Wednesday, June 15, 2011

St Basil's Hymn - Greek Christmas/New Year's song for hammered dulcimer

A nice Christmas piece in E minor for hammered dulcimer ... adapted by Malcolm Dalglish from a Greek children's song sung on New Year's Day ... part of the Orthodox Christmas and New Year's celebration (St. Basil's Day is Jan. 1), very similar to the "starring" carol-singing during Russian Orthodox Christmas in Alaska.

A couple of versions follow, one for HD and two of the original song from Greece:
  • Ann Robinson: St. Basil's Hymn, Hammered Duclimer - hrpplayer - on a very interesting YouTube channel at - by a harp and hammered dulcimer player who also has several clips of Ken Bloom playing bowed dulcimer ... and a nice harpish sound to her HD pieces, including "Jesu Thou Joy of Man's Desiring."
  • Κλασικά Πρωτοχρονιάς - kalanta - Audio of a recording of an up-tempo children's choir singing in Greek. Uploaded by kalanta2008 on Dec 30, 2008a. No other information available in English.
  • St. Basil carols (kalanta) in Upatras 1-1-2007 stylianosm - Children singing the carols (in greek: kalanta) of St. Basil the Great in the entrance of the Church of the University of Patras dedicated to the Holy Three Hierarchs after the holy liturgy on 1-1-2007. Amateur footage and very nice. Tempo is as lively as you can get when very young children are singing.
Best source of information on the music, as always is the Mudcat Cafe thread: - "Lyr Req: St. Basils Hymn" - which includes this post by Mudcat contributor Joe Offer:

I went under my bed and dug out the Christmas CD's and found Winston's wonderful December album- Winston says his tune "Minstrels" was inspired by St. Basil's Hymn, a traditional Greek children's New Year's carol based upon a rendition by Malcolm Dalglish, from his Flying Fish album, Thunderhead.
For background the Greek children's carol, see the Byzantine Texas website (Josephus Flavius, Fort Worth), which has several good links -

One of them is the Greek Songs - Greek Music website ... which explains:

The most common version of Greek carols for the New year are the one called "Arhminia kai arhihronia" which translates to It’s the beginning of the month, beginning of the year.

The Greek carol songs are a particular type of songs in Greek music, belonging to the folk tradition. We are not certain about their origins and their lyric writer - as with all folk songs, the creators are actually unknown.
New Year's Day is St. Basil's Day in the Orthodox calendar. Lyrics, in translation:

It’s the beginning of the month, beginning of the year
High incense tree
Beginning of my good year
Church with the Holy Seat

It’s the beginning of our Christ
Saint and spiritual
He got out to walk on earth
And to welcome us

St. Basil is coming
From Caesaria
And doesn't want to deal with us
May you long live, my lady
He holds (St. Basil) an icon and a piece of paper
With the picture of Christ our Savior
A piece of paper and a quill
Please look at me, the young man.
If some of the lines sound a little odd in a Christmas carol, that's because there's another song embedded in the carol. Explains the Greek Songs-Greek Music website:
... the folk tradition reveals us that this Greek carol song has actually disguised 2 songs in one. Of course there are all about greetings and wishes, but almost every second lyric there is a reference to a love story.

The story takes place in the 17th century - more or less: A young man who is in love with a noble woman has the idea to express his love in the only way he can: creating a song that communicates his message disguised within love lyrics: Please look at me, the young man, he sings to his noble woman, calling her tall and beautiful like a high incense tree, a noble woman that doesn't deal with him because he is of a different social status.

