James Gannon’s Barndance
I noticed there weren’t too many barndances on thesession.org, this is a nice one that everyone might like as well.
- - - & Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia - - -
For sheet music and a couple of MP3s of this tune, by Michael Coleman, ‘Sligo fiddler’, and by Kinnon Beaton, a Cape Breton fiddler, check out the following link:
And from that webpage:
"First recorded on 78 disc by Michael Coleman, it has long been popular in Cape Breton (Angus Chishom, Mike MacDougall, Howie MacDonald, Kinnon Beaton etc). It was recently published in The Music of Corktown a book of traditional Irish music as played by Ed Reavy. In that book the tune is called The Merry Priest."
What’s a barndance?
- ? - Barndance - ? -
Well, let’s be loose about this. It is a tune in 4/4 time with a hornpipe skip throughout, and that lending itself well to triplets:
|(3BcB A>B e2 d>B|
It actually shares something with Varsoviennes, having a preponderance of longer notes, especially marking the end of phrases, defining the sort of dancing and steps that went along with the tune, usually couple dances:
|d2 c>A E3 E| & |G2 g2 g4||
|b2 d2 d3B| & |(3gag f>a g2 g2|
These things tend to get swallowed up once they are divorced from the dance that also shares that name and category. Within this term and form are the also close relatives of the Schottische and German, here mainly a distinction of the steps/dance, and really, you could, since there’s no category for it, include the ‘Highland Fling’(also known merely as ‘Highlands’ or ‘Flings’), which also share the skip of the hornpipe - all in the family… The Highlands are usually 16 bars, again defining the dances that they accompanied. So, barndances, schottisches, Germans are hornpipes with a pronounced bounce and strong phrase definition, usually two parts and 32 bars. As the dance was lost they tended to be molded to fit more of a hornpipe feel, or to even be called hornpipes because, well, they are damned close really, especially missing the clear distinction of dance forms once inseperable. Highlands suffered a worse fate, becoming a single reel. 😉 Well, some do a damned nice job of both. Try "Rolling in the Ryegrass" as a Fling, with that skip and bounce.
Another fate of these tunes without the dance was to become a party piece, losing the bounce and going all over the place in order to draw attention to technique and what the musician was capable of doing with the melody, usually a matter of quantity rather than quality, or as a few have been known to put it, smarmy. Yeah, I admit, a subjective statement. I’m not against concert pieces, but I like that ‘lift’ that so clearly marks these things as dance music, as opposed to the steam rolled result of speed without rhythm. For me rhythm is the life of dance music, not something to be lightly thrown away or neglected. Better slow than without that heartbeat.
I think the more ‘barndances’ you play, including those other things in that category, the more aware you are of the difference. I love hornpipes too, but I like those subtle, well, really for me not so subtle, differences between the various members of this family, 3/4 or 4/4. When you consider that skip, hey, it includes Mazurkas and Varsoviennes too.
Thanks! I’m now getting tantalizingly close to vaguely understanding all this barndance/schottische/highland stuff…ish…
the run "e2 dB|d2cA E3E" in the first part sounds like the opening run of The Flowers of Antrim hornpipe.
if I may add to ceolachan’s lights: Likewise tunes for the ‘Scottische’ dance are defined by the dancer’s moves: the musician must support their ‘2 hoppy side steps on one side, 2 hoppy side steps on the other + a swing on 4 steps’ pattern with: ‘4 staccato + 4 flowing beats’ (viz; 4 downbeats and 4 ‘swinging’ beats).
Away from the dance floor, these contrasting 8 beats often become undifferentiated: all- marching or all- reeling.
This also can help to explain why sometimes musicians and dancers don’t go for the same tunes. A lot of these barndances seem to lack ‘lift’ from the musician’s perspective but give the dancers the appropriate support.
I’ve heard this played with more accidentals
T: The Chaffpool Post
B2^AB e2dB|d2cA E2FG A^GAB cAFA|GABG D2B,2|
B2^AB e2dB|d2cA E2FG|A^GAB cAFA|1 G2GF G4:|2 G2g2 g3f||
|:e^def gfga|b2d2 d3B|cBAB cdef|g2B2 gagf|
e^def gfga|b2d2 d3B|cBAB cAFA|1 G2g2 g3f:|2 G2GF G4||
Sorry about the mysterious disappearing barline…
James Gannon/”Cape Breton Hornpipe,” X:4
As played by the late Mike MacDougall on his "Tape for Father Hector." It’s the second tune in a set of Gmaj hornpipes and clogs, closing out the set with a Gmaj reel. The cassette notes simply list this one as "Cape Breton Hornpipe" even though the tune that he’s playing is "James Gannon’s."
From Alan Snyder’s Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index: