are beautiful and because I learned them off my husband who learned them of his father, who in his turn was into dance and playing for dancing in the 1950s in the West country. How is this not traditional? As in all the ‘traditional’ genres - we do it because we love it.

I also play Scottish, Irish and Welsh music, not because I feel obliged to uphold any historical artefact - I do it because I like it and because other people are playing the same stuff, in the same style in the local session. I just won’t do as I’m told 😉

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OK skreech, I’ll bite, if we’re not playing traditional music, what are we doing?

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"I learned them off my husband who learned them of his father, who in his turn was into dance and playing for dancing in the 1950s" If you consider two generations enough to establish a tradition, then it’s traditional. But what sort of stuff was he playing at the dances in the 50s?

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A huge mixture of tunes which worked with the dances on melodeon, fiddle or flute. Some of them were square dance tunes from the US complete with singing calls, some were circle dances from Eastern Europe, Israel - all over. Most however, were from Playford/other English country dance traditions. Tunes from all over plus some penned by members of the band which are now in Irish/Scottish and English traditions (and which people think are old tradition).

People don’t follow rules set out by others - they do their own thing and something new comes out of it. This is the traditional way folk musicians work. Denying that this is what happens and is as valid as anything else is far more akin to the academic point of view than the revivalist/archivists were who have been highlighted here for criticism. The line up of the band at that time was very similar to what you would have found in any ceili band in Ireland in that era (including snare drum and possibly bass or vamping piano). Nobody in that band was delving into old manuscripts - they just played what they heard from others and which they knew would do the required job. There was also a strong crossover with rapper and morris sides and their music.

Yes I do think two generations establishes a tradition. As my father in law said "we did it last year and it was good/worked so we’ll do it again this year - that’s traditional" !

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The 50s was actually a big decade as far as folk music went. Teacher training prepared people to impart old songs & dances. My infant teacher taught us old ring dances - probably from books - like ‘Old Roger was dead & lay in his grave’ etc. But in the playground we learned our own songs & dances - children’s folksongs - that were passed down by oral tradition. There would still have been pockets in England that transmitted folk culture orally, too - hop pickers, for example. Folk culture has been described as ‘dead’ and ‘dying’ for about 150 years now…

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Well said, Eiluned!

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nicholas, I think this site has proved many times that pedantry is not limited to the English!!! 😉

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Somewhere earlier in this thread there was mention of an old English tune form called the Joke. In Walsh’s collection there is a White Joak, a Black Joak, a Yellow Joak and maybe more. A Northumbrian small piper told me that the Black Joke is still played.

I’m not sure about the colour reference but the joke bit seems to be on dancers. The tunes have a form where the A part is 6 bars long and the B part is 10 bars. So if dancers are in a pattern that expects 8 bars in the first part and 8 bars in the second, the first part ends too soon but if they keep going the whole thing resolves at 16 bars. A good natured joke that says, "You are wrong, No you’re right". Can this site show us examples of good natured Irish humour?

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"Chuck, which statement(s) are you challenging?
Will Harmon (I assume you are referring to him) made his own decision to leave the site. He is missed by many who are still here. But I know of no evidence, whatsoever, to indicate anyone here *drove* him to make his choice. I sincerely wish him the best in his musical pursuits."

My post challenged two statements. That’ll do for a start. And private conversations with Will indicated that the sort of thing I am complaining about was at least part of his decision to leave.

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"Somewhere earlier in this thread there was mention of an old English tune form called the Joke. In Walsh’s collection there is a White Joak, a Black Joak, a Yellow Joak and maybe more. A Northumbrian small piper told me that the Black Joke is still played. "

If Edgar Roberts´ article on "An Unrecorded Meaning of ‘Joke’ (Or ‘Joak’) in England" has any credibility (and it looks that way), then it would seem that a ‘joak’ is not a dance form, but rather these tunes were once melodies to songs - not to be sung in front of your granny.

From "The Nut-Brown Joke", from Watts "The Musical Miscellany" Vol 6, p.72:

A free born Briton, each Man may delight,
As pleaes him moll, in Jokes Black or White,
But, like a dull Jest,
To me are the rest,
In Country and Town,
Compar’d with the Brown,
The Nut-brown, that might captive a Jove!

http://archive.org/details/musicalmiscellan05rugg

You’ll find "The White Joak" in the same volume - published around the same time as the Walsh book.

Edgar Roberts article:

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/453150?uid=3738032&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21101775321791

"And her black joak and belly so white".

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" (and Scotland too for that matter) where as far as I can see traditional music died out completely, and finding an old fiddler’s tune book in the local archive doesn’t make a tradition."
skreech

When?

I think you’ll find fiddle gave way to the Box as a popular instrument for playing traditional tunes and traditional tunes were danced too the length and breadth of the country, all through the 20th century. All the while of course the pipes were skirling.

True to say that the format and instruments that traditional tunes were presented and played altered through the ages, the format we enjoy is very much a format thats become popular in the last 50 years or so. Although an older format, and therefore by some of the arguments tendered above, a-more traditional-format. Box led dance bands are still going strong, despite the reformatting of much common material by modern interlopers.

Of course, if one looks at the modern Box bands they betray little of the diversity, in both instruments and material, that one would have found before the first war. How many modern box led dance bands now boast a brass section?

The fact that we had an academic led revival through mainstream education in the 60’s and 70’s is a diversion, in scotland at least, as all the while and under the radar of this revival, we all trotted the light fantastic in the school gymnasium to traditional tunes and dances, in the format as presented by, those pesky box led dance bands playing reels & jigs, mainly scots but some irish, strathspeys 2/4’s 44/’s 6/8’s, gaelic scots and continental waltzes.

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It seems to be widely accepted that the English have been neglectful of their own traditions and the ‘folk’ seem to prefer commercial popular music, leaving folk music to a few enthusiasts. However it shouldn’t be forgotten that for many years traditional music in both Ireland and Scotland was dismissed and ignored, and its preservation and revival has as much to do with promoting national identity, sometimes with overt political support, as it has to do with artistic expression. The English didn’t feel the need to preserve their own national identity to the same extent and allowed their traditions to become moribund, although they haven’t died out altogether. Where they do survive, whether in an original or revival form, they seem to be regarded by the general population as a source of embarrassment rather than national pride.

Far more Scots seem to be familiar with Scottish Country Dancing than their English equivalents are with English folk dances, but for most of them it is an unavoidable part of their ‘heritage’ which must be wheeled out for weddings and other events. Many are just as embarrassed by it as the English are by morris dancing, but of course would never admit it to a Sassenach. I suspect the proportion doing it for pure pleasure on other occasions is probably not very different from England.

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That’ll teach me to cut and paste from the text version!

A free born Briton, each Man may delight,
As pleases him most, in Jokes Black or White,
But, like a dull Jest,
To me are the rest,
In Country and Town,
Compar’d with the Brown,
The Nut-brown, that might captive a Jove!

OCR messed up.

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"Many are just as embarrassed by it as the English are by morris dancing, but of course would never admit it to a Sassenach. I suspect the proportion doing it for pure pleasure on other occasions is probably not very different from England"
Howard

You’d be wrong, sure the country dance crowd is generally an older crowd up here, but we all know how to either actually dance or have some awareness of it. Urbanites are perhaps more of an exception, but it’s still found in the towns, but then it is country dancing, so not that surprising it’s popular with ruralites.

For me the embarrassment was all about having to dance with girls, I soon grew out of that type of embarrassment, my embarrassment then moved on to being caught snogging them. I’m over it now mind.

The point is, as I contend above, is that much of what passes for trad nowadays has been kept in the collective consciousness through country dancing and associated music. Can’t speak for england, english trad though, whilst still very fringe, as it is elsewhere, is alive and well in the the very northern counties. Could be down to the proximity to Gods country of course ;~p

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Scottish Dancing is alive and well in England (well, we’re a bit of an ageing crowd) and not just danced by those with Scottish links, either. I agree about the Northern Counties being gilded by their proximity of God’s Own Country. And lang may the lums of both countries reek.
Is there anything actually wrong with people coming into a tradition from outside, learning from recordings or whatever, but then becoming immersed & adding to it themselves? Surely a tradition that just feeds on itself & takes no notice of the world around or its inventions is a purist, moribund thing?

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All the best purveyors of traditional Irish diddley music that I know do not care a jot where the tunes they play come from. I’m not saying that they don’t don’t find it interesting, it’s that it makes no difference to whether they want to play them or not.

Posted .

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Absolutely!

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"Far more Scots seem to be familiar with Scottish Country Dancing than their English equivalents are with English folk dances, but for most of them it is an unavoidable part of their ‘heritage’ which must be wheeled out for weddings and other events. Many are just as embarrassed by it as the English are by morris dancing, but of course would never admit it to a Sassenach. "

A lot of it owes much to "promotion" by various bodies. Much in the way of "music of the peasants" was pushed away either by the kirk or "the powers that were" eradicating it as part of the legacy of those that rebelled in the ‘45. An acquaintance from Lewis told me (about 30 odd years ago) that members of his family still wouldn’t have a fiddle in the house, it being "the devil’s instrument".
There came a spate of "societies" promoted by the "genteel". "Country dancing" was one of these re-invented pastimes.
It’s quite funny reading the words of an Englishman who, seemingly, plays Irish music in a Scottish pub ( I don’t mean Mr Gill) and his mentioning things related to "tradition". In South West Scotland, there really wasn’t much in the way of "handing down" fiddle traditions for a considerable period. The Rabbi himself was into preservation of old tunes, and used some of them for his verse - some tunes have survived and others gave way to 19th century alternatives, composed for the drawing room by people more concerned with "implied harmony". My mother’s mother’s side of my family were from a succession of Ayrshire weavers. A large part of the ‘music’ in their period came from the kirk. You’d have to go back to the century before their time before there would be much in the way of the "jigs and reels" on the streets (with a few exceptions). As I said earlier, there were dance tunes converted to songs, and some very serious people met (and still meet) to sing those songs, many of them prone to funny handshakes. I’m minded of a "folk club" in that part of the world that split into two factions - the singers and the instrumentalists - at one time both playing against each other in the same room. Neither seemed to take it on board that without the dance tunes the songs would be poems, and without the songs, many of the tunes would have disappeared. The "Strathspey and Reel" societies were part of the promotion by the "genteel" mentioned earlier - and they, along with "fiddle and box" clubs and fully fledged "ceilidh bands" were the "trad" music of not so long ago. There is probably a longer continuing tradition of flutes and lambegs in the South West, emerging on to the streets of the toons in the summer time. Just 20 years ago (and quite possibly to this day) you had to be careful where you played anything that was obviously Irish (I mean Irish Irish) or risk nasty things happening in darkest Ayrshire. I’ve still got the scars.

As for piping in that region, a great deal of the pipers of not so long ago learned their art during military pursuits. Cauld wind pipes weren’t about until fairly recently.

Things changed for the better and are changing - but the quip about "having to research tunes" is funny. The change is coming about due in no small part to the acceptance of traditional music into academia - many people in sessions in the Central Belt are involved in vocational courses in their chosen form of music. There is an alternative to the dickie bows of the S&R societies, and the plastic grin of the tartan clad "formal" ceilidh band box player. However, all this talk of "tradition" should also take into account that a lot of the "tradition" owes itself to those people.

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There was a discussion here where a "purveyor of diddly" asked about a tune name, was pointed to an English origin and did not come back to thank those who had responded. Overly cynical ? Maybe.

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Anyhow, in the "English only" sessions I have come across it seems to be a matter of playing style rather than origin. Some borrowings have been England for a couple of hundred years. Far from needing academic study it does not take much knowledge of history or geography to suspect that, for example, "The White Cockade" and "Flowers of Edinburgh" may have prior history outside England.