It's actually quite interesting how the lyrics reveal the truth if you pay close attention, but still they are considered part of the Orthodox tradition - as if the love story of the lyrics in these Greek carols doesn't exist!
More background: The Christmas and New Year's Celebrations website has this: "old New Year’s Eve tradition encourages children and adults to go from house to house, singing carols called kalanda," cf. starring in Alaska ... a good summary on the St. Herman Theological Seminary website (scroll down to Following the Star - 01/08/11):
Throughout Alaska Orthodox Christians "follow the star," a brightly decorated Star of Bethlehem with an icon of Nativity as its center, proclaiming that "Christ is born" to the homes of communities with traditional hymns and carols. Although caroling--and starring--originated in the Ukraine and is done in central Europe as well, it spread to Alaska a century ago and now is identified as a tradition of Native Orthodox Christians in Alaska. As we go from house to house in the days following the liturgical celebration of the birth of Christ--"God with us"--we remember the ancient prophecy that "a star will come forth from Jacob" (Numbers 24:17) to shine the light of God upon the nations of the world for our salvation. "Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the Light of Wisdom. For by it those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness and to adore Thee, the Orient from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee" (troparion of Nativity). Christ is born! Glorify Him!
To hear a a public radio program on Russian Orthodox Christmas in Anchorage with a group of singing a Slavonic carol in the background, go to my Hogfiddle post of Sept. 22, 2006 and follow the link.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Shepherd's Hey"

A morris dance tune ... collected by Cecil J. Sharp from the playing of the fiddler of the Bidford Morris dancers (1906) and arranged in various settings Percy Aldridge Grainger.

  • Shepherds Hey Ravensthorpe
    FiddlerNick - Moulton Morris Men dancing Shepherds Hey from Ravensthorpe (Northants). The dance and its tune were collected by Revd Watkins-Pitchford from an old dancer from the Ravensthorpe side in the early 1900's and the details lay in Percy Grainger's papers in Melbourne until they were unearthed by Barry Care in 2004. Recorded Adderbury Club Day, Sep 09 2007 [stick dance w/ fiddle and box].
  • Shepherd's Hey Morris Dance at Kintbury May Day
    juliacrobinson - Kintbury villagers join in to celebrate May Day! Kintbury Morris and the Garston Gallopers lead the way with Derek Shaw on melodeon:
  • Cumberland Morris Men perform Shepherd's Hey
    allybeag - A somewhat slow version of this famous dance! Cockermouth Christmas Lights switch-on 2007 [with vocal chorus].

Grainger's versions include a tour de force band piece and an impossible-to-dance-to piano arrangement:
  • Shepherds Hey, English Morris Dance, Percy Grainger, SWO Symphonic Wind Orchestra, SYO A1okEZ - "Shepherds Hey" English Morris Dance by Percy Grainger. Performed by the Symphonic Wind Orchestra, conducted by Russell Hammond. The SWO is for wind, brass and percussion musicians aged 14 - 22 years. ... Recorded live on 20 March 2010 at the Sydney Youth Orchestras SYO Autumn Concert at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Australia.
  • Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961): Shepherd's Hey
    d60944 - Percy Grainger is a fairly well-known composer, and his interest in collecting and arranging folksongs is also well known. As well as his compositional activities, he was a very fine pianist. No lesser a figure than Grieg transferred his endorsement as the finest interpretater of his own music to Grainger after they met a few years before Grieg's death ... / This recording is of a folksong arrangement by Grainger, and it was recorded by him in 1908. / I particularly like - and am fascinated by - the large degree of "swing" injected into the playing. Stride jazz piano was developing at this time too, and the sort of swing is approaching that (later jazz sort of merged the swung rhythm into a more strict 4/4=12/8, whereas the earlier swung rhythms from the 1910s through 20s were only around halfway toward this outright tripletting effect).

Excerpts from an article by Jonathan Brown in The Independent [London] that gives a good history of morris dancing along with a first-person beginner's account. "Hell's bells! The joy of Morris Dancing" Sept. 21, 2009:
I am standing in a Scout hut on a rainy Wednesday night in a leafy suburb of York, preparing to be initiated in to the ways of morris. Few would imagine that danger is at hand. Morris dancing – with its tinkling bells, clink of pewter tankards and brightly-clad participants – evokes the timeless, gentle charm of an English village. ...

* * *

The good ladies of the Acorn Morris, York's first all-female team (who have been strutting their stuff since 1977), have already nurse-maided me through a gentle Shepherd's Hey – really a dance for children but deemed suitable for a beginner such as myself – before progressing to the slightly more vigorous Brighton Camp, which involves some enjoyable knee-slapping and culminates in a satisfying gurn. I am also allowed to backswagger and caper (these are technical terms) along to a (for me) rather demanding Jenny Lind Polka, named in honour of the celebrated Victorian opera singer known as the Swedish Nightingale and still widely venerated in morris circles.

