The First Of May barndance

There is 1 recording of a tune by this name.

The First Of May has been added to 1 tune set.

The First Of May has been added to 8 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: The First Of May
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:g2 d2 cedc|BdGB cedc|BdGB cedc|BAGB A2 d2|
g2 d2 cedc|BdGB cedc|BdG2 AcBA|G2 F2 G4:|
|:defg a2 a2|defg a2 a2|defg a2 a2|agfe d2 d2|
e2 c2 e2 g2|dBGB d2 d2|dgfe dcBA|G2 F2 G4:|

Thirty-five comments

Isn’t it a barndance?

Please note that this is NOT the same tune as the one already posted to the with the title: "The First of May"

It does however have some resemblance to a tune posted to called "Fisher’s Hornpipe", but I believe that it is sufficiently different to the latter to be regarded as a separate tune.

Barndance or hornpipe

@Dr. Dow

I’ve deferred to your greater knowledge, and changed the tune type from "hornpipe to "barndance".

But no classification of tunes is perfect: It may well be a barndance, but it also has the structure and form of an undotted hornpipe.

Hmm dunno about greater knowledge - everything I know about barndances comes from ceolachan originally. Maybe if we give him a shout he might help:


Ok now if we wait he’ll probably emerge from underneath a pile of tea-stained manuscripts and scribbled notes…

2/4 ~ :-p

Let me knock the dust off. Sadly I’m under old musty digital files, tons and tons and tons of those, and they have been the bane of my late night worries for at least a week now, having returned to them and the several drives they exist on, and that damned Acronis True Image I’m exorcising them from… GRRRR!!!

Yes, I know this in several ways, but all of them are definfitely playing out as 2/4 in my mind and instruments rather than 4/4, in a laid back kind of polka/country dance way.. Slotting it here in the catch-all ‘Barndance’ category is a fair choice, and 4/4 is OK too, but it has a pronounced and strong two beats to the bar kick to it.

I see a music stand and sheets in the linked to YouTube. I wonder what collection they extracted this set from?

Like "The Gallo-pede" it sets more comfortably with Morris and Country Dance melodies. However, it also fits well some of the relaxed polkas used for the sets in the 1800s and up into the mid 20th Century.

For a comparable set, and using the same title for the first of two, listen to Rose Murphy’s ‘polkas for the set’ on the Reg Hall compilation "Round the house and Mind the Dresser: Irish country-House Dance Music". i’m listening to it now and this could easily be slotted in there. The presence of such ‘country dance’ tunes in Irish tradition is nothing peculiar, at least not before World War II. A number of other dances, besides "Sir Roger", were commonly part of the repertoire of regular dancing, hall and house, throughout Ireland, were very popular, including "Gallopede"…

Actually, relaxed survived up until the madness of the 1980s, and you can still find pockets of it here and there if you look carefully… :-D

Probably lost because of my semi-conscious satire, ‘Gallo’ - ‘pede’, suggesting a kind of wino saunter, "hick!" "Pardon!"

"Fisher’s" - yes, which is more commonly played straight in North America, and for contra dancing (longways dances), as too is "Galopede"…

With that in mind ‘hornpipe’ might be the wiser choice of categories…

This is much more pleasant and fun than roasting my brain on an open file. So, here’s a bit of fun giving it the 2/4 treatment, which nudged me back to the previous category ‘hornpipe’, like all those in Ryan’s and Riley’s ~ so I’ll give it the 4/4 as well ~

X: 2
T: First Of May, The
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
R: polka
K: Gmaj
|: gd c/e/d/c/ | BG c/e/d/c/ | BG cd/c/ | B/d/G/B/ A2 |
gd cd/c/ | B/d/G/B/ cd/c/ | Bd/G/ f/g/a/f/ | gb g2 :|
|: d/e/f/g/ aa | d/e/f/g/ a2 | d/e/f/g/ ag | g/f/e/f/ d2 |
ec eg/e/ | d/B/G/B/ d2 | d/g/f/e/ d/c/B/A/ | GB G2 :|
M: 4/4
|: g2 d2 cedc | B2 G2 cedc | B2 G2 c2 dc | BdGB A4 |
g2 d2 c2 dc | BdGB c2 dc | B2 dG fgaf | g2 b2 g4 :|
|: defg a2 a2 | defg a4 | defg a2 g2 | gfef d4 |
e2 c2 e2 ge | dBGB d4 | dgfe dcBA | G2 B2 G4 :|

