Blue Riband reel

Also known as Bouree, Bourrée à Deux Temps, Le Ruban Bleu, Ton Ruban Bleu.

There are 3 recordings of this tune.

Blue Riband has been added to 16 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Two settings

1
X: 1
T: Blue Riband
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|: d2BG F>GA>B | c2AF GABc | d2BG F>GA>B | ccAF G2G2 :|
|: FAFA GBGB | AcAc B2G2 | FAFA GBGB |1 dcBA d2d2 :|2 dcBA G2G2 ||
2
X: 2
T: Blue Riband
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|: d2 BG F>GAB | c2 AF G>ABc | d2 BG F>GAB | ccAF G2 G2 :|
|: F>AFA G>BGB | A>cAc B2 G2 | F>AFA G>BGB |1 dcBA d2 d2 :|2 dcBA G2G2 |]

Thirty-four comments

Blue Riband (reel)

This lively little tune is played regularly at our Tuesday session in Bristol. It is usually initiated by one of the box players, whose belief it is that it may be French-Canadian in origin. It has an unusually narrow pitrch range of just 6 notes (F - d), which means there’s no excuse for not playing it on any melody instrument!

A polka, surely!

@Trevor - a polka surely - not a reel!

And I believe that the tune is played with more "swing" than indicated in your abc transcription. Especially the second part.

Here’s my my take on the tune, as played at that session (if my memory serves me correctly, that is!)

X: 1
T: Blue Riband
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
R: polka
K: Gmaj
|: d2BG | F>GAB | c2AF | G>ABc | d2BG | F>GAB | ccAF G2G2 :|
|: F>AFA G>BGB | A>cAc B2G2 | F>AFA G>BGB |1 dcBA d2d2 :|2 dcBA G2G2 ||

Not a polka and not canadian

at work so i am trying to sing the ABC’s in my head.
I think this is actually a french tune called "Ton Ruban Blu"
and its a 2-time bourree rather than a polka

Blue Riband (reel)

To my ears the feeling of this tune, both when hearing and certainly when playing, is much closer to a 4-beat 2/2, rather than a polka. Actually, "polka" never occurred to me.

I’m of the opinion that "swing" is entirely up to the player in the inspiration of the moment, and should therefore not be notated. Any notating of free-rein expression in a tune such as swing or some ornaments is counter-productive in that it can be seen as prescriptive, i.e. how that particular tune should always be played. An obvious example is the hornpipe; many are notated here as if they were reels, but experienced players know how the hornpipe rhythm should be applied in any given case, and, importantly, to what degree. Notate a hornpipe with a precise rhythm, as you see in older books, and it will be taken as gospel, especially by an inexperienced player who has been brought up to play exactly what is in front of him.

@thorsdog, that’s a very good point, and probably closest to the truth. If it is indeed French (rather than French-Canadian) then bourrée seems very likely. Unfortunately, the database protocols on this website say that if a tune has four beats in the bar then it is classified as a reel or hornpipe (or a slide if it is a compound 4-4); no other description is allowed.

Le Ruban Bleu

@thorsdog: the title that you provided (although I don’t believe it to be quite correct) did provide me with a clue. I did a search on the word "Ruban", and came up with this:

http://trillian.mit.edu/~jc/cgi/abc/tuneget?F=MIDI&U=/~jc/music/abc/Brittany/RubanBleu_G.abc&X=1&T=RUBANBLEU

"Le Ruban Bleu"

It would appear to be a Breton tune, rather than French-Canadian as Trevor thought.

@Trevor - by submitting it as a reel (i.e. 4/4) you’ve made it a 16 bar tune - it’s not - it’s a 32-bar tune!

if you take a look at the ABCs in the John Chambers link that I posted above you’ll find it to be very similar to the ABCs that I posted - and it’s also the way that it’s played at the Bristol Tuesday session.

Arguably "a 2-time bourree" as thorsdog suggests. But that option is not available on session.org, so "polka" would be the closest.

And it’s 2/4 in the John Chambers link, BTW.

More results from JC’s Tune Finder

Thirteen other references found using JC’s tune finder - and they’re all 2/4 metre!

Dance tune

It’s clearly a dance tune. If you turn it into a reel by taking the "swing" out of it, it wouldn’t fit the dance properly.