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A thing which has often perplexed me is why anyone should seek to ‘promote’ any sort of folk music. If the music is fulfilling its purpose it shouldn’t need to be promoted because what on earth would be the point. There is unfortunately another agenda I always see which trots along by the side of this word and it has more to do with the creation of division disguised under the more acceptable term ‘identity’. For me music should include rather than exclude and be a wordless extra form of communication which heals division rather than setting up even more barriers between people.

I believe that musicians who truly appreciate good playing and, just as importantly, listening don’t give a fig where the tunes or their fellow musicians come from as long as they are communicating musically.

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I agree with you that a national music should not be a shibboleth that shuts others out. Yet I do ‘care a fig’ where tunes come from because I like to celebrate the different features that make them individuals. It is an extra source of pleasure to me, and I hope that it’s not wrong to note differences or be interested in the history of a tune if it is not used as a source of arrogance, bullying or prejudice.
Again, well said, eiluned.

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Well said Fiddle Aunt. I also care a fig about the origin of tunes I play. That said I’m not obsessed about it but take what I think is a healthy interest.

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Well said Fiddle Aunt. I also care a fig about the origin of tunes I play. That said I’m not obsessed about it but take what I think is a healthy interest.

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Back in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries the people we now call traditional musicians played music that they heard and liked. That was folk music, traditional folk music. Today through the mediums of all kinds of recorded music, radio, tv and internet I have the opportunity to hear a vastly wider range of music than was available to my ancestors. But aren’t I really doing the same thing as they did? Irrespective of which country I do it in, I’m doing the same thing. I’m playing stuff that I hear and like. Could it be that it is those people who try and restrict what is played and how it is played are actually breaking with tradition?

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@eiluned : diversity not division.
@Fiddle Aunt: geography not nationality.
@ronald.ellison: so conservatism is a modern day invention ? 😏

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so conservatism is a modern day invention ?

Could you expand on this?

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David50 you shouldn’t have to push diversity though. It should happen naturally. Diversity becomes division when pressure to conform is applied. Fiddle Aunt: I like to trace the origins of tunes too, what it would never cross my mind to do would be to reject a tune which sounds good to my ears because of its origins or the style in which it is being played.

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"Could it be that it is those people who try and restrict what is played and how it is played are actually breaking with tradition?" I am suggesting that it was ever thus.

In my experience people are not trying to restrict "what is played". They are trying to restrict "what is played TONIGHT". It is not about not liking some types of music, it is about not always wanting to mix them. Almost everyone I know who goes to "English sessions" also plays one or more of irish/bluegrass/old time/klezemer/jazz etc. and there are some sessions where they may mix some them, have fun playing ‘standards’ in different styles, and enjoy the guy with the guitar playing blues.

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eiluned: you shouldn’t try to push melting pots, they should happen naturally.

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You’ve lost me there sorry.

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Absolutely, eiluned; I was agreeing with you before, just making a small addendum that I did like to know about tunes. Everyone on this site presumably likes Irish Traditional Music, but that should not mean not liking English, Scottish, Welsh, European or indeed any music in the world because of its origins. On the other hand, as you say, feeling pressurised to like something is not right.
I do feel that on this site people who like or praise anything not strictly ITM get scorn poured on them, and that others, seeing this, may feel inhibited. That means a lot of good posters, with a lot of good points to make, are not getting through.
So my answer: be kind. Life is short. Get along! 🙂

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Fiddle Aunt you are a darling. While you were posting that I was writing this.

I have more than one reality.

Reality A. I go and play in sessions and there are no rules but certain sub sets of the session complain about other subsets and vice versa. At the end of the day lots of tunes are played, lots of pints are swallowed, some grudges are developed and an overall sense of well being prevails for the majority.

Reality B. I come onto a forum like this and I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I’m English therefore I over intelectualise material and sources, I am inferior because my tradition is broken, any attempt at analysis is crushed by unsubstanciated eruditian (not really a problem) ( and I only included that to get a three into the argument).

Come on guys. Tunes is tunes. They are fun to play. All the rest is bollocks.

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Live long & prosper, ronald.ellison! 🙂

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Ta.

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I was recently driving to a session while listening to Soul With a Capital S by Tower of Power. Good old traditional Oakland California folk music.

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I’ve never bought into admonitions about this site having a disproportionate amount of scorn being poured onto members who post appreciation for anything other than Irish traditional music. Granted, The Mustard has it’s share of persistent, purist posters (ITM & otherwise), but their comments are typically countered by a number of mustard guardians (sometimes including so-called ‘purists’). Not to mention the number of times a new member has been assailed when posting a thread, yet proved to be not the least bit inhibited about responding effectively against entrenched, dogmatic opinions & attitudes.

Plenty of babbling insomniacs,. But they certainly aren’t limited to any ITM purism.

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Amen Na éisc!

That’s really the point. On the other hand though the style with which those tunes will be played will vary from location to location. Perhaps that is what those seeking differentiation are implying (though I don’t think it has been clearly said).

When we play out I always try to emphasize that we use tunes that can be "sourced" to various countries, and while we try to play them correctly in terms of general style we make no bones about the fact that we are NOT really ITM players or Scottish Players, or anything else players. All we can do, given our interest in a wide variety of kinds of music and the lack of driving interest in immersing ourselves in any one tradition, is to try to capture the style as best we can in a general sense. If that makes us dilettantes, so be it. Rather that than ignoring the stylistic things and doing injustice to the music .

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Cboody:

"My post challenged two statements. "

It seems that the statements were not actually made.

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Na eisc, you can’t possibly know how many members, new or old, were inhibited by the scornful remarks into not posting or taking part in the discussion. Nor how many members, apparently bouncing back, actually felt hurt & agitated; that would certainly include me, for instance. I’m loth to play the gender card, but women are brought up to be polite and take turns. It’s nearly always the guys who leap in with big boots and kick the poster to the ground. Nobody’s suggesting that people can’t support ITM rather than other folk traditions. It’s the tone in which you do it.
And in your case, Na eisc, I know from previous posts and advice you’ve given me that you can be Charm Personified. So don’t let the Goblin of Contumely drag you down! 🙂

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Well, well, well…

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Where on this site are people disparaging of other types of music?

In real life sessions, it depends on the session and that’s fine. Like someone said on this thread, there is a huge difference between not wanting to hear other types of music and not wanting to hear other types of music TONIGHT. Some sessions are complete free for alls, play anything, doesn’t matter. Others have a lot more focus, a more definitive style. In my experience, the latter tends to be of better quality since when you get the mix of everything, people tend to not know each other’s tunes very well so you get more of the round robin effect.

There used to be several around Durham that were predominantly English/Northumbrian and I didn’t fit in very well, so I didn’t go to them. I usually went to an Irish session in Newcastle. There was also a session in Newcastle called "Anything But Irish," no doubt started due to the scepticism of the Irish trad players towards people wanting to play Northumbrian, Scandinavian, and so on music at the Irish session. I never went to that, for obvious reasons.

Similarly, sessions in Edinburgh or Glasgow tend to be more Irish, or more Scottish. You wouldn’t be thrown out for playing a Scottish tune at an Irish session and vice versa, but you’d know pretty quick how well your style fit into the style of any given session.

In Colorado, the divide between the Bluegrass or Old Time sessions and the Irish sessions was rather immutable. It had to be, because those types of sessions didn’t seem to combine very well. On the occasion where you had an anything goes so long as it’s a bit like music session, were Bluegrass and Irish players met, it was pretty much musical omnishambles. I like Bluegrass a lot, but it’s not what I want when I go out to the pub to play in an Irish session.

