Shirley’s reel

By Willy Taylor

There are 4 recordings of this tune.

Shirley’s appears in 1 other tune collection.

Shirley’s has been added to 3 tune sets.

Shirley’s has been added to 49 tunebooks.

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Four settings

X: 1
T: Shirley's
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
|:ed|(3cdc Bc AF~F2|Acea ef{=g}fe|f<a{b}af ec~c2|eafe Bc{d}cB|
eA (3cBA FAEF|Acea ef{=g}fe|f<a{b}af ecAc|BE^GB A2:|
|:cd|~e3f eAce|dfaf eccd|~e3f ec{d}cB|Adcd BEcd|
~e3f eAce|dfaf ecce|{c}d2fd cdec|BEGB A2:|
X: 2
T: Shirley's
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
|:c2 Bc BA ~A2|Acea fe e2|faaf ecce|afeA cBBc|
A2 Ac BA ~A2|Acea fe e2|faaf eccA|1 BABc A2 ed:|2 BABc ABcd||
|:~e2 ef ecBA|dfaf eccd|~e2 ef ecBA|ddcd B2 cd|
~e2 ef ecBA|dfaf ecce|d2 fd c2 ec|1 BABc ABcd:|2 BABc Aeed||
X: 3
T: Shirley's
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
|:ed|c2 Bc BA A2|Acea fe e2|faaf ecce|afeA cBBe|
c2 Bc BA A2|Acea fe e2|faaf eccA|BEGB A2:|
|:cd|e2 ef eAce|dfaf eccd|e2 ef eccB|Adcd B2 cd|
e2 ef eAce|dfaf ecce|d2 fd ceec|BEGB A2:|
X: 4
T: Shirley's
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
|:AB|c2 Bc BA A2|Acea fe e2|faaf e2ce|afec BAAB|
c2 Bc BA A2|Acea fe e2|faaf e2cA|BABc A2:|
|:cd|e2 ef ecBA|dfaf edcd|e2 ef edc2|decd B2 cd|
e2 ef ecBA|dfaf edc2|d2 fd c2ec|BABc A2:|

Seventeen comments

This one goes out to all the “Irish-only” people: bo selecta! I think this tune proves that there are some good English tunes around. It was written by Willy Taylor, a multi-talented Northumbrian shepherd who was best known for his fiddle playing, and who died fairly recently. This tune sounds good fast or slowed down, and the lyrical arpeggios are typical of this genre of northern tune. I don’t know who Shirley is/was - it’s a bit of a shame that the name of the tune is a bit unprepossessing, but hey that’s what he named it so that’s what it is.

For any Shirleys out there Shirley’s a nice name - you know what I mean anyway 🙂

“Surley, you can’t be serious?”
“I AM serious, & don’t call me Shirley!”
- Airplane

All joking aside, this tune is *really* nice. This is the kind of stuff I come to this site for - the great tune you won’t get any other place. I would have thought it a Larry Redican tune had I not known any better. Really good tune. Thanks a million

Shirley is used as a man’s name in some northern parts of England. If the guy happens to be a heavy-weight wrestler you treat him with great respect…


Shirley’s Reel

This is a great Northumbrian tune, often linked with two more of Willy Taylor’s tunes, Titch’s Reel and The Pearl Wedding. They are not played flat and furious like Irish and Scottish Reels but played with a slight syncopation and lots of swing. They sound more Cajun or Quebecois.