Dance tune

I’m sure it’s not the first time that reels and polkas (both dance tunes) have been interchanged. All that’s happened is that the number of bar lines has changed on paper. If it’s the same total number of beats in a 32-bar polka and its 16-bar reel equivalent would the dancers necessarily notice? As a player in the session I certainly didn’t, and thought it was a reel.

Anyway, we never have dancing at the Tuesday session.

Digging a Hole …

Trevor - I’m really pleased that you posted this tune, as the clue provided by thorsdog subsequently turned up some hard information about the orgin, metre and style of this tune that we didn’t know before.

Armed with with this evidence, I really think that you should now modify your transcription.

" .. and thought it was a reel".

an honest mistake, but it isn’t.

And it’s not even played as a reel at that session either (which might otherwise be a good reason to leave your transcription unchanged).

But I give up.

Clearly you’re right, and I’m wrong.

And those 14 abc transcriptions returned by John Chamber’s highly-respected site are all wrong as well.

At the very least, (now that we know the proper title) you should change it to "Le Ruban Bleu", and make "Blue Ribband" the AKA.

What, never any dancing?

"Anyway, we never have dancing at the Tuesday session"

Admittedly, we haven’t seen Tom there for a while, but I’m sure we would all agree that he’s a pretty good dancer …

Never say never!

What, never any dancing?

Mix, possibly we have to agree to disagree on this. I think we have here a tune that is in a grey area where it could be interpreted as a reel or polka. I took the first option, and what I transcribed is what I heard and learnt at the session. Being satisfied with my transcription I didn’t need look it up in other sources and so was unaware of the trillian link.

A couple of points regarding the tune name:

Thorsdog’s "Ton Ruban Bleu" (with a typo dealt with) I think is correct and should be retained; it means "Your Blue Riband".

"Ribband" is incorrect in this context; it is not the same word as "riband" but refers to a type of plank or scantling used in ship-building, whereas "riband" is a ribbon.

What, never any dancing?

Btw, when I said there’s no dancing at the Tuesday session what I had in mind in the context of this discussion was set dancing, not solo dancing (and even that is rare).

Forgot to mention

Forgot to mention - It’s played in CMaj in the YouTube clip that I posted above.

Typo on my part

When I said "change the title to "Le Ruban Bleu", and make "Blue Ribband" the AKA."

I meant to say: "change the title to "Le Ruban Bleu", and make "Blue Riband" the AKA."

Play it again, Sam!

OK - so it’s 2/4 bourrée - not a polka.

But its played with a big stress is on the first of two alternate beats in the bar, so within the context of subbmission to session.org, the best compromise is "polka"

And as I said before, you’ve missed out the swing in the second part.

Why don’t you ask Mike (the box player who plays it) to play it again at next week’s session?

You could also ask him his source of the tune. Knowing Mike, it was either from a hardcopy tunebook or from the Internet.

If it turns out that I am wrong, and that it’s actually 4/4, I’ll be happy to buy you a pint …

As long as you’ll agree to buy me a pint if it turns out that you are wrong …

.. Do we have a deal? 🙂

ABC coding error

@Trevor - forgot to mention - your abc code is in any case flawed, as follows:

Second part of the tune, second-time bar. You’ve inserted a space character between the barline and the figure "2"

Extract from Chris Walshaw’s abc tutorial:

"Note that there can be no blank space between the barline and the number - eg [1 and |1 are acceptable, whereas [ 1 and | 1 are not".

"Le Ruban Bleu" - bourrée à deux temps

"The Massif Central Tune Book No. 1" (of 2), compiled by Mel Stevens, Dragonfly Music, 1987, "Le Ruban Bleu", tune #90

X: 3
T: Le Ruban Bleu
B: "The Massif Central Tune Book No. 1" (of 2), compiled by Mel Stevens
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
R: bourrée à deux temps
K: Gmaj
|: d2 BG | F>G AB | c2 AF | G>A Bc |
d2 BG | F>G AB | c2 AF | G4 :|
|: F>A FA | G>B GB | A>c Ac | B2 G2 |
F>A FA | G>B GB | d>c BA |[1 d4 :|[2 G4 |]

Bourrée à deux temps

Leaving ‘bouree’ in the alternate titles allows people to search for bourees on site here, just as they can also do for ‘highland flings’ and marches… It’s a consideration. To delete it is inconsiderate…

ABC coding error and Bourrée à deux temps

@Mix, thank you for pointing out that error. I’m certain that the second-time bar in the B-part was in the ABC I posted (I keep a copy on file), but what I think happened was that bar was on a line of its own and was preceded by an invisible space at the end of the preceding line, probably a typo on my part. It looks like the erroneous second-time bar was deleted and the first-time bar amended accordingly when thesession.org produced the sheet music. Anyway, I’ve now corrected the ABC.

