Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Soldier's Joy": New tune for April @ Prairieland Strings and Clayville

We've had a request for "Soldier's Joy," and I've located dulcimer tab for our "first Tuesday" session of the Prairieland Strings on April 1. It's one of the grand old fiddle tunes, and we'll introduce it at Saturday's session of the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music, too. It's on the Music Roots slow-jam program's website out of Mountain View, Ark., and it's a very playable version of one of the grand old fiddle tunes:

Along with the dulcimer tab, Music Roots has a lead sheet with guitar chords. PDF files of both are available in the directory of tab for beginners at:

Among other lyrics cited in Andrew Kunz' online Fiddlers Companion are these:

Chicken in the bread tray scratchin' out dough,
Granny will your dog bite? No, child, no.
Ladies to the center and gents to the bar,
Hold on you don't go too far.


Grasshopper sittin on a sweet potato vine, (x3)
Along come a chicken and says she's mine.


I'm a‑gonna get a drink, don't you wanna go? (x3)
Hold on Soldier's Joy.


Love somebody, yes I do, (x3)
Love somebody but I won't say who.


I am my mama's darling child (x3)
And I don't care for you.


Dance all night, fiddle all day,
That's a Soldier's Joy. (Kuntz)

Here are couple of YouTube clips:

One shows the Athens, Ala., Dulcimer Jam Group playing in unison ...

And here's a good basic festival version on fiddle and guitar. (When you hear people talking about the "festival version," it means the standard, fleet-model, no-frills version of a tune.) Says Wilmer Kerns, who played guitar and posted it to YouTube, "This is a basic version of the fiddle tune for those who are interested in learning it. Variations of this oldtime tune may be traced back as far as the late 1600s.Texans play it differently than players in Southern Appalachia and from those in New England and Nova Scotia. Sometimes it is played with so many embellishments that the tune is hardly recognizable."

And a 1929 recording, with lyrics, by Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, on the PreservationHall101 website:

Preservation Hall 101 gives this background on Gid Tanner, whose recorded version became pretty much the standard in 20th-century America:

James Gideon Tanner, fiddler extraordinaire and comedian, was born at Thomas Bridge, Georgia in 1885. His old time fiddle music was to become one of the ingredients of modern country and western music as formulated by Jimmie Rodgers in the early 1930s. The Skillet Lickers were very influential in the 1920s-30s building the bridge that connected Appalachian folk music to modern popular music and gave respectability to the formerly ridiculed "hillbilly" music. The band of crazy geniuses consisted of blind Riley Puckett-guitar (and vocals on this recording); Clayton McMichen-fiddle ; Fate Norris-banjo; and chicken farmer Gid Tanner-fiddle. McMichen's voice can be heard at the intro saying "Well folks, here we are again . . ." Tanner memorized the words and music to over 2000 fiddle tunes but couldn't read a note of music.. Tanner, at age 38, and Puckett made their first recordings (duets) for Columbia as early as 1924 in New York. They had been coaxed to those 1924 sessions by Frank Walker of Columbia and their sessions pre-dated recordings of early pioneers such as Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family by several years. The first records cut as The Skillet Lickers were produced in Atlanta, Georgia in 1926. The Skillet Lickers recorded sporadically with different musicians making up the band and when they disbanded in '34, they had made around 100 records for Columbia and Bluebird.
But the tune is much older than that. Andrew Kunz has this at
SOLDIER'S JOY [1] (Lutgair An Sigeadoir/t-Saigdiura). AKA and see "French Four" [2], "I Am My Mamma's Darlin' Child," “John White,” "The King's Head," "The King's Hornpipe [1]," "(I) Love Somebody [1]," "Payday in the Army," "Rock the Cradle Lucy." Old‑Time, Bluegrass, American, Canadian, English, Irish, Scottish; Breakdown, Scottish Measure, Hornpipe, Reel, Country Dance and Morris Dance Tune. D Major (almost all versions): G Major (Bacon, Bayard‑Simmons). Standard or ADae (Edden Hammons) tunings. AB (Athole, Bayard‑Simmons, Shaw): AABB (most versions): ABCDE (Cooke {Ex. 54}). One of, if not the most popular fiddle tune in history, widely disseminated in North America and Europe in nearly every tradition; as Bronner (1987) perhaps understatedly remarks, it has enjoyed a "vigorous" life. There is quite a bit of speculation on just what the name ‘soldier’s joy’ refers to. Proffered thoughts seem to gravitate toward money and drugs. In support of the latter is the 1920’s vintage Georgia band the Skillet Lickers, who sang to the melody:


Well twenty-five cents for the morphine,
and fifteen cents for the beer.
Twenty-five cents for the old morphine
now carry me away from here.


Bayard (1981) dates it to "at least" the latter part of the 18th century, citing a version that has become standard in James Aird's 1778 collection (vol. 1, No. 109) and Skillern's 1780 collection (pg. 21). London publishers Longman and Broderip included it in their Entire New and Compleat Instructions for the Fife in 1785. Kate Van Winkler Keller (1992) says that the hornpipe “Soldier’s Joy” appeared with a song in London in about 1760. John Glen (1891) and Francis Collinson (1966) maintain the first appearance in print of this tune is in Joshua Campbell's 1778 A Collection of the Newest and Best Reels and Minuets with improvements. It has been attributed to Campbell himself but Collinson notes it is hardly likely as it is a well known folk dance tune in other countries of Europe. There is also a dance by the same name which is "one of the earliest dances recorded in England, but no date of origin has been established. It is still done in Girton Village as part of a festival dance. The tune is also well known in Ireland" (Linscott, 1939). The melody was used in North‑West England morris dance tradition for a polka step, and also is to be found in the Cotswold morris tradition where it appears as "The Morris Reel," collected from the village of Headington, Oxfordshire. Scots national poet Robert Burns set some verses to the tune which were published in his Merry Muses of Caledonia. In the first song of Burns' cantata, The Jolly Beggars, by the soldier, is to the tune of “Soldier's Joy.” Early versions of "Soldier's Joy" can be traced to a Scottish source as far back as 1781; variants can be found in Scandinavia, the French Alps, and Newfoundland (Linda Burman‑Hall, "Southern American Folk Fiddle Styles," Ethnomusicology, vol. 19, #1, Jan. 1975). Jean-Paul Carton identifies a version of “Soldier’s Joy” in the tablature manuscript of French fiddler Pierre Martin, dating from around 1880. He says: “I find (Martin’s) version of Soldier’s Joy—simply referred to as Été [a type of dance], tab #132—surprisingly close to some of the American versions, including the bowing, which is indicated in the tab.” [Reference: Claude Ribouillault, Violon du Poitou, Répertoire de danses en tablatures (Cahier de Pierre Martin, vers 1880), UPCP-Métive, Les Cahiers du CERDO No. 1, CPCP-Métive: 2003].

