Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Sailor's Hornpipe"

Common as a boffo stage performance and a fiddle tune in English and American traditions ... from BBC's annual Proms concerts to Popeye the Sailor Man.

Sailors Hornpipe

... flatpicked on two guitars

First a nice slow version, an amateur family group covering Mike Oldfield

And Mike Oldfield (who went on to more complex musical forms but shows some of his stuff this early) from Montreux in 1981.

... the last night of the Proms features English patriotic pieces, "Rule Brittania," etc., and very often "Sailor's Hornpipe" . ... from Henry Wood's 'Sea Songs', performed in Hartley Wintney in July 2008 by the Pelly Concert Orchestra, Leader Amanda Lake, Musical Director Christopher Braime.

In the abc files of O'Neill's at, two versions No. 1577 and No. 1578 both in D.
Kuntz has this in
SAILOR'S HORNPIPE [1]. AKA and see "College Hornpipe," “Duke William’s Hornpipe,” "Jack's the Lad [1]," "Lancashire Hornpipe [1]." English (originally), American; Reel, Hornpipe, or Breakdown. England, Northumberland. USA; New York, southwestern Pa., West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas. G Major (Most versions): D Major (Sweet): B Flat Major (Hardings, Seattle/Vickers). Standard tuning. AABB. Originally titled the "College Hornpipe" this melody became known as the "Sailor's Hornpipe" through its association with the performance of the hornpipe dance, typically performed on the stage in nautical costume (see notes for "College Hornpipe"). At the turn of the 18th century a sailor was a favorite character of the musical stage and the nautical theme became so associated with the dance that many hornpipes were generically labeled a 'sailor's hornpipe'. The dance itself features a distinctive 'side-cutting' step. The style retained its popularity throughout the century, and none‑less than J. Scott Skinner, the famous Scottish violinist who was also a dancing master, taught the dance at Elgin and other places to his pupils. George Emerson, in his article on the Hornpipe (Folk Music Journal, vol. 2, No. 1, 1970) finds an early reference:
***”at Drury lane, May 1740, Yates .. billed to perform a 'hornpipe in the character of Jacky Tar. There is no mention then or later of anyone performing 'the' or 'a' sailor's hornpipe. It is always a 'hornpipe in the character of a sailor'..”
As the "College Hornpipe" the tune was in print in 1797 or 1798 by J. Dale of London, and although the melody predates Dale's publication, the English antiquarian Chappell's editor dates it no earlier than the second half of the 18th century. Emerson suggests the comic ballet The Wapping Landlady (1767) was the source of the Sailor Hornpipe that was famously danced by the American dancer Durang for some twenty years at the end of the 18th century. The ballet featured the trials of Jack Tar ashore, and was choreographed by Arnold Fisher (of “Fisher’s Hornpipe” fame). See also note for “College Hornpipe” for more.
"Sailor's Hornpipe" was imported to North America where it entered traditional repertoire and became fairly widely known, still with its nautical connotations--so strong was the association, in fact, that it was selected as the theme song of a popular mid-20th century animated cartoon character, Popeye the Sailorman. Bronner (1987) reports the earliest known printing in the United States was in a publication by B. Carr entitled Evening Entertainments in the year 1796 (under the "College Hornpipe" title). Although the name "Sailor's Hornpipe" has been something of a floating title in the United States, it is probably the 'College' tune under this title which was cited as having commonly been played for country dances in Orange County, New York, in the 1930's (Lettie Osborn, New York Folklore Quarterly). Similarly in American tradition, it was played at a fiddle contest in Verbena, Alabama, in 1921 (as noted in the Union Banner of October 27, 1921), and also in another 1920's contest in Georgia by one R.L. Stephens of Camp Hill, Alabama (according to the Columbus (Ga.) Register of December 10‑12, 1926) {Cauthen, 1990}. The title also appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance
Mudcat Cafe has plenty of obscene lyrics in its thread Lyr Req: Sailor's Hornpipe - and this comment, which suggests it was used as a Civil War-era fife tune, which would fit:
Being from and representing Maine, of course the 3rd ME Regimental Field Music includes a version of this in our repitoire. The Drummers - especially our Bass (USN Ret' the way) - do a real bang-up (or should we say "boom-up) job of it! We performed it during our recent Independance Day Parade in famous old Shipbuilding port of Bath, ME, where it was a big hit. Our public "premiere" of the piece was during "Opsail 2000" in Portland, next to the USCG "Eagle".

We do it in the key of "G" (1 #) on Bb Military Fife, starting on high-register "G" (for those familiar with the fife/whistle family).

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