I like it better with swing… :-D

~ and a wino saunter…

Barndances / Schottisches tend to echo the dance with the long notes coming at the end of a phrase rather than starting it as here. If I were to take these notes and make it fit that category, with or without wing, it would something more akin to this ~

|: (3Bcd |\
g>Gd>G e2 c2 | B>dG>d c4 | B>dG>d c2 (3edc | B>d (3GAB A2 (3Bcd | ~

"with or without wing" ~ I like that… Swing with wings…

Music stand

I spotted it as well and wondered if they were playing the tune from Dave Townsend’s English Country Dance Tunes - the only place I’ve ever seen the dots written down.

Hi fen, I bet you’re right…

2/4? Wow, never woulda pegged this as a 2/4 tune. I know a lot of the reels are notated in 2/4 in Ryan’s/Cole’s but I always thought of that as just idiosyncratic transcription conventions. Oh well, there ya go, you got it from the horse’s mouth. The dance is what’s important…

I hardly need to say that this is nothing like what I think of as what constitutes a "hornpipe", but then I seem to disagree with a lot of people on that one, so live and let live :-)

Durham Rangers? I would consider that one to be more of a "rant" tune. "Rant" in the sense of a type of dance from NE England (and the tune associated with it) - not the kind of "rant" that is commonplace here on the session … ;-)

… but as we have no category fror "rant" here, perhaps "barndance" is indeed an appropriate choice …

It is indeed a rant, but the Irish play it as a barndance (I’m thinking of Frankie and Mairead).

Anyway, they all seem to come under the "country dance" genre, like ceolachan said.

I heard a morris melodeon player play a tune with a similar rhythm to this called "Double Setback". Maybe the morris musicians call these tunes "hornpipes". Morris tunes are a total mystery to me! :-)

“The Durham Rangers”

Yes, I play this one with swing, and snaps too, and it fits that barndance feel, which this one doesn’t, by that I mean, using the tune ~

T: Durham Rangers, The
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: barndance / schottische
K: Dmaj
|: F>G |\
A>BA>F A2 d>e |f>gf<e d4 | B>cd>B A>BA<F | G2 E2 E2 ~

Notice where thing lead and pause, on that long d4 (or D3), and finally we end with that lovely hornpipey/barndancey G2 F2 F2… There’s a pause at the end of the 2-bar phrase, and then a "Bump, Bump, Bump" to finish the 4 bar phrase…

As to ‘straight’ hornpipes, yeah, a lot of that in North America, though some folks like to swing them too, but mostly they are played as if they were ‘reels’. The notation question is a tricky one as reels really are that heavily 2-beat bars/measures that transcribing them as 2/4 makes a certain sense. However, doing them in 4/4 makes them easier to read and requires less black ink, which also aids reading. That said, they haven’t a pronounced 4 beat to the bar/measure. Despite now being more popularly written as 4/4, they remain 2/4 in nature… 8-) :-) 8-)

:-D ~ put your R-foot in, put your R-foot out, put your R-foot in and shake it all about

That’s a great example actually, and so again, with some variations given ~

|: F>G |\
A>BA>F A2 d>e | f>gf<e d2 d>A | B>cd>B (2ABA F<A | B2 E2 E2 F>E | ~

You get that pause in the first bar too, the A2, and you could easily play the d4 divided = d2 d2, or as in the linked to transcription = d3 A, or as here = d2 d>A. Also, note the lead-ins, using this transcription ~
|: F>E | ~ d>e | ~ d>A | ~ F<A | and then back to F>E again. Those are the ‘hop’ for the classic step = hop, 1, 2, 3… Or, to close a four bar phrase = hop, step, hop, step, hop, step, hop, step. And here is the complete move, giving the woman’s step and barred ~

|: L-hop |\
R-step, L-step, R-step R-hop | L-step, R-step, L-step R-hop | (1) L-step L-hop (2) R-step R-hop (3) L-step L-hop (4) R-step R-hop | ~

& if one chose to dance it smoothly, without the hops ~

|: pause |\
R-step, L-step, R-step pause | L-step, R-step, L-step pause | (1) L-step pause (2) R-step pause (3) L-step pause (4) R-step pause | ~

So could you say, then, that the morris tunes like First of May are basically simplified hornpipes with fewer notes chucked in?