And this:
In America the melody is ubiquitous. Early printings of the melody are in Benjamin and Joseph Carr’s Evening Amusement (Philadelphia, 1796), Joshua Cushing’s Fifer’s Companion (Salem, Mass., 1804) and Daniel Steele’s New and Compleat Preceptor for the Flute (Albany, 1815). It 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), and Bronner (1987) confirms it was a popular piece at New York square dances in the early 20th century. The title appears in a repertoire list of Norway, Maine, fiddler Mellie Dunham (the elderly Dunahm {b. 1853} was Henry Ford's champion fiddler in the late 1920's). Musicologist Charles Wolfe (1982) says it was popular with Kentucky fiddlers. The tune was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, from the playing of Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940's, and, for the same institution by Herbert Halpert in 1939 from the playing of Mississippi fiddlers John Hatcher, W.E. Claunch and Stephen B. Tucker. Fiddler and outdoorsman Leizime Brusoe (Rhinelander, Wisconsin), born in Canada around 1870, recorded it on 78 RPM under the title “French Four,” which was actually the name of the dance he usually played it for. “Soldier’s Joy” is one of ‘100 essential Missouri tunes’ listed by Missouri fiddler Charlie Walden. It was also recorded by legendary Galax fiddler Emmett Lundy, and is listed as one of the tunes played at a fiddlers' convention at the Pike County Fairgrounds, Alabama (as recorded in the Troy Herald of July 6, 1926) {Cauthen, 1990}. Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner said: "Every fiddler plays this. Some not so good" (Shumway). Howe (c. 1867) and Burchenal (1918) print a New England contra dances of the same name with the tune. Tommy Jarrell, the influential fiddler from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, told Peter Anick in 1982 that it was a tune he learned in the early 1920's when he first began learning the fiddle, at which time it was known as "I Love Somebody" in his region. Soon after it was known in Mt. Airy as "Soldier's Joy" and, after World War II, as "Payday in the Army." Another North Carolina fiddler, African-American Joe Thompson, played the tune in CFgd tuning. Gerald Milnes (1999, pg. 12) remarks that tune origins were of significant value to West Virginia musicians who often tried to trace tunes to original sources. It was the first tune learned by Randolph County, W.Va., fiddler Woody Simmons (b. 1911). Braxton County fiddler Melvin Wine (1909-1999), says Milnes, used family lore to attribute the tune to his great-grandfather, Smithy Wine, of Civil War era. Smithy, it seems, had been detained by the Confederates in Richmond under charges of aiding Union soldiers. Although imprisoned, his captors found out he was a fiddler and made him play for a dance, and Smithy later associated the tune with this incident, calling it “Soldier’s Joy.” For further information see Bayard's (1944) extensive note on this tune and tune family under "The King's Head." During a Senate campaign in the 1960's the piece was played to crowds by Albert Gore Sr., the fiddling father of the Vice President during the Clinton administration (Wolfe, 1997).
And much, much more. I first learned the tune on dulcimer from Betty Smith of western North Carolina as a children's song with lyrics "I love somebody, yes I do."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Knoxville (2 of 2): Dialog at KADC meeting about East Tennessee craftsmen, and a graphic timeline of American dulcimers and related European folk zithers


Second of two posts on my recent presentation to the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club. In the first post, I reacted to changes in "scruffy, little" downtown Knoxville and a live music broadcast on public radio station WDVX.

I've had plenty of lively audiences in small towns and community college campuses for the Illinois Humanities Council's "Road Scholars" program, and I've presented academic papers to some knowledgeable audiences over the years. But I can't remember when I've felt like I connected with an audience as much as I did last weekend at the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club's March meeting.

We were talking about dulcimers, of course. And when you get 45 or 50 people in a room who play the same relatively obscure musical instrument, good things happen.

Our discussion even crossed the Atlantic Ocean, as we talked about where the Appalachian dulcimer fits into a tradition of European folk zithers. It's a subject I've been known to get fanatical about, and KADC member Dave Holton of Clinton, Tenn., has graciously allowed me to reproduce a timeline prepared for the Rocky Mountain Dulcimer Club during the 1990s. It suggests how the instruments have evolved over the centuries.

Timeline showing development of folk zithers, from German scheitholt, 1618 (at lower left), to Tennessee music box (upper right) and Kentucky dulcimer by Edward Thomas, 1871 (lower right). For detailed explanation of timeline, see discussion at end of post.

When I was living in East Tennessee during the 1970s, nothing like KADC existed. We had a lively traditional Appalachian music scene, of course, and those of us who played the dulcimer had records by Jean Ritchie and Richard and Mimi Farina we could listen to. I remember learning "Waterbound" up in Cumberland Gap from John McCutcheon, and taking part in another mountain dulcimer workshop at a festival in Cosby -- I forget who led it -- but the idea of playing the dulcimer with a group of people hadn't yet occurred to anybody I knew.

Mostly we were self-taught, and we played by ear. When I'm on the road now, I hear the same tunes at dulcimer jams almost everywhere I go -- like "Nutfactory Shuffle" and "June Apple" in D Mixolydian -- but back in the day I'd play the songs I heard on the radio or concerts at the Laurel Theatre, from Donovan's "Colors" and "Old Dog Blue" to the Cas Walker theme song ("Pick up your morning paper when it hits the street …"). I even worked out "Jesu Thou Joy of Man's Desiring" drone-noter style, which was probably a desecration but fun to play.

I was singing out of the New Harp of Columbia with a group from the Epworth ministry in the Fort Sanders community at the time, and I learned to love playing the old shape-note hymns in DAA. The harmonies were dark and sweet, and they reminded me of sourwood honey. Metaphors aside, the open-fifth drone with the tonic on the third fret is especially well suited to the shape-note tunes, with their harmonies built on intervals of a fourth and a fifth.

Come to think of it, I was playing the mountain dulcimer "primarily as a solo instrument," to quote Ralph Lee Smith, and "generally in the home." I don't want to raise what I did to the level of a general principle, but that's how it was traditionally played before the folk revival. It has clearly evolved since then.

Almost none of which I even mentioned at the KADC meeting!

Instead I demonstrated how instruments in my collection made in Kentucky evolved from a three-string 1966 Jethro Amburgey, with wire staples under the melody string, and my 1971 Homer Ledford with transitional fret placement, to a contemporary Warren May with guitar-style frets that lends itself to the chord-melody style of playing now current. Then I opened the floor to questions.

And the Q&A, as always, was when things began to get interesting.

We reminisced about the late Dorsey Williams of Jefferson City, whom I regard as my first teacher, and who was a charter member of KADC in the 90s. Dorsey had a dulcimer he'd painted red-white-and-blue for the Bicentennial festivals in 1976, and it remained a trademark the rest of his days. He was a great teacher and a born showman (click here for a picture, that unfortunately shows his dulcimer in black-and-white), along with other East Tennessee craftsmen of the 1960s and 70s.

