The Modest Fiddler hornpipe

By Arthur Scott Robertson

There are 4 recordings of this tune.

The Modest Fiddler has been added to 8 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: The Modest Fiddler
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Fdor
|:B,A,|G,B,EF GA=AB|edcB =ABGE|A,CFG A=AcB|dcB=A _AFDA,|
|:B2|=AB_AB GBFB|EFGA Bcde|=ef_ef dfcf|=efgf afdB|

Four comments

The Modest Fiddler

I had a request for this Eb tune. It’s from the playing of the late Shetland fiddler Willie Hunter, from his album “1982” which was released in, um, 1982. It was composed in, er, 1982 by a fellow Shetlander, Arthur Scott Robertson, and the subject of the title was Willie Hunter’s father, fiddler Willie Hunter Senior. Both Robertson and Hunter Jr played more Scots music than Shetland style, and the influences of composers such as James Scott Skinner, J Murdoch Henderson and Airchie Allan are evident.

Robertson was a prolific composer but, like his predecessor William Marshall, many of his tunes require work and expertise, which may account for the fact that not more of his tunes are played in sessions. He didn’t use conventional categories for his tunes, so although I’ve called it a hornpipe (Hunter plays it with significant swing), it would be just as happy as a reel. Robertson’s own code for it was “AM”, meaning it was in 2/4 and it was to played “measured”.

Re: The Modest Fiddler

Learnt this from Jenna Reid back in 2008. She definitely played it swung like a hornpipe.
Thanks for the background info, Nigel.

Re: The Modest Fiddler

Arthur Scott Robertson published 5 books of his own compositions. The first 3 tunes in book 1 are the slow air, Nelly’s Favourite (for his wife) , The Modest Fiddler, and the march Arthur Scott Robertson. The first 2 tunes fitted neatly on the first page and the march fills a full page. Arthur was a neighbour of mine for some years and it is my belief that in his first book he intended these to be played as a set, with the march naturally in the middle. The Modest Fiddler was indeed measured, as a reel. He wrote it in 2/4 which gives it a lovely lift and feel. If it is in 4/4 as you have written it, the four beats in a bar make it rather laboured, unless of course it is played as a hornpipe.
I have used the set, as Arthur intended it, for pupils to play in the Young Fiddler of the Year competition, and it is an excellent set indeed!

Re: The Modest Fiddler

Thanks, fiddler71 - I’m enjoying reading your contributions to the site. A S Robertson was an early find of mine, thanks to my local record library when I was a teenager in Edinburgh, about two hundred years ago.

My setting of “The Modest Fiddler” comes from the recording of it by Willie Hunter, where he plays it after the slow air “John Roy Lyall” and before Willie’s own tune “Billy’s Welcome to Canon Park”. On that recording the latter two tunes are described as, and played as, hornpipes.

As far as reels in 2/4 and 4/4 are concerned - and this is probably my ignorance - I’ve never been able to distinguish between them.