Historically, the French bourree dates from about the start of the 18th century and was used by many composers of the time, such as Handel and Bach, and by many composers since, up to modern times.

The bourree was originally in 4/4 time (strictly, it should be in 2/2 because 2/2 is livelier than 4/4). The 2/4 version seems to have come along later. I’m very familiar, as a performer, with the 4/4 (2/2) bourrees in Bach’s cello suites, and an important defining characteristic of the form is the dactyl rhythm that starts off the tune, and several phrases within the tune.

When I was listening to that fine box (C/F?) playing on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vOK3QdClBI I was strongly aware of the 4-in-a-bar foot-tapping beats coming through as if it were a 4/4, not sounding at all like a polka. I fear it would only cause confusion if I were to change our 4/4 "reel" (now confirmed as a bourree) into a 2/4, which would be in danger of wrongly being interpreted as a polka when it is in fact a bourree.


@ceolachan, many thanks for tracking down printed versions of the tune (I don’t have those sources). I thoroughly agree that "bourree" and "Bourrée à Deux Temps" should remain in the alternate titles section. I imagine that "Bourrée à Deux Temps" means that it is in duple time.

Bare bars a step at a time ~

2/2 - understood, but conventions adapt, as has the use of 12/8 for some emphatically long slidey phrases in single jigs. Also, as you’ll know well, the dance also influences the meter and barring. As 2/4 each bar represents one step of the bouree. If comparing that to Irish dance the same is true, one bar of a 4/4 reel or 6/8 jig is one step… As dance music it is the dance that, tends to define the barring in most current traditional practices, except 😉 in the use of 12/8 for slides, two steps to that long measure. Mind you, it’s the musicians who have chosen that alternative meter for the form, probably started by some modern type muso who wasn’t also a dancer. 😀

"It would appear to be a Breton tune, rather than French-Canadian as Trevor thought."

I know it as a French tune, not Breton. It’s appearance in the Massif Central Tune Book (see ceolachan’s posting above) corroborates this. Although many traditional musicians and dancers Brittany would be familiar with French repertoire, the Bourree is not a Breton form.

….but it would not be at all surprising if it has found its way into the French Canadian repertoire as a reel.

Creadur: "I know it as a French tune, not Breton"

You well may be right.

But In any case, I didn’t say that it was a Breton tune - only that it "appeared" to be, based on John Chamber’s classification of it.

The Massif Central tune book contains many errors (as freely and public admitted to by the original author).

" … but it would not be at all surprising if it has found its way into the French Canadian repertoire as a reel"

Do you have any hard evidence of that?.

Trevor (being classically trained) talks much about the bourrées of Handel and Bach. But these are very different in form to the traditional "folk" ones - some are in 3/8 time, for example.

But all this misses my main point. Trevor claimed that his transcription was based on the playing of a box player at a session in Bristol that we both attend.

We were both at that session last night - as was the box player who had played the tune the previous week.

I asked the box player to play it again, which he did. The setting which I posted above proved to be the one that was correct - Trevor’s setting was based on his mis-remenbering of the tune….

Still waiting for that pint, Trevor …. 😉

"" … but it would not be at all surprising if it has found its way into the French Canadian repertoire as a reel"

Do you have any hard evidence of that?"

I can only speak for myself - *I* wouldn’t be that surprised. Do I need hard evidence for an assertion of that kind? If I were ever to hear this tune (or a tune derived from it) played by a French Canadian musician as a reel, only then would evidence be available - and then, you would never know whether I was, in fact, concealing my surprise. But anyway, I have not yet heard (and may never hear) the tune in that context.

"… the bourrées of Handel and Bach. But these are very different in form to the traditional "folk" ones - some are in 3/8 time, for example."

A bourrée can be ‘à deux temps’ or ‘à trois temps’ - the latter being written in 3/8. But I’m guessing that Bach and Handel wrote their bourrées to be listened to rather than danced to, so they may well have taken liberties with the form. I think it is also likely that the bourrées danced by the 17th Century aristocracy were somewhat different from the bourrées in the current French traditional dance repertoire.