Something I'd never heard before, but a couple of different KADC folks recalled, was a tradition or legend that the hearts on a mountain dulcimer were a symbol of love or fertility, and the curves on an hourglass dulcimer were somehow suggestive, almost risqué. One asked me to hold up a dulcimer to demonstrate, and I jumped back half embarrassed when he asked me to imagine what I was holding and where I was touching her! They also said they'd heard women played hourglass dulcimers with hearts while men played teardrop dulcimers or instruments with sound holes in the shape of pine trees. Folklore? Imaginative salesmanship? A mixture of both?

We talked about when the dulcimer came to East Tennessee, and I had to conclude it was with artisans of the 1960s and 70s who saw the instrument selling like hotcakes at Southern Highland Craft Guild outlets and craft fairs. Even earlier, it was picked up by settlement schools and handicraft centers, so it was part of the revival of southern Appalachian culture from the 1930s on.

A timeline of dulcimers and European folk zithers

One thing that came clear, I think, both in my talk and Dave Holton's diagram was that until quite recently dulcimers and other folk zithers have been played on one melody string, with the other strings left open to sound as drones.

Let's take another look at the timeline -- I've copied a detail from it at left. It shows Praetorius' schietholt, a French épinette and a Swedish hummel. See how the frets don't go all the way across the body of the instruments? That's because they were designed to be fretted under the melody string. That's how Jethro Amburgey fretted his instruments right up to the end of his career in the 1970s.

The other instruments in Dave's complete timeline represent an 18th-century Norwegian langeleik (above the timeline); a Pennsylvania Dutch zither, or scheitholt, dated 1788; another scheitholt from the East Coast dated 1832 (above), a Virginia dulcimer also dated 1832 (below); a Charles Prichard dulcimer from West Virginia from about the time of the Civil War; a Tennessee music box (above); and a dulcimer by Uncle Ed Thomas of Kentucky, who started making them about 1871.

Who knows? A lot of Pennsylvania Germans migrated to Appalachia, and East Tennessee is still full of rural communities still named "Dutch Valley" where they settled. Elsewhere I have suggested the dulcimer was as much a German gift to southern Appalachian culture as "apple butter, the Kentucky rifle, sauerkraut and cantilevered barns." Maybe someday an old scheitholt will turn up in a barn around Knoxville. At the very least, it's an example of how European folk traditions were changed -- "creolized" is the technical word -- when they were picked up by people of diverse cultural backgrounds in America.

More background follows on the dulcimer's European antecedents, excerpted from my article "Drones, picks and Popsicle sticks" formerly posted to the Everything Dulcimer website:

… [The dulcimer is] part of a large family of related box zithers once played in an arc that extends from the mountains of southern Germany and France through Belgium, the Low Countries and the North Sea coast through northern Germany into Denmark and Sweden.

The dulcimer’s closest European cousin is variously known in German as a zitter (the generic word for a zither) or scheitholt; in French as an épinette des Vosges (for the Vosges mountains where it is found); in Flemish as a Noordsche balk (which translates roughly as a wooden beam from the Nordic countries); and in Dutch, German and Swedish as a hommel or hummel, depending on the language and dialect. (The word “hummel” also means “bumblebee,” so if you’re using Google’s automatic translator, you don’t want to be too literal-minded when it says to stroke the bumblebee! It’s a reference to the resonant, buzzing drone of a box zither played well.) In general, the European zithers are diatonic, like traditional Appalachian dulcimers, and they’re very often tuned to intervals of a fifth, corresponding to our DAA tuning on the dulcimer. They’re usually fretted like a traditional dulcimer, too, either by using a noter or finger-walking up and down the melody string.

Like most folk instruments, they’re played by ear. When he taught [in 2009] at Western Carolina University’s dulcimer week, German luthier Wilfried Ulrich shared a joke that could apply just as well to traditional Appalachian dulcimer players.

“You want to stop a piano player?” Ulrich said. “Take away his sheet music. You want to stop a hummel player? Give him some sheet music.”

The influential 17th-century German composer Michael Praetorius included the instrument he called a scheitholt in his catalog titled Syntagma Musicum, but he dismissed it as a ragged, lower-class instrument (a lumpeninstrumente, using a notoriously hard-to-translate word with unsavory connotations). Whatever he called it, the instrument appears to have evolved by adding resonant drone strings to the monochords or one-stringed zithers that medieval monks used to keep their singing on pitch. Ulrich said early scheitholts, like the surviving monochords, typically were “made from three or five thin pieces of wood put together in a bad way,” and he thinks Praetorius’ term originated as a joke. “It means nothing else but firewood,” he explained at Western Carolina. “Perhaps when Mr. Praetorius saw [a scheitholt], he said, ‘What’s that? It looks like firewood.’” At any rate, the name stuck.

Over time and by degrees, the instrument evolved into the concert zither, and it attained some degree of respectability, at least as a folk instrument. Published references to the instrument are few and far between, especially when compared to the fiddle or the bagpipe. If we can generalize on the basis of a few literary references, the people who played it were more likely to call it a hummel. But learned authors and musicians don’t appear to have been overly familiar with folk music, and Praetorius’ name for the instrument is still widely used.

When we do find printed references to box zithers being played, they are described as being played by working-class people, although often in terms that appear to derive from Praetorius. This leads Andreas Michel, who has written about scheitholts and other early folk zithers for a museum of musical instruments at the University of Leipzig, to suspect a “literary tradition” rather than one grounded in the oral tradition of a folk community. For example Michel cites novelist Johann Müller of Hamburg in northern Germany, who in 1779 wrote of a maid singing “sweet arias,” accompanied by a kitchen maid (Küchennymphe) playing a hummel. Even in translation, it sounds as literary and contrived as any of our homegrown airy nothings about damsels with dulcimers in Kentucky.

By way of contrast, Michel notes that Hortense Panum, a Danish scholar who cataloged medieval stringed instruments, wrote of an itinerant musician named “Karsten mit der Hommel” who went from village to village in Schleswig-Holstein playing at farmers’ dances during the mid-1800s. In fact, there was a lively tradition of playing the box zithers at dances along the North Sea coast from Holland through Germany into Denmark and Sweden. But Panum described the instrument in terms she got verbatim from Praetorius.

While the scheitholt and hummel were never played widely in Germany and according to Wikipedia the related épinette des Vosges was played only in scattered pockets in France, box zithers were fairly popular in the low countries and along the North Sea coast. In Belgium and around Ulrich’s home in East Frisia, a living musical tradition lingered into the European folk revival of the 20th century. In recent years a modest interest has arisen in bringing back the old traditions, inspired in part by the popularity of the American dulcimer.

In a series of meticulously researched essays on music in the time of 17th-century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer, Adelheid Rech notes that the hommel (to use the Dutch and Flemish spelling) “still enjoys considerable popularity in folk orchestras” in Belgium and once was widely played in Holland as well. As in Appalachia, the hommel was often played by women. Rech adds:

The hommel was primarily played in the privacy of the family circle of the lower classes. The great majority of the players were farmers, craftsmen or itinerant tradesmen who played at the fairs, and in years to come, factory workers. It is indeed the only folk instrument played by women, and more than half of the hommel-players still known by name today, are women.