Auntie Fiddle

I was born and raised in the Mexican frontier currently known as Texas, ma’am. If you want to preach ‘polite’ it’s only fair to let you know my mother & father took me with them to sing in that choir. 😉

"I like Bluegrass a lot, but it’s not what I want when I go out to the pub to play in an Irish session."
As do I, DrSilverSpear, on both counts. Ironically, even though I’ve listened to Bluegrass most of my life, I’ve been accused of disparaging the genre for using humour which my bluegrass playing friends find funny. It’s banter. Doesn’t mean I’m not sensitive to it’s being overdone at times.

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@Weejie

OK, I missed the double negative in the Purcell/pub comment and I stand corrected. Me bad. But "I note how Mediaeval singing mainly(?) endeavours to produce a pure, hard note to carry very clear-cut vocal sounds…" is a pretty clear reference to the clenched throat approach which, to my knowledge is not agreed upon by all scholars. There are other things here that are equally questionable. The division of Scottish music into "The Highlands and the Islands" has already been jumped upon. There are others. My point is not to hijack this thread or cast further aspersions on anyone. What I’m saying is we all (and the certainly includes me) need to be careful about representing our opinions and our information as fact unless we know they are facts. If we take care with that we’ll do everyone a service by distinguishing fact from supposition and thus avoid leading others down the path.

Now, about that old 18th century Irish song "When Irish Eyes are Smiling"… 🙂

This is a masterpiece or mixed tenses :( Sorry.

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There are several considerations in this thread. People’s circumstances - where they play and who with - are different. The "anything goes" sort of session can work very well and yield a high standard of music and craic, if the pool of players who feed the session know each other and each other’s styles. If there are predominantly Irish players who are visiting, that is what is played in as stylistically accurate way as you will find in lots of sessions. Sometimes things are mucked about with, but this is usually skittishness - we know when we are not playing ‘in style’. I agree that ‘anything goes’ when people don’t know each other can be a real mess - a one off which I would not wish to attend regularly. Predesignation is therefore necessary at big festival sessions for instance, but I still dislike the feel of it.

The point I was clumsily trying to make above was that what I find unbearable is going to a session where somebody (sometimes not even a player) has designated the origins of what is going to be played that night in the session. I don’t go to these sessions - other people enjoy them so that is fine.

The spirit of any traditional music is, in my eyes, to give and take sometimes in order to hear people who have a different musical ‘accent’. Here is the crucial thing; I have no objection to playing solely English or Irish or Welsh music for a whole evening, if that is where the musical mix of players takes us. I’m just not fond of being told what to do (unless I’m being paid - in which case, bring on The Fields of Athenry).

(Sorry to drag this thread back, but I decided to get a life for a few days so wasn’t near the computer - I did try to resist honestly and I really hope that what I have said is not misunderstood by anyone - I’m not anti anyone, I’m pro listening musician).

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In my experience, the style of a particular session is implicit rather than explicit. I felt a bit socially awkward playing Irish tunes at a Northumbrian session, but they listened with ostensible politeness and certainly didn’t tell me they were the wrong sort of tunes.

I have heard a tale of someone at a session in the US who was firmly told off for playing Spootaskerry and Willafjord because it was an "Irish" session and those tunes were "Scottish" (well, Shetland if you’re going to nitpick, but hey ho). This is, however, complete hearsay, and I’ve never heard anything else to confirm whether or not this incident indeed happened.

Re: Traditional English Tune playing????

I have been it a "Irish session" in the UK where a hint was dropped that Spootaskerry and Willafjord were rather near to the edge of what people were gathered for. However **everyone knew them both and everyone played them**. There were several very good Irish musicians there and I for one wanted to hear them play Irish tunes and want to come again.

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It may just have been that the way the evening was going it was not what people wanted to do next. A bit like changing the subject of a conversation that everyone was enjoying.

Re: Traditional English Tune playing????

I’ve been in general sessions where someone has stood up and announced that they are starting or holding a session for, say, Cajun music or perhaps Breton or some other genre at such and such a venue and inviting anyone who is interested to attend. Nothing wrong with that.