"I heard a morris melodeon player play a tune with a similar rhythm to this called "Double Setback". "

Do you mean this one?

… or this one?

… or maybe this one!

Three double-setbacks!!! - It must be Friday 13th …. ;-)

“The First of May” ~ as a hornpipe

Swinging Mix’s transcription, with some variations thrown in, pulling more of the hornpipe in it ~

X: 3
T: First Of May, The
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: barndance
K: Gmaj
|: d2 |\
g2 G2 c>ed>c | B>dG>B c>ed>c | (3Bcd G>B c2 d>c | B>AG>B (3ABA (3def |
g>Gd>G c2 (3edc | B>d (3GAB c2 d>c | BdGd A2 (3cBA | (3GAG F2 G2 :|
|: (3AB^c |\
d2 (3efg .a2 a>A | d>ef>g .a2- a>A | d>ef>g .a2 .a2 | .a2 (3gfe d4 |
.e2 .c2 .e2 .g2 | d>B (3GAB d2 ^c>d | e2 (3gfe (3ded (3cBA |.G2 .F2 .G2 :|

Mind you, i’d take the second part further but am trying to keep close toe Mix’s transcription here…

Yes Mark, in general less notey, less ornamented. With Morris, aside from the drink, you’re sometimes moving, but it is also outside where the sound of the music can get lost or muddled up, so making it simple places the primary emphasis, for the dancers, on a strong rhythm and a bare basic melody, with bass and chord to help that if necessary. Besides, your fingers aren’t quite as fluid in the cold… :-D

Here’s Mix’s links lined up for comparison as ABCs ~

T: Double Setback
S: Headington 1
K: GMaj
|: Bc |\
dBdB G2 FG | ABAF D2 Bc | d2 gf edcB | c2 A2 A2 Bc |
dedB G2 FG | ABAF D2 Bc | d2 gf edcA | B2 G2 G2 :|
|: Bc |\
d2 g2 d2 Bc | d2 g2 d2 Bc | d2 gf edcB |[1 c2 A2 A2 :|[2 e2 A2 A2 |]

S: Headington 2
|: Bc |\
dedB GABG | ABAF D2 Bc | d2 gf edcB | ce A2 A2 Bc |
dedB GABG | ABAF D2 Bc | d2 gf edcA | B2 G2 G2 :|
|: Bc |\
d2 g2 d2 Bc | d2 g2 d2 Bc | d2 gf edcB | ce A2 A2 :|

S: Headington 3
|: z |\
dedB G2 FG | ABAF D2 Bc | dgfe dcBA | B2 G2 G2 :|
|: Bc |\
d2 g2 d2 Bc | d2 g2 d2 Bc | d2 gf edcB |[1 c2 A2 A2 :|[2 e2 A2 A2 |]

For a very short time I caught some dancing with the Headington lot, when I was living and studying in the area, lovely people…

Having had that opportunity, however limited, they’re fun to play…

Barndance basics ~

A simple barndance stepping ~ for further comparison, the woman’s step again ~

|: pause |\
(Advance) R-step, pause, L-step, pause | R-step, L-step, R-step pause | (Retire) L-step, pause, R-step, pause | L-step, R-step, L-step pause | ~

The Headington 2 setting is closer to the one I heard. I remember those ceA2 A2 phrases sticking in my head for ages.

So, do we call this a hornpipe because morris musos call it that, or do we stick with barndance to draw attention to the fact that it’s a sort of country dance and not like what we’d normally do with it as a hornpipe (Fisher’s)?

On balance, I would settle for "barndance" :-)

Hey, it’s here already. It isn’t like there aren’t barndances under the heading hornpipes and vice versa, or even under the heading reels, where many a fine highland hides… And, with a bit of swing it could do for a couple dance barndance, or in just about any form for a bit of country dancing in a barn or stomping about on the tiles in front of a pub in a happy mood… ;-)

It goes nicely swung and relaxed, with a few minor alterations…