The hommel was also known over the centuries as a soldier’s instrument, and it had other uses as well. It was sometimes used to support congregational singing before organs were widely available, and Rech says a Flemish museum destroyed in the World War I battle of Ypres “once housed a large hommel from the 17th century that substituted [for] a church organ.”

As Rech notes, the hommel is enjoying a revival in Belgium. ...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Knoxville (1 of 2): Scruffy little musical city

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Visiting Knoxville over the weekend for the first time in several years, I was happy to learn it’s still a scruffy little river city. Visibly gentrifying, yes, but recognizably the same town I left 30 years ago.

I was in town for a Sunday afternoon meeting of the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club, where I presented a program on antique mountain dulcimers, and I came a day early to visit old friends and take in a live broadcast at alternative public radio station WDVX.

Sunday's presentation was more of a two-way conversation than other talks I've given -- as one KADC member said, the audience was made up of people who are a little bit fanatical about playing the dulcimer -- and I learned some interesting things about craftsmen in East Tennessee, including my early mentors, as well as dulcimer history in general. Click here for more about KADC, dulcimers and other things that matter.

Knoxville has always been a flourishing venue for live music – where performers like Roy Acuff and Dolly Parton got their start – and Saturday’s noontime radio show featured two up-and-coming roots bands from North Carolina. I felt like that tradition was in good hands.

But what blew me away was the change in downtown Knoxville.

On Market Square where I remembered a jumble of cut-rate clothing stores, record shops and Blue Circle diners when I was growing up in the nearby town of Norris during the 50s, that later morphed into a struggling inner-city pedestrian mall during my grad school days at the University of Tennessee, the square was alive with sidewalk cafes, street musicians and kids lined up to visit face painters and balloon twisters. Just walking to and from the WDVX studio in the nearby Knoxville Visitors Center, I noticed a jazz saxophonist, a violinist and a euphonium or tuba player busking. And there wasn’t a festival or anything else in particular going on -- it was just a sunny Saturday morning on one of the first warm days in spring.

Downtown Knoxville, my friends told me, has reinvented itself in recent years as upscale younger couples move into condos in its former banks and office buildings. So it has developed the street life I noticed, and, I think, perhaps a firmer sense of the town’s history – scruffy or otherwise – than I remember from the 1960s and 70s when I was studying history and English at UT.

We ate in a sidewalk café in the Woodruff’s building, which I remember from my childhood as a hardware and furniture store. It now boasts a microbrewery, historical photos and worn hardwood floors that appear to be original. Across the street, the old Miller’s Building, erected in 1905, has been renovated down (or up) to the Beaux Arts-style statues on the cornice. I remember it as an old-fashioned department store with a mezzanine and a tearoom where my mother liked to spend time, to my intense annoyance, when I was a kid. (Seems like it also carried official Boy Scout uniforms, but I'm not sure about that anymore.) It now houses the Knoxville Utility Board. Overall the vibes reminded me of the gentrification in places like Brooklyn and Asheville, N.C.

That night, we looked in on a benefit concert for the Joy of Music School, which offers free music lessons through the city’s Boys and Girls Clubs. The cause was worthy. A couple of what I would characterize as garage bands were playing. And I was reminded – perhaps a little too much – of bluegrass nights at Buddy’s Barbecue back in the 70s and some of the live music venues I frequented on Cumberland Avenue as a UT student. But it was awfully noisy, and we headed on to a more sedate venue where us old-timers could talk.

'Scruffy Little City'

When Knoxville hosted the 1982 World's Fair, a writer for The Wall Street Journal described it as "a scruffy little city on the Tennessee River" and wondered how it could ever host an international exhibition. That angered the good and the great of the city, but a lot of us enjoyed the remark -- more, perhaps, than we should have.

And the name stuck.

When I visited over the weekend, I was delighted to see a Market Square bar called Scruffy City Hall, and ads around town for T-shirts that say "Keep Knoxville Scruffy." After all, the town's been called worse, according to a survey of traveler's descriptions from 1797 to 2012 by local historian Jack Neely, who is also an associate editor of Knoxville's alternative weekly Metro Pulse. And the accolade still fits.

"Knoxville's a whole lot more obviously impressive today than it was in 1980, but I think it still has some scruff to it, and always will," Neely told the UT Daily Beacon last year. "And I think that's what some people like about it."

Blue Plate Special at WDVX

WDVX is new since my day -- I left in 1982, when a newspapering career took me from East Tennessee to Pennsylvania, the Upper Midwest and now central Illinois -- but its noon-hour live music broadcasts revive a local tradition going back to the Midday Merry-Go-Round, a live broadcast that featured then up-and-coming artists like Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins and Homer and Jethro from 1936 to 1961.

WDVX's show is called the "Blue Plate Special," and Saturday it aired two acts from North Carolina, a bluesy roots band from Winston-Salem called the Deluge and a progressive bluegrass -- or new grass -- trio from Chapel Hill called Mipso. They're recent graduates of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and they write their own material -- guitar player Joseph Terrill's "Red Eye to Raleigh" is one of the most remarkable songs about a broken heart I've ever heard, with passages like:

My broken heart, every injured
ventricle. My broken heart
Leaves me pitiful …

And this:

.. They say to trust in
science for what the body needs.
So sign me up for experimental
laparoscopic cardiology.

I thought I heard echoes of Simon and Garfunkel, the Grateful Dead and a whole host of folk, jazz and newgrass artists in what freelance reviewer Sarah Hall called Mipso's "tight and exciting three-part vocal harmonies" in a perceptive review in the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. They were recorded a couple of years ago in the lobby of Our State magazine, in Greensboro, N.C., playing "Red Eye to Raleigh," cardiological references and all:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rose Ensemble -- early (and world) music consort of Mpls.-St. Paul

Berkley turned me onto this group the other day. They started out as an early music group, specializing in Eastern European music of the Renaissance, and they've branched out into the early American choral repertory as well as Hawaiian music, etc.

Uploaded to YouTube on Jun 2, 2009: The acclaimed chamber vocal group The Rose Ensemble presents a backstage look at concerts, workshops, and educational outreach.

Formed in 1996, The Rose Ensemble performs and preserves rare music from around the globe through 12 voices and ancient instruments. For information on touring, recordings, and more, visit -Winner, Tolosa International Choral Competition (Spain) -Winner, Chorus America Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence -Music education for over 2,000 students (K-12) each year -Over 30 new works commissioned since 1998 -Artists-in-Residence, Basilica of Saint Mary, Minneapolis -Featured regularly on American Public Media and the European Broadcasting Union, including special presentations with Radio France, Chicago Public Radio, Vermont Public Radio and National Public Radios Performance Today -Modern-day and United States premieres each season -New research in European, Middle Eastern, Hawaiian and American vocal traditions -Recipient, Rockefeller Foundation Art & Religion Award -Recordings praised by Gramophone, American Record Guide, Choral Journal & Goldberg Magazine Cate

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"In the Sweet By and By" på svensk | Till det härliga land ovan skyn

No. 487 in Hemlandssånger

* * *

"Till det härliga land ovan skyn." Psalmboken. Evangelisk-lutherska kyrkans i Finland, 1986. No. 574.

