This is a very, very old strathspey that is typically found starting of a high bass set. John Morris Rankin plays such a set on North Country and this particular set is well known all around. This tune employs unusual four note grace notes. Lots of optional ornamentation included.
John Morris Rankin Set
The Straw Man
another video of “Christy Campbell”
The Rankin Family Video referenced above has been removed. This fast Cape Breton Strathspey is the third tune taught by Alistair White on his West Highland Fiddle tutorial video. He introduces the tune by saying he learnt it from Buddy MacMaster.
I like to listen to recordings of the tunes I’m learning to give me a better feel for exactly what I am trying to do (and a rest from practice because I am a very mature beginner on fiddle and I get cross!) The only one I liked was a rather fuzzy recording of a fiddler called John Willie Campbell at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2IkqSQBq2U. "Christy Campbell" is the second tune. The other videos I found made it sound too straight-forward or something. Alistair White talks about creating tension in a Strathspey and I think maybe it’s the tension that is missing from some versions?
Variant of tune in the Atholl Collection
Alistair White introduces this a variant of a tune from the Atholl Collection - perhaps "Stirling Castle" or "The Miller of Drone". I know "Stirling Castle" (https://thesession.org/tunes/1762) well and this sounds nothing like it to me. Is it a version of "The Miller of Drone" (https://thesession.org/tunes/3626)? I’m not sure.
Yes, it is. That tune has worked overtime, turning up in Cape Breton as "Christy Campbell", in Ireland as "The Miller of Droughan" and in the US as "Grey Eagle".
On Paul Cranford’s website, at http://cranfordpub.com/tunes/scordatura/ChristyC.htm, he says "Christy Campbell is undoubtedly the most famous of tune in the Cape Breton ‘raised bass’ repertoire. A popular step dancing strathspey, some describe it as a modal Gaelic version of Nathanial Gow’s classic tune The Miller of Drone." While I agree that the A part of that The Miller of Drone is similar, it is vastly different in the B part of the tune. Cape Breton fiddlers treat the tunes as being different. I believe Buddy MacMaster has recorded both the Miller of Drone and Christy Campbell on different albums. Christy Campbell is almost played exclusively in the "High Bass" tuning, while the Miller of Drone is always played in "Standard Tuning".
"High Bass" tuning:(A,-E-A-e) will allow a whole lot of droning on the open strings where I’m having to double-stop A,- E. Of course that and genius and more than 10,000 hours of practice explains the quality of the sound. Do all serious Cape Breton players keep different fiddles tuned in the "High Bass" and "Low Bass" tunings?
High Bass and Low Bass
Actually, Gallopede, most Capers will just tune them up when then want to play a set in High Bass, then back down once they’re done. That’s the way I’ve always seen it.
X:2 — ”Christy Campbell,” as played by Wendy MacIsaac
It’s been three years since the only setting of this cracking strathspey was posted, so here’s another one for consideration – this time from Wendy MacIsaac on her ECMA award-winning album "Off the Floor." It’s the second tune in a set of Amaj strathspeys and reels, directly preceded by "Miller of Droan" ( https://thesession.org/tunes/3626 ) and directly followed by the nearly equally popular "Anthony Murray," which is sometimes also known as "Hills of Cape Mabou." ( https://thesession.org/tunes/5973 )
Christy Campbell seems to be one of the most frequently recorded strathspeys by Cape Breton artists, and was even played as a reel by Colin Grant on his eponymous album. ( https://thesession.org/recordings/2632 ) MacIsaac brings the heat with resonant drones and jump-up bowing in her rendition of this classic strathspey, undoubtedly spurred on by energetic backing from J.J. Chaisson (guitar) and Darla MacPhee (piano) – not to mention the crowd, since this is a live cut! Small but salient bonus: it’s nice on this recording to actually hear the guitar beyond simply the articulations of the strumming, as it usually gets buried in the mix on most Cape Breton recordings.
From The Traditional Tune Archive:
From Alan Snyder’s Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index: