Fife & Drum Tune ID

Fife & Drum Tune ID

Hi all,

I’ve just posted a setting of a tune called Kelsen Side that is part of the repertoire of an American Fife & Drum Corps. The tune is paired with Star of the Country Down, but I have not been able to find out any information on the tune other than that it might be Scottish. Perhaps it is known under a different name?

https://thesession.org/tunes/20478#setting40551

I would LOVE to know more about the tune if anyone recognizes it. I’ve included a performance in the comments for the setting.

TIA for any assistance, or just enjoy the tune!

-K

Re: Fife & Drum Tune ID

"other than that it might be Scottish"…. I don’t know the tune but it sounds more Irish to my ear. To me it has slight tinges of Roddy McCorley. Also, fife and drum?? Probably Irish in origin. I may be wrong. I was once!

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The structure would suggest a song origin. "Kelsen Side" is very close to "Kelvinside". Pure conjecture on my part.

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The tune fits halfwaythere’s ABBA structure so, indeed, may be a song melody.

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"Kelsen Side" is very close to "Kelvinside". … My own conjecture was that it might be "Kelsen’s side" (Kelsen being a not uncommon name). An Irish rebel song perhaps? I hope we find out!

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There are Scottish songs The Rose Of Kelvinside and Kelvingrove but neither are like that fife tune.

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"Kelsen Side" is very close to "Kelvinside". … My own conjecture was that it might be "Kelsen’s side" (Kelsen being a not uncommon name). An Irish rebel song perhaps? I hope we find out!

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There are also a few Irish tunes that end with the word ‘Side" I don’t mean in the obvious sense like (say) ‘Down by the River Side’, I am referring to tunes such as Turnpike side (jig) Greenwood side (polka) and Sweeney’s side (I forget). I don’t know what, if anything in particular that word ‘side’ would refer to in such titles, but it’s there.

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Re: Fife & Drum Tune ID

@gobby- that we play it in the F&D community doesn’t necessarily suggest Irish origin- we have a lot of Scottish tunes in our repertoire as well.

Agreed that the form suggests a song melody. I will investigate Roddy McCorley and see if Kelvinside turns up anything.

Thanks for the help so far!

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Yes, I appreciate that the F&D community (who I was only vaguely aware of, but am now interested in) would play a mixture of British origin tunes, as well as possibly pure American compositions and adaptations. All good stuff! I’m just going by my ear when I suggest that this one sounds Irish. It’s definitely not Roddy McCorely, but there are bits that sound like parts of it. I agree with other observations that it is probably the tune to a song.

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I’ve definitely heard this tune played by a fife and drum marching band in a TV documentary about the Northern Irish Troubles - but whether the band was Loyalist or Republican I can’t remember!

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Sounds to me like a sped-up and straightened-out version of Down By The Tanyard Side. There’s a transcription of said tune here https://thesession.org/tunes/18916 Mind you, I’d say that transcription is a little off. It contains a few "F"s where I would suggest the tune actually contains "E"s.

Here’s a video of probably the best-known version, as sung by Seán Ó Sé https://youtu.be/FfFkYf_X-wY


The Dubliners (among others) sang a parody version with rebel overtones "Down By The Liffeyside" in which the lofty sentiments (and sentimentality!) of The Tanyard Side are skewered. See the following for one of The Dubiners’ later appearances on RTE https://youtu.be/snwLrvsHIcc


Finally, you may be interested in Gary Hastings’ book "With Fife And From" which explores at some considerable length the Orange marching band traditions in Northern Ireland, along with a CD and numerous transcriptions of tunes unique to that particular niche. See http://celticgrooves.homestead.com/CG_Book_Hastings_Fife.html

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I think you may be closing in on it there Aidan. And yes, Christy, that was my thought when I first heard it.

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One thing I remember Garry Hastings saying, in a talk on youtube, is that that for marching in 18th/19th century they used tunes that where ‘the pop songs of the day’. So it could be a now fairly obscure song tune.

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DIGRESSION ALERT!!!