Till det härliga land ovan skyn
vi i tron skådar upp redan här,
ty ett hem, fast fördolt för vår syn,
han vår Jesus berett åt oss där.
Om en kort, liten tid
får vi mötas på himmelens strand.
Om en kort, liten tid
får vi mötas på himmelens strand.

* * *

Gracia Grindal of Luther Seminary --

When the 1899 English version of the Augustana Hymnal was published, 33 translations of the 1892 book were from the songbook while another 33 were favorite Anglo-Saxon Gospel hymns reset to their English texts. Thus the Gospel songs which were so dear to Swedish Augustana made it into the English hymnals they produced, not only because they were American songs, but also because they were beloved Swedish songs as well. So tonight we will be singing "In the Sweet Bye and Bye" and "Shall We Gather at The River" as beloved pieces in the Hemlandssånger tradition because they were carried forward by their Swedishness. The place where the tradition was preserved most effectively was the collection in 1950's by Carl Manfred and others Youth's Favorite Songs. In it, songs and hymns which a group of Augustana youth judged to be favorites, were republished for use among the youth. This yellow book has once again been republished by the Medicine Lake Seminary, a break off from the Lutheran Free Church, a Norwegian Lutheran church which has had long and affectionate appreciation of the Swedish song tradition ever since Ole Paulson, and M Falk Gjertsen. The two traditions, not surprisingly, came together to form the Lutheran Bible Institute where this songbook has had a cherished place. One still finds old, weatherbeaten copies of it at Mt. Carmel, beside Lake Carlos in Douglas County where Samuel Miller held forth for many years. And still by campfires throughout Swedish and Norwegian Minnesota and surroundings, one can hear "Open Mine Eyes."

Gracia Grindal. "The Swedish-American Lutheran Tradition of Hymns and Songs": Lecture given in October 1992 at the 100th anniversary of Hemlandssånger, Luther Seminary,

* * *

Good bio of Joseph Philbrick Webster, who wrote the song, on Univeristy of Wisconsin library site. Also wrote "Lorena," his first hit, and "I'll twine 'mid the ringlets" (Chicago, ca. 1863), to words by Maud Irving. "The song passed into oral tradition and was recorded, and copyrighted, under the title 'Wildwood flower' by the Carter Family on 10 May 1928. The words, as performed by the Carters, show evidence of inaccuracies generated through oral transmission. Webster's manuscript for this song is contained in this collection."

Biography. Joseph Philbrick Webster Music Manuscripts (ca. 1840s-1874). University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Show 'n tell: Old dulcimers from Tennessee, Kentucky at Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club meeting Sunday, March 23

Details below from a blurb I sent to KADC for inclusion in their March newsletter. Their meetings are at 2 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month at Second United Methodist Church, 1524 Western Ave. just off I-40 in downtown Knoxville. Website at

Pete Ellertsen, now of downstate Illinois and formerly of Norris, Oak Ridge and at least a half dozen off-campus student apartments in Knoxville’s Fort Sanders neighborhood during the 1960s and 1970s, will demonstrate early folk-revival dulcimers and swap reminiscences about the Knoxville folk music scene in the 1960s and 70s at KADC’s monthly meeting on Sunday, March 23.

A mountain dulcimer collector and regular contributor to Dulcimer Players News, Pete will bring instruments by Bill Davis, Dorsey Williams, Homer Ledford and Jethro Amburgey that KADC members can play, so they can experience how mountain dulcimers in Kentucky and Tennessee were adapted by their makers as playing styles evolved from noter-and-drone to chord-melody styles of playing.

The oldest of Pete’s dulcimers is a three-string1966 Jethro Amburgey of Hindman, Ky., with staple frets under the melody string only. His first dulcimer, which his family bought for him in 1972 from Homer Ledford of Winchester, Ky., is fretted similarly but has one wire staple fret under all four strings at the third fret. He also has undated instruments from Bill Davis of Gatlinburg and Dorsey Williams of Jefferson City, probably from the 1960s or early 70s, with guitar-type frets that extend all the way across the fretboard.

A retired English and journalism teacher at Benedictine University Springfield (Ill.), Pete coordinates jam sessions in Springfield and a renovated 1840s-vintage stagecoach stop for dulcimers and other stringed instruments. He has taken mountain- and hammered-dulcimer workshops at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Common Ground on the Hill and Western Carolina University.

Pete started playing the dulcimer as a grad student at UT Knoxville and served in the early 80s on the board of Jubilee Community Arts.

Dennis Stroughmatt: Presenter for IHC Road Scholars on French Midwest Creoles -- "On est toujours icitte"


Dennis Stroughmatt: French Midwest Creoles -- "On est toujours icitte" -- What many have considered to be long lost is alive and kicking.

Fingers and bow flying, Dennis Stroughmatt takes listeners on a musical odyssey not so different from his own musical journeys into Upper Louisiana Creole Culture. Taught to play fiddle by local Creole fiddlers Roy Boyer and Charlie Pashia in the tradition of their fathers, Dennis gradually became an adopted son of the French Midwest Creoles living along the Mississippi River near St Louis.

A vibrant blend of Celtic, Canadian and Old Time sounds, this music bridges the gap between contemporary Canadian and Louisiana Cajun styles. Preserved by families in the Ozark foothills, the music remains largely intact and true to the traditions that have been passed down for over three centuries. ...

WBEZ public radio of Chicago has 1:13:14-long broadcast of Dennis Stroughmatt's Road Scholars presentation "In Fiddle Music & Tall Tales: French Creole Culture in the Illinois Country of Upper Louisiana" recorded Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007 at Freemont Public Library.

Story in the Mt. Vernon Register-News misspells Stroughmatt's name but has a detailed report of his presentation in 2012 at Mt. Vernon's Jefferson County Historical Village:

He said at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, there were between 10,000 and 12,000 French Creoles in the Illinois, Missouri and Indiana areas, but he didn’t find out about them until asking a professor. His professor said the French Creole people weren’t considered Americans in part because they weren’t British, and in part because they had intermarried with Native Americans for generations before Americans arrived in the area.

Stromatt said the French language is very much alive in areas of southeast Missouri, specifically in Old Mines, Mo., about 45 minutes west of Ste. Genevieve, Mo.

He initially traveled to Old Mines one Labor Day weekend, where he encountered parish workers speaking Illinois French, a dialect of French only spoken in the area.

“The French they were speaking at me sounded like nothing I had heard in French class,” he said, adding that the parish workers’ families had been settled in Illinois and Missouri for 100 years before Americans came to the area. He said when Lewis and Clark explored the area, they used French maps from the 1740s.

Stromatt said there were about 500 people in the Old Mines, Mo., area speaking Illinois and Missouri French in 1990.