Willy lost his forefinger of his left hand in a turnip cutter whilst a young man. He played with only three fingers and with a very powerful up bow, a completely distinctive style that is hard to emmulate. We only lost him last year and he is sorely missed.
Noel Jackson
Angels of the North

I agree with what you say about how they are supposed to be played, and can hear that sound in my head, although it’s years since I heard anyone play in that style (I left Northumberland 9 years ago). This is just a personal thing, but I’ve never been all that keen on the sound of unbacked swung reels played on a million fiddles to be quite honest, although I think it works for some tunes better than others. I *love* playing this particular tune and the rest of that set unswung, altho’ slightly slower than I’d play an Irish reel, otherwise it loses something and those nice arpeggios get glossed over. I think that the ornamentation I’ve always played (and transcribed here) might not be well-suited for the swung style. I tend to go more for the styles of pipes players like Alistair Anderson, Kathryn Tickell & others. I don’t think it is necessarily against the tradition to play a tune in a completely different way to the person who wrote it and others who try and emulate him - it should be played in a style that the person playing it feels comfortable with, whilst at the same time keeping stuff like tradition and session etiquette in mind. In saying this I don’t mean to seem as if I’m contradicting you since I realise you are giving useful information about the way the tune is usually played so ta for that. I’ll post the other 2 in the set another day.

I’ve heard Kathryn Tickell playing this tune - she plays it slightly differently to the version posted here. I seem to remember her saying that Willie Taylor subsequently lost, or lost the use of yet another finger, by having some heavy object dropped on it - and still carried on playing. She remarked that his tunes are a pleasure to play as none of them goes above high A.

I’ve also heard this tune played differently - by a group of young folk musicians known as FolkESTRA. Their musical director is one Kathryn Tickell, so it’s probably the same version mentioned above. Some of the arpeggios in the B tune are reversed (descending rather than ascending) and there is a lot less ornamentation in general. There’s also a good bassline that fits underneath it.

Willy Taylor’s tunes ~

“The Pearl Wedding” ~ reel
Key signature: Dmajor
Submitted on December 8th 2002 by Dow.

“Tich’s” ~ reel
Key signature: G Major
Submitted on December 9th 2002 by Dow.

“Snowy Monday” ~ jig
Key signature: D Major
Submitted on December 17th 2002 by Dow.

“Farewell to the Dene”
Key signature: D Major
Submitted on June 10th 2005 by Dow.

“Willy Taylor’s” ~ polka
Key signature: D Major
Submitted on August 31st 2004 by snowyowl.

“The Shining Pool” ~ hornpipe
Key signature: D Major
Submitted on June 13th 2005 by Dow.

“Wee Kerry’s Welcome to the Dene” ~ jig/quickstep
Key signature: D Major
Submitted on July 28th 2005 by ceolachan.

“Nancy Taylor’s” ~ reel
Key signature: G Gajor
Submitted on December 15th 2005 by alexboydell.

Shirley’s Reel

Here’s the version this tune I got from Peter Tickell last week.

X: 1
T: Shirley’s
C: Willy Taylor
S: Peter Tickell
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: reel
K: Amaj
|: c2 Bc BA ~A2 | Acea fe e2| faaf ecce | afeA cBBc |
A2 Ac BA ~A2 | Acea fe e2 | faaf eccA | [1BABc A2 ed :| [2 BABc ABcd ||
|: ~e2 ef ecBA | dfaf eccd | ~e2 ef ecBA | ddcd B2 cd |
~e2 ef ecBA | dfaf ecce | d2 fd c2 ec | [1 BABc ABcd :| [2 BABc Aeed ||

C: Charlie Sherritt ~ ? 😏

I’ve stumbled across a few transcriptions of this reel that seem to suggest that “Shirley’s Reel” was composed by Charlie Sherritt? Surprised but not convinced, I’m hoping someone might know for sure?

Re: Shirley’s

I think Shirley was Willie’s niece. As for the swung/unswung argument - Willie was always disappointed when he heard his tunes played straight. I remember one comment made after hearing one of his ‘reels’ played straight - ’well he didn’t get it right but, I suppose, at least he did try and play it.
He and other dancers also told me ‘we don’t have reels as such up here, they’re all rants’ (i.e. swung)!
It is great that people do make this music their own but I do worry, along with the likes of Jimmy Little (the last purely ‘by ear’ player of note still with us), that a truly unique music tradition is so endangered.

Shirley’s, X:4

I heard this in a set with Window Pain and Reconciliation Reel on a collection called Acoustic Potluck by a group named Three Bean Salad.