This reel comes from an old collection of New England fiddler’s tunes. It resembles the hornpipe "Off to California", and I wonder if one tune could have been derived from the other, or both from a common source.
It’s a technically easy tune for the fiddle player, and being lively and somewhat repetitive would make a good tune for a beginner to learn and gain confidence.
Do I detect a subtle pun in the title - The Fireman’s Reel?
This tune certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to Off to California. Since much of the New England fiddle repertoire of English, Irish and Scots origin, it is probably fair to say that The Fireman’s Reel is a version of Off To california, transposed up a tone, simplified slightly, played in a slighly different rhythm, and given a different name. It is also worth remembering that, in some musical traditions the distinction between a hornpipe and a reel is not quite as clear as it is in Ireland.
"Off to California" ~ to swing or not to swing
hornpipe / reel
Key signature: G Major
Submitted on May 21st 2001 by Jeremy.
~ as ‘spoon’ said ~ the tendency is to play hornpipes straight and as if they were reels…amongst some practices in the Western world…
"New England Fiddler’s Repertoire"
by Randy Miller and Jack Perron, first published in 1983.
Page 81: "Fireman’s Reel"