- See more at:

Rorye O'Connor. "French Still Thrives in the Illinois Territory." Mt. Vernon (Ill.) Register-News, Nov. 15, 2012

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Christopher Smith on creolization, minstrelsy, late-stage empire

Christopher J. Smith is an associate professor and chair of musicology/ethnomusicology and the director of the Vernacular Music Center at the Texas Tech University School of Music. Bio on Texas Tech faculty website.

Just out last fall: The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy (U of I Press, 2013). Some pretty informative Q&A in the promo material. Including this:

Q: Were there any common misconceptions of “creolization” that you examined in your research for the book?

Smith: I wouldn’t necessarily say there were “misconceptions,” so much as gaps in the record. The book certainly argues that creolization—the process by which two languages, or rhythmic vocabularies, or music & dance idioms, collide and create a shared dialect—was much more widespread in a much wider array of locations, and much earlier, than previous scholarship has perhaps understood. The argument would be that contact between disparate groups—black/white, African/European, slave/free, working-class/middle-class—would have yielded this exchange, whether participants intended or even recognized that it was happening. People heard other people’s music and they learned to move and experience sound differently, and in this new, shared dialect. I think, in fact, that this phenomenon—maybe we could call it “a creolization of bodily experience”—happens everywhere disparate populations come into close proximity with one another. I think it’s at the core of where urban culture arises.

Expands on "body experience," i.e. African American dance moves, lower Manhattan as a site for creolization, etc. … seeks to develop "a set of analytical tools (particularly rhythmic and iconographic) which let us 'see' creole or Afro-Caribbean characteristics—rhythms, body postures, body movements—in tunes or scenes which, on the surface, seem to be 'simply depicting' idealized Anglo-Celtic culture."

Smith has a blog, Coyotebanjo, w/ this the most recent post (Sunday, March 2) "Holding back the tide in a late-stage Empire" at

As a middle-aged, middle-class, relatively privileged (white, educated, male, heterosexual, tenured) college professor, engaged in teaching music, cultural history, and critical thinking, in a late-stage Empire whose particular addictions--specifically to leisure, material possessions, and the cheap energy which fossil fuels make possible--is rapidly destroying both subaltern societies and the planet's own ecosystem, I sometimes imagine I know what it must have felt like to be a lector or ludus literatus in one of the frontier provinces of late-stage Rome: Valentia (Wales and NW England), say, or Brittaniae (Cornwall). In such a biography, you're a very long way from the centers of power, you can feel and observe (as someone trained and teaching historical consciousness and a degree of cultural analysis) the way in which the larger society, the vast superstructure of privilege, is creaking, groaning, and breaking down. ...

And so on. He concludes:

What would you do? Well, in your small distant corner of the world, very far from the centers of power, with nearly no voice and absolutely no influence in the public discourse of the day, you might just keep doing what you do ...

In Smith's case, that's teaching. Maybe, he says, a new civilization will arise someday on the ruins of the old, and someone will care again about the kinds of things you taught. Besides, he adds, you just do it: "Because what else is there to do? Despair may be inevitable--but it is also irrelevant."

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Creolization -- student video in Detroit, and a community college music appreciation class in Ann Arbor

Experience Creolization

Uploaded on Jun 28, 2010

Hart Plaza, Detroit - Group Project for World Music Appreciation, WSU.

Creolization = a complex process of cultural borrowing and lending in a region with many different cultural influences. We are all "Creole" - One Human Race.

Editing: Rupi Sekhon Stills: Sarah Niemiec Human Beings Song: Jacob Schwandt Crazy Antics: Patrick Vulaj People Skills: Navaj Patel The Awesomeness: Berti Gjergji

Songs by The Kings Of Leon, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Withers, Soundtrack from the Musical Rent, and R.Kelly.

A Big Thank You To The People of Detroit & All Those That Helped With This Project.

Inspired by the book, Our Musical World, by Naylor & Naylor. Thank you Professor Naylor.

Music instructor tunes out the norm Dr. Michael Naylor: ‘Are there are other ways… to teach?’ By DAVID FITCH Staff Writer Washtenaw Voice Oct 21, 2013 -- student publication of Washtenaw Community College

Misc. creolization quotes and links: Chicago Irish | Capt. Francis O'Neill | police pipe & drum bands | Irish pipers

Irish music is played on all manner of instruments, even on specially tuned guitars these days. Of all the places in America, Chicago is one of the best for listening to it. ... -- Charles Madigan, The Chicago Tribune, Sept. 11, 1995

Robin Cohen - Diaspora and Creolization. Nov 12, 2013. Robin Cohen provides an overview of 'Diaspora and creolization: diverging, converging' project that is part of the Oxford Diasporas Programme.

Posted to YouTube by International Migration Institute, Oxford. More on the Oxford Diasporas Programme website, including 37-minute interview with Cohen, at:

Lawrence E. McCullough, dissertation in 1978 on Irish music in Chicago paraphrases Bruno Nettl's Introduction to Folk Music in the United States (1962): Nettl (1962: 59) has postulated 3 outcomes for "a rural-based European folk music tradition once it arrives in the United States" …

  1. "… full-scale acculturation in which the stylistic elements, instruments repertoire, and aesthetic ideals of the tradition merge with an American tradition or traditions to form a new synthesis." e.g. "blend of various British Isles idioms with African and colonial American elements that formed the basis of a new Anglo-American folk tradition of music, song, and dance in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  2. "… that the Ruropean tradition might remain distinct yet manifest evidence of considerable borrowing from other traditions -- the polka phenomenon, for instance …"
  3. "Finally, it could happen that the emigrant tradition is not influenced at all but consinues to be distinctive, separate, and self-contained while still maintaining close links to its Old World source; it has been this course that Irish music brought to America after the mid-19th century has followed, though the path has been far from straight and narrow." (343)
Lawrence McCullough. Irish Music in Chicago: An Ethnomusicological Study. Diss. University of Pittsburgh, 1978. McCullough is now executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center, Rahway, N.J. Resume available on Linkedin.

Bibliography cites:

  • "Chicago Leads Ireland As Storehouse of Irish Music." Chicago Tribune March 2, 1902: 53.

Perceptive, and very quotable, article by Charles Madigan of the Trib on a talk in 1995 by Harry Bradshaw from the Irish Radio network on Capt. O'Neill at the Irish American Heritage Center on the northwest side. A couple of snippets:

It was a lovely evening. The music was wonderful. But the story, like many of the stories from Ireland, was as sad as it could be. It also went some distance in explaining why Irish music is such a force in this town and why some of Ireland's best musicians end up here. The seeker of Irish music here might run into fiddler Liz Carroll or Larry Nugent playing the tin whistle or John Williams, the button accordion player.

That would be fortunate, because each of them has been recognized as among the finest in the world, winners of tough Irish competitions that leave only the best of the best standing.

The search might lead to the Abbey Pub at Grace Street and Elston Avenue on any Sunday night, when McKinney is likely to be playing his pipes with a collection of fiddlers and whistle players, or to Nevin's in Evanston on a Sunday afternoon, when a pickup session might draw everyone from singer and tin whistler Brighid Malone to Celtic guitarist Phil Cooper and singer Margaret Nelson, to McKinney, to a wild collection of professionals and amateurs.