"One thing I remember Garry Hastings saying, in a talk on youtube, is that that for marching in 18th/19th century they used tunes that where ‘the pop songs of the day’. So it could be a now fairly obscure song tune."

That wouldn’t surprise me. I was flicking through the channels on TV one 12th when I was back at home and they were filming the march through Belfast. As one flute band swung past City Hall they were playing "I Should Be So Lucky" - the Kylie Minogue song… so the "tradition" of playing pop songs of the day clearly continues. (And maybe in a few centuries ISBSL will, via the passage of time, become a fairly obscure song tune…)

There is another fife and drum tradition that I’m familiar with - an offshoot of the Mississippi Hill Country Blues niche.

This video is an example of the "classic" approach - Otha (or Othar) Turner’s Rising Star Fife And Drum Band. Ida Reed https://youtu.be/Oyqf-jf2B_4


This version of Station Blues is played by one of Otha’s grand-daughters. https://youtu.be/IUjxGra9uBw


And this particular branch of fife and drum music had a big influence on the punk blues of The North Mississippi Allstars. Here’s a live recording of the NMA at Bonnaroo with The Rising Star Fife And Drum Band, RL Burnside and others https://youtu.be/mgKodcjEw3c


It’s a bit of a digression - and apologies for that - but I think it’s interesting to note how this type of approach to music making is part of a variety of different musical traditions.

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Any digression into Mississippi country blues is fine by me, Aidan! Can’t answer for everyone else though…………..

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For people that haven’t heard about it, the fife & drum band thing is big in New England, but relatively obscure in the rest of the country.

It has a long history with the US military, and the US Army still maintains a fife & drum band which wears the same uniform it did in the 18th century. Likewise the civilian fife & drum corps generally wear 18th century uniforms.

The introduction to The Complete Music For Fife & Drum by Walter Sweet says:

"In Connecticut…fife & drum corps are in great demand for civic events such as Memorial Day, dedications, parades, and Fireman’s Carnivals. When the performance is over members of all attending corps gather informally, often in a circle…common tunes are shared in a jam session."

This book is full of Scottish and Irish tunes, some obvious, some under different names:

"Caledonia" is the Scottish tune My Love She’s But A Lassie Yet.

"Jefferson And Liberty" is the Irish jig Gobby-O.

And so on, if I went through them all probably half the tunes would be on the tune-base here.

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Not just Connecticut, Richard. My Gran´fer played in a Fife & Drum Corps in the 1880´s in York, Maine (I´m an oldster myself, now), during the War Fever run-up to the Spanish-American War. He was wild to run-off to be a ´doughboy´ until his Ma put an end to that with a buggy whip!

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Sorry that I chopped up Walter Sweet’s quote, which begins

"Connecticut is one of the places where fife & drum corps…"

He doesn’t mention any other places, though my understanding (from three thousand miles away) is that it’s a New England thing. I know they tend to name things "Colonial" back there.

BTW he first published that book under the title "The Bread And Butter Of Jamming"!

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I play in a few different fife and drum corps in Connecticut. It’s mostly a Connecticut, Mass, Rhode Island and New York thing although there are pockets of fife and drum in the midwest, north carolina and California. There’s also a big contingent of fife and drum in Basel Switzerland.

I don’t recognize the original tune so it’s probably not something commonly played in American Fife and Drum corps.

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@KM- who do you play with? I’m in the Kentish Guards and Grand Republic! GR has been playing this medley since our director was in the Sons of the Whiskey Rebellion (the recording linked in the initial post)- to my knowledge we’re the only corps that plays this medley.

Aidan and Christy, yes, I’m well aware of both Gary Hastings’ book and the F&D Blues tradition down south. 3 different takes on the idea, each great and unique. There is a lot of tune overlap between F&D and the lambeg and flute band traditions, and that is an area where I hope to do more extensive research in the future.

Thanks for everyone’s input, feel free to keep chatting and adding away!

-K

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@gobby I checked out Roddy McCorley, and you’re right, there are parts that are similiar, but not enough that I’d say it’s the same tune. The melody of the song is pretty much Rocks of Bawn, at least to my ear.