"I think it is also likely that the bourrées danced by the 17th Century aristocracy were somewhat different from the bourrées in the current French traditional dance repertoire."

I would certainly agree with that.

I also think that most people would agree that an abc transcription of a tune posted to this site should ether:

(a) Correspond to some documented source of the tune - e.g. a manuscript or tunebook.

or -

(b) Correspond to someone’s actual playing of the tune: CD, live performance or whatever.

This tune (as posted) fulfils neither requirement.

@Mix
"If it turns out that I am wrong, and that it’s actually 4/4, I’ll be happy to buy you a pint …
As long as you’ll agree to buy me a pint if it turns out that you are wrong …
.. Do we have a deal?"

A few points:

There was no indication at the time of playing in the session whether it was 2/4 or 4/4; it would not have been obvious from the playing whether it was a 4/4, a 2/2, a 4/4 divided up as a 2/4, or the other way around. It didn’t sound like a polka (or a hornpipe). Since it sounded more like a reel than anything else, in the absence of information to the contrary (e.g. that it might be a bourrée) then I would naturally have considered it as a reel. In any event, a 4/4 bourrée on this database would have to be slotted into the reel category.

Concerning the question of "swing", as I said before, I take the view that swing is the performer’s choice of the moment. If Mike or anyone else chooses to play the tune with swing, then that’s fine by me, but it doesn’t mean it should be notated as such in a transcription because playing the same tune without swing can be an equally valid option. Notating the tune with swing would therefore be prescriptive, tending to persuade the reader that "with swing" is how the tune _should_ be played, and would imply ignoring the alternative. Notating swing in ABC using the ">" character can be misleading in that it can suggest too rigid a timing to those who may not be aware that swing is intended. A different notation is needed, analogous perhaps to the "~" which tells the reader that some sort of ornament may be played, without being specific.

If, perchance, I did get one or two notes wrong in the transcription, it was because I was playing it, and reconstructing it, from memory at home, and not from a recording (which I didn’t make) or a printed copy (which I have yet to see). It won’t be the first, or the last, time in the history of music that tunes have got slightly modified during transcription or playing from memory! I think it’s called evolution.

It would be a matter of concern to everybody if trad tunes were to be played exactly the same way every time. In that respect I think the ubiquity of recordings, and, to a lesser extent, printed music have something to answer for.

Finally, I didn’t enter into a "deal".

@Mix, on re-reading your previous post I think my transcription could well come under "Correspond to someone’s actual playing of the tune: … or whatever" 🙂

Cheers!

To bourrée or not to bourrée

Bourrée ~ curiously, nut case that I am, I’ve studied and danced both forms, though, of course, the earlier one under several different ‘expert’s’ interpretations. What a work out. I should have kept it up. I’d be svelt and have a six pack… However, I much prefer the country version over the courtly… 😎

As to what the classically minded do with forms, for listening, the poor mazurka has suffered being played like a waltz, and often the ‘dance’ of a form is ironed out, sacrificed, for the artifice of the composer or performer, to hell with the intricacies of rhythm that make it lift the feet and drive the dance…

This also happens with Irish music. One musician as an example of such a dichotomy is Sean Keane of The Chieftains. I’ve caught him in concert, where there wasn’t a foot stirring, and he was cramming as much as he could into the music, very cerebral, and I was leaning forward in my seat listening ‘intently’. And then there’s the session and dance in Clare, where I also got to dance in sets and on the floor with him, and when he played ~ it was COMPLETELY an other experience. That second way with the music I would love to have on a recording. But, the earlier, where he seems to be trying to prove something, to impress, that just doesn’t move my feet or my heart, though - it is interesting… 😏

Trevor: "Correspond to someone’s actual playing of the tune"

But it didn’t !!!!!!

It’s one thing to play a tune a slightly different way yourself, but quite another to misrepresent someone else’s playing of it.

If your tune memory is not very good, you should make a recording before transcribing someone else’s playing.

You could also ask Mike his source of the tune. After all, it was he that played the tune - not you!

Knowing Mike, it was either from a hardcopy tunebook or from the Internet.

Blue Riband, X:2

As played at the Golden Guinea pub session, Bristol (UK).