These informal sessions have been growing in number for years and have become so popular that the Irish-American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., plans to add its own on Sunday afternoons beginning in October.

And especially this:

... Bradshaw, the music collector and recorder for Irish Radio's archives, polished the mood with his story about Chief O'Neill.

Late in the 19th Century, he noted, some 20 percent of Chicago's population was Irish. It was a big market for entertainment, and vaudeville responded. Unfortunately, the result was a collection of stereotypes, among them the tippling Irish fool, that the culture battles to this day.

The music was awful, and so abysmally un-Irish as to be unrecognizable as Irish music today. Bradshaw named the five biggest "Irish" vaudeville entertainers, then noted that not a single one was actually Irish.

Into this cultural mess came Daniel Francis O'Neill, a young man fresh from sailing the oceans and the Great Lakes. He had left his home in County Cork in 1865, headed to the city to enter the seminary, got turned around somehow and went to sea and, in the manner of all great Irish ramblers, ended up in America.

And thence into Capt. O'Neill's familiar story, but with some wrinkles I hadn't known before and written by one of the Trib's best reporters and storytellers ever.

Charles M. Madigan. "The Pipes Are Calling." Chicago Tribune Sept. 11, 1995.

Cf. discussion of vaudeville stereotypes and "lace-curtain Irish" in Jennifer Mooney's dissertation at University of Ulster (2012)

I would suggest that the stereotypical portrayals of the naïve, ignorant Irish working man and woman, represented by the Caseys, Brannigans and Bridgets, and the rising ‘lace-curtain’ Irish seen in the figures of the Irish cop or politician, can be read in the context of establishing and defining acceptable behaviours, allowing a proportion of the audience to recognize how they should behave in order to be accepted as fully fledged Americans, leaving behind the brash, boisterous Irish so apparent in the caricatures presented on stage and screen. I would also argue that these representations can add to the debates on the nature of that audience. Russell Merritt, writing of early cinema’s ‘seduction of the affluent’, cites as evidence for this the fact that it did not address the experiences of the immigrant and working classes traditionally perceived as cinema’s natural audience base (Merritt, 1976). I would suggest, at least in relation to the Irish, that neither vaudeville nor early cinema ignored their experiences, but rather used them as often comic material for what appears to have been an increasingly respectable, middle class, and perhaps ultimately ‘American’ audience.

Jennifer Mooney. "Representations of the Irish in American Valdeville and Early Film." Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network 3.2 (2010) [Media Communications & Cultural Studies Association]

This possible evidence of creoloization from an appreciation of "Francis O'Neill - The Man Who Saved Our Music" on the Irish Culture and Customs website by Bridget Nancy Margaret and Russell O'Flaherty, who "pursue freelance careers in consulting, writing and whatever else will keep the lights on" in Cincinnati ...

Afterwards, he did some ranching in Montana, before going to Chicago by way of New Orleans and Missouri. In Missouri, he married a young lady, Anna Rogers, whom he had met when she was an outbound passenger on one of his voyages from Ireland. He served for a time as a schoolteacher in Edina, Knox County. In his book "Irish Folk Music," he provides one of the best descriptions of traditional music in 19th-Century Missouri:

"Not a week passed during the winter months without a dance or two being held among the farmers. Such a motley crowd - fiddlers galore, and each with his instrument. Irish, Germans, French...and the gigantic Kentuckians, whose heads were endangered by the low ceilings, crowded in, and never a misunderstanding or display of ill-nature marred those gatherings. Seated behind the fiddler, intent on picking up the tunes, was my accustomed post, but how much was memorized on those occasions cannot now be definitely stated. Three tunes, however, distinctly obtrude on my memory, A reel played by Ike Forrester, the "Village Blacksmith," which was named after him; "My Love is Fair and Handsome", and a quickstep, which I named "Nolan, the Soldier." Nolan had been a fifer in the Confederate army during the Civil War. His son was an excellent drummer, and both gave free exhibitions of their skill on the public square at Edina to enliven the evenings when the weather was fine."

* * *

culture, his books helped to keep Ireland’s music alive. Noel Rice, President of the Academy of Irish Music, has taught O’Neill’s music to his students for the past 25 years. “He did a magnificent job. . .of gathering it together and trying to keep it from dying.” Kevin Henry, an Irish piper who plays in the sessions at Chief O’Neill’s Pub1, says, “I have to take off my cap to the Chief; there was nobody like him.” Paddy Ryan, music officer of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, the organization that promotes traditional music in Ireland, concurs. “He put Chicago on the map in the musical sense. Chicago is a very important place in the history of Irish traditional music. Extremely important place. Because of Francis O'Neill.”

Sadly, Francis O'Neill died a very disappointed man. He was convinced that once his fellow Irishmen in America heard the music, they would love it. But they didn't want to love it. They wanted to be American.

Bridget Haggerty. "Francis O'Neill - The Man Who Saved Our Music." Irish Culture and Customs.

Encyclopedia of Chicago -- detailed, espec. parishes

Since the 1890s, the city's Irish have played a leading role in the cultural revival of traditional music and dance here and abroad. Francis O'Neill, a native of Tralibane, County Cork, Ireland, and chief of police in Chicago from 1901 to 1905, is widely credited with preserving Irish traditional tunes passed down orally for generations. He drew on the talents of fellow Chicago Irish policemen-musicians in compiling O'Neill's Music of Ireland (1903), still a standard reference work in Ireland and America. Among Chicago's best-known Irish musicians today is fiddler and composer Liz Carroll, the daughter of Irish immigrants, who has won the All-Ireland award twice since 1975. Likewise, Noel Rice's music students at the Academy of Irish Music (1994) have achieved acclaim both in the United States and Ireland. The popularity of Irish dancing also has soared, thanks to such innovators as Mark Howard, founder and artistic director of the Trinity Irish Dance Company (1990), and Michael Flatley, who grew up in Little Flower parish on Chicago's South Side and trained in the Dennehy School of Irish Dance. No longer confined to parish auditoriums, Irish traditional dance now attracts international audiences through such lavish productions as Riverdance and Flatley's Lord of the Dance, a mixture of Celtic mythology and rock and roll.

Ellen Skerrett. "Irish." Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: Newberry Library and Chicago Historical Society, 2004-2006.