* * *

To see the Acorn team dance the Skirmish [a lively stick dance] is to forget the tedious old instruction of Sir Thomas Beecham about morris dancing and incest being two of life's more optional leisure interests and instead seek out the stirring description of Philip Stubbs, the 16th-century pamphleteer. Writing in his The Anatomie of Abuses (1583), a sort of Elizabethan version of the Daily Mail which excoriated the declining state of England and the degenerate behaviour of its people, Stubbs turns the full force of his censorious quill on the morris men: "They strike up the Devil's Dance withall: then march this heathen company towards the church and churchyards, their pypers pyping, the drummers thundering, their stumpes dancing, their belles jyngling, their hankercheefes fluttering about their heads like madde men." More than four centuries later, they are still doing so; in fact, the pastime appears to gaining popularity.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

"Carolan's Draught"

Three versions from YouTube:

Carolan's Draught
kenhardtofind - in Japan - playing hammered dulcimer at slow tempo -

Carolan's Draught - Finger Picking
jeanbanwarth - "Recueil de tablatures (+ partions) disponible à partir de la boutique en ligne de MusTraDem.
Tabs book (+ scores) avalaible on line from MusTraDem website.
Turlough O'Carolan / Arr. Jean Banwarth. Tablature Trad Magazine n° 120. Accordage : EADGBE"

The Irish Group - O'Carolan's Draught
celteast - Gitar Cafe Concert in Istanbul - mandolin, guitar (and bodhran on 2nd number in set)
Personnel, per YouTube channel:
Nilufer Ketenci-Fiddle
Feride Sofugil-Tin Whistle, Low Whistle, Mandolin
Ayhan Unal-Acoustic Guitar

Later: Fiachra plays 'O Carolan's Draught' on the Irish harp. Arrangement by Fiachra Ó Corragáin.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

"John Stenson's No. 2" (in D-for-dulcimer and in the original key of A)

Two threads in The Session ... in the first at, user murfbox writes, "The Stensons are relatives of Kevin Burke and live in Co. Sligo. John Stenson was a box player and Kevin learned the tune from him." In the second at, CeadurMawnOrganig writes, "This is the second John Stenson's reels played by Kevin Burke on 'If The Cap Fits'. He includes the two reels in a 3-tune set starting with a G-dorian setting of The Star of Munster."

A couple of versions on YouTube featuring mountain dulcimer:
  • John Stinson's #2
    FlatMountainDulcimer "... mountain dulcimer performing group out of eastern North Carolina, playing mountain music in the flatlands of the southeast" [description from their YouTube channel].
  • Bing Futch & Jt Taylor - John Stinson's #2 (Part 2)
    reddhawk1964 - Portage Dulcimer Day Concert 2010, Portage Pa, 7/3/2010

And three for hammered dulcimer:
  • Evart2010 John Stinson's #2
    GingerJaneM - A late-night jam at the hammered dulcimer festival in Evart, Mich.
  • rickthum John Stenson's #2 and Hangman's Reel - Rockford, MI Concert Rick Thum does a couple of his favorite tunes at the concert in Rockford, MI, November 2009. Ken Kaiser backed him up on guitar.
  • John Stenson's #2 - Midland 2010 - Kaiser Family Band
    KenKaiser "The Kaiser Family Band performs at the Saturday night stage show at the Midland Folk Music Festival in Midland, Michigan on August 27, 2010. Be sure to check them out at!"

John Stinson #2 banjojudy Mary Z. and Bob Cox play John Stinson #2 at the Albuquerque Folk Festival, June 21, 2008.

Kevin Burke - If The Cap Fits - 5 -The Star of Munster, John Stenson's no. 1, John Stenson's no. 2 [starts at 2:00] fujenti
Kevin Burke - If the Caps Fits (1978)
Recorded in Ireland in the late 70's, and still seen by many as one of the most innovative, refreshing and influential fiddle recordings ever made.

Kevin Burke: fiddle
Peter Browne: flute, uilleann pipes
Jackie Daly: accordion
Paul Brady: mandolin, piano
Donal Lunny: bouzouki
Gerry O'Beirne: slide guitar
Micheal O'Domhnaill: guitar