Also I remember at Sheffield Folk festival the last time I went, various pubs were linked to different types of music. One pub did Bluegrass, another did Irish, some were sing arounds etc. It was all laid out quite clearly. This made it easy for people to find the kind of music they wanted. Again there’s nothing wrong with this, for if you don’t fancy a particular genre you don’t have to go.

What would hack me of would be if a regular general session I attended suddenly got taken over by one particular genre and prevented people playing other stuff in future. I can’t see why people shouldn’t set up new genre specific sessions if they can get others to agree.

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@Dr Silver Spear - in the past what you could and could not play in sessions was made quite explicit by a few people and we had the rather strange situation of the same group of players all bar one or two who would mentally be searching through their repertoire to try and find something which would be culturally acceptable. This made for a very stilted session and it would only be when the ‘folk police’ went home that musicians relaxed and did what ‘they’ felt was appropriate at that moment in the session. I have no idea if this is still the case, because I don’t go to that session unless something or someone extraordinary is going to be there. It is rarely the music which puts me off - it’s the social gripe.

@Ronald Ellison I totally agree - people can set up whatever they like, but should not assume that every session has to have a specific designation and go in with their own preconceived idea of what that is. Some of us don’t work like that.

Anyway, I think we’re actually more or less saying much the same things. I have no idea if the OP was a wind up or not and I don’t really care, because the responses have been interesting so far. However, it’s time to bow out before I say something which could be misconstrued by someone in Mustardia. Ta ta and ta!

Re: Traditional English Tune playing????

"It may just have been that the way the evening was going it was not what people wanted to do next. A bit like changing the subject of a conversation that everyone was enjoying."

Both musicians involved in this alleged discussion were very much of the "alpha player" variety and I would say that none of the sessions in that area are super uptight. A lot of Scottish tunes — from oldies like Atholl Highlanders and Jig of Slurs, to newer ones like Maggie’s Pancakes and Trip to Pakistan — are pretty standard fair. There isn’t a session in that area where I for one would think, "Oh, I shouldn’t play that. It’s Scottish." Obviously this one particular player thought that was a problem! The player of Willaford and Spootaskerry in that instant evidently told the complainant where to go.

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"It may just have been…" was an afterthought about my ‘story’, but I thought it may be relevant in other such situations. That session did play Atholl Highlanders - but after two Irish tunes and in an Irish sounding way.

The last sentence of my post went wrong - the sense was that "these guys are good so lets stick to the Irish and hope they come in the future".

(Mind you, those two tunes as a set get weary comments on the mustard board)

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I have a fantastic recording of Frankie Kennedy playing the Atholl Highlanders and another of Matt Molloy playing Jig of Slurs. Just sayin’.

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Ha ha. I meant the other two, but I think the same attitude applies. In mustardia that is. All four are staple fare at the sort of sessions that let me in ! "Dow’s list" category tunes.

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In many ways the idea of a tune being English as opposed to Scottish or Irish is silly. Tunes have traveled with players between all three countries for centuries if not millenia. The seas were the motorways of pre and post Roman Britain. The distance between Northern Ireland and Scotland is not much different from the distance between France and England and a lot less than the distance between Norway and England or Scotland. People traveled across the seas and tunes traveled with them.

In the way that vocal accents can change over these islands then in the same way musical accents can change as well and you might not like the way certain areas ‘speak’ their tunes but the tunes are not that much different.

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Its a great subject; my own experience is that many of the tunes we assume to be our own ( in my case,Irish) are often of English or one of the many folk-loving regions of England like Northumbria, or Cornwall.
As one of your earlier contributors mentioned, surely the music has traveled around these islands for centuries;
thankfully leaving its mark for future generations to be "programmed" to the familiarity of it all when ever it becomes the genre of an impromptu session.
It would be very strange indeed, considering the popularity of folk music and dance in neighboring Scotland and Wales to find an absence of this great tradition in the English countryside; Happily that is not the case
J E K (Jedward)

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Tin Pan Ally (with an eye on the turnover) in its Publications followed the rule if it was a jig it got an Irish title, Scottish names for reels