There's a lot of romantic nonsense on the internet about the Great Highland Pipes (or Irish war pipes), but a essentially accurate capsule history that you see on a lot of pipe and drum corps websites comes for a syndicated column by Cecil Adams of the Chicago Reader. It says in part:

… A dying art a century ago, bagpipes playing was revived in large part by Irish immigrants to the New World who wanted to preserve their culture. Many of these guys were cops. For instance, Francis O'Neill, Chicago police chief from 1901 to 1905, organized an Irish music club that sparked renewed interest in the bagpipes. When cops wanted to salute their fallen brethren they thought quite naturally of the pipes, which had been played at funerals for hundreds of years. A big promoter of this practice over the past half century has been the Emerald Society, an Irish fraternal organization found at many police departments. Many chapters sponsor pipe-and-drum bands. …
Discussion of the origins of "Kumbaya" in the same column. Cecil Adams. "The Straight Dope." Chicago Reader 10 Sept. 1998

Some thoughts on Irish Piping By Frank Timoney Published winter issue 2006/7 "Bulletin' Military Historical Society London

Around 1880, a new Gaelic awareness began to hit Ireland. A Celtic twilight instituted mainly by Anglo Irish residents. The country began to look for ties to other Celtic countries, and Scotland seemed to hold the greatest appeal. The Irish began to reason, that since they had settled the north of Scotland, the Scottish traditions were actually theirs! Onto the great stage of myth stepped the Royal Tyrone Fusiliers, a militia Bn. Of the 27th Royal Inniskilling Fusaliers, and one William O'Duane of Belfast. O'Duane invented a weird pipe he called the Dungannon. Most people today feel he hated pipes, because the instrument was utter junk! The Royal Tyrone Fusiliers felt the time had come for a pipe band in their regiment. Many "experts" in the regiment convinced the young Anglo Irish officers that it was only right for an Irish regiment to adopt the pipe, since Scotland really adopted Irish culture and traditions. So the old flute band was thrown over, and the flautists informed they would shortly become "pipers".
And this, which he dates after about 1900:
The young Anglo Irish officers fell for it, no questions asked. However, there was a great cry of disapproval from the older Irish officers who missed the auld flute bands and lovely Irish tunes. "Aping the Scot" was their unheard cry because the English CO was totally enamoured with the Celtic "revival" going on, and felt his regiment needed a little more gregarious panache, as much the same as the Scots regiments had. By now, one of the first things the newly formed regiment of guards did was to form a pipe band. Some said the new regiment should even be kilited! What everyone overlooked, was the fact that their was no native Irish music specifically composed for the mouth blown pipe, so that new keyed chanter fit the bill quite well. Starck's son A.H went on to become "instructor" to the London Irish Rifles pipe band.
Timoney has nothing good to say about Gratton Flood's standard history of the bagpipe, which he calls "totally false" and "a book of fantasy" -- includes in his list of references: "Interviews by the author during late 1950's with many ex-army Irish regimental pipers from the 1914 period and prior. Much to their credit, these old boys (contemptibles) never went back to the flute after their military service. They continued with the pipe and were much the backbone of the Irish piping scene. Their good natured humour made them a great pleasure to be with. To a man however, they continue to play with the tips of their fingers and with a minimum of graces notes some forty years after their introduction to the instrument."

Frank Timoney. "Some Thoughts on Irish Piping," Bulletin of the Military Historical Society. Winter 2006-07. Rpt. Concise History of the Bagpipe.

Bob Dunsire Bagpipe Forums > General Discussion > History, Tradition, Heritage > Irish Pipe Bands

well-informed thread including this post dated 02-19-2003, 01:29 PM by Ian Lawther:

This thread had me reaching for my copy of O' Neils Irish Minstrels and Musicians. Writing before the First World War O'Neill cites the "Gaelic League, with its adjuncts, "Feis" and "Oireachtas", ostensibly started with the object of reviving Irish music" as introducing and spreading the popularaity of GHB among the Irish in the US. He feared that in doing so they would kill uilleann pipes (luckily he was wrong). O'Neill added that the job of learning uilleann pipes was a long one but with GHB all one needed do was get a set of pipes, dress the part and he was an Irish piper. He was very clear that what such people needed to do was take proper tuition from "competent Scotch instructors". O'Neill also makes passing references to this "revival" being the responsibility of "three visionaries ranging from Belfast to Cork". In a thread (;f=12;t=001185#000000) some time ago, started by Erracht regarding pipemakers in Ireland I came up with a name of a makers in both Cork and Belfast (Crowley in Cork - Belfast name escapes me) who may well be two of the three O' Neill is refering to. My understanding is that Irish pipe bands started to appear in the British Army in the 1860s or 70s modelled on the Scottish regiments. This would have been a forerunner to what O'Neil describes.
Later ref. in another post to "New York based Irish Historian and piper Frank Timoney"

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Prairieland Strings -- notes and links on "Sumer Is Icumen In" (but don't mention the name so the snow doesn't jinx us again)


Blast email, lightly edited, that I sent tonight to my Prairieland Dulcimer Strings and Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music lists --

Hi everybody --

It looks like maybe -- cross your fingers, get out your mojo beads and bury a frog in a crossroads at midnight for good luck -- the weather will cooperate and we'll be able to have our "first Tuesday" session of the Prairieland Dulcimer Strings from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson.

We've got a couple of new songs now, since we've been snowed out several times, including an English round from the Middle Ages (think "Row Row Row Your Boat" on steroids) that I think may have been jinxing us because it refers to another season of the year when it doesn't snow … so I won't mention it by name. But I'll attach dulcimer tab and link you to my Hogfiddle post below. The other one is "Lee's Waltz," a nice dulcimer tune that's getting popular with people who play other instruments, too, when they hear it.

Our tunes for Tuesday night are:


Since we've tried to practice this song since January, but we've been snowed out all but once, I'm still not going to mention the title in case that's what's been jinxing us!

It's in two parts. One of the parts is a round for two to four voices, which can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it, and the other part is kind of like a walking bass line. At our last meeting, my wife and I were the only ones there. So Debi just banged it out on the piano and I backed her playing the low rhythm part on the bass string of my mountain dulcimer. Then we swapped off, and went back and forth from the melody to the rhythm line on the tab. Once we got into the swing of it, it was as good as having a metronome -- and we were cooking!

I think we can have a lot of fun with this one …

When Playboy magazine asked English singer-songwriter Richard Thompson to list the best popular songs of the last 1,000 years, he suggested this one (which I dare not name). He never heard from Playboy again, but it gave him the idea for a successful night club act. Here he is, with Judith Owen and Debra Dobkin, in live performance. Notice how much music they get from a medieval round with just a guitar, a drum and two vocalists. The song starts at 1:33, but the background information is fun ...

And a group of English folk singers and fiddle players (I think I also hear banjos playing the backup part) at Cecil Sharp House, headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London. I especially like this one because you can tell how much fun they're having with it …

* * *

Back in December I posted a lot of background and more links to YouTube clips on Hogfiddle at …

Also here's a link to the lyrics. They're in Middle English, and they make Shakespeare look very up-to-date and trendy (the letter that looks like a "p" at half-mast was called an "eth" and it was pronounced like "th" so the word that looks like "blowep" is "bloweth" and "u" and "v" were interchangeable), but they're kind of fun, and there's a translation below. Link here ..

A group of singers called Cliar Cu Buidhe (Society of the Yellow Dog) that's part of the Society for Creative Anachronism has an accessible YouTube clip that flashes the lyrics on the screen as they sing it in parts. It's a very cool way to learn the song, especially if you play by ear, at ...

It's well worth watching.

You may never get a better chance to learn how to say "the billygoat farts" in Middle English!