What Should That Tune Be Called?
by John Browne
A number of well-known tunes in the Scottish repertoire have actually been known by more than one name over the years and the naming of some tunes can still cause confusion today. Why has this happened and is there a ‘correct’ name for such tunes? Fiddle and accordion player John Browne investigates…
On one occasion the lead box player in the band I was playing in called out the name of the next tune as ‘Yiddle Diddle Dum Dum’. Bemused I waited for the tune to start and immediately recognised it, of course, as Davy Knick Knack.
It is not uncommon to find more than one name for a tune. Flicking through a copy of Kerr’s Collection of Merry Melodies for the Violin recently I came across a number of tunes that I immediately recognised by other names. These included Judy’s Reel (The Barmaid), Pride of the Ball (The Swallow’s Tail) and Teddy Malo’s Jig (Welcome to Cork). Delving further I found some tunes which were repeated in other volumes in the series but with different names including I Lost My Love (Vol 1, No 1 Page 31) as My Mither’s Aye Glowerin’ Ower Me (Vol 3 No 296) and Air by Haydn (Vol 3 No 405) as Paddy the Piper (Vol 1, No 20, Page 37).
Tunes can have different names for a number of reasons. In times gone by many tunes were presumably handed down by ear and there will doubtless have been times when a ‘composer’ mistakenly claimed (and renamed) someone else’s tune. On other occasions, however’ the intentions will have been less innocent with a ‘composer’ putting his own name to someone else’s composition. A much quoted example of such plagiarism is the ‘theft’ of William Marshall’s ‘Miss Admiral Gordon’s Strathspey’ by Niel Gow for the latter’s ‘Major Graham of Inchbrakie’, although I personally find insufficient similarity between these particular tunes for such an accusation in this case. Marshall was slow to publish his tunes in his own collections and because of this many appeared in other collections first, not just those of the Gows (where some of Marshall’s compositions are in fact correctly attributed to the composer) but also those of Charles Duff, John Anderson, James Aird and Alexander McGlashan. The renaming of his tunes upset Marshall to the point that he wrote a stern rebuke of the practice on the cover of his 1822 collection!
Returning to our theme of the names of tunes Marshall himself was to frequently change the names of his tunes to suit his own purposes, perhaps on occasion to flatter his own benefactors amongst other reasons. Mary Anne Alburger in her book Scottish Fiddlers and their Music points out that 31 of the 49 pieces contained in Marshall’s first collection published in 1781 were republished in later collections with different titles! Marshall was not the only composer to change the names of his tunes. In an article in the B&F earlier this year it was pointed out that Felix Burns also did this on a number of occasions. He also included a number of well known traditional tunes in some of his collections but with different names, including Timour the Tartar (Scottish Rifles) and Highland Whisky (The Lochnagar).
The names of tunes can also change when the tune is taken for a different purpose, such as for use in a song or a dance, and the tune then becomes more commonly known through this new association. This has been the case with many of Burns’ songs, for example, the original tune names sounding quite unfamiliar. These include ‘My Love She’s But A Lassie Yet’ (Lady Badinscoth’s Reel or Miss Farquharson’s Reel), Scots Wha Hae (Hey, Tuttie, Tuttie), Comin’ Through the Rye (The Miller’s Daughter), The Deil’s Awa’ Wi’ The Exciseman (The Hemp Dresser), O’ a’ The Airts The Wind Can Blaw (the aforementioned Miss Admiral Gordon’s Strathspey) and My Love is Like a Red Red Rose (Low Down in the Broom). Interestingly this last tune appears under this title in Kerr’s Vol 2, No 147 but as the Red Red Rose in Vol 3 No27.
Tunes can also become associated with dance titles. Few danceband leaders would today call the original for the dance Hamilton House as its full title of ‘The Hon Colonel Hamilton’s Delight’, or the dance Monymusk as Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk. Sometimes, on the other hand, the difference between the dance or song title and its associated tune title is not so different, as in the dance Duran Ranger (tune: Duran Rangers), or the songs This Is No’ My Ain Lassie (tune: This is No’ My Ain Hoose) and My Wife’s a Winsome Wee Thing (tune: My Wife’s a Wanton Wee Thing). Tunes can also become known by the first line of the song rather than by either the song itself or the original tune title, as in the jig ‘There Cam a Young Man’ (song: The Cauldrife Wooer; tune; Bung Your Eye in the Morning). This last tune also appears as A brisk Young Lad in Annie Shand’s book of Old Scottish Music and there is also a dance to this title which uses the tune as its original.
Tunes can also take different names when the tune is played in a different tempo. The Strathspey ‘The Pipe o’ Dundee’ becomes The Drummer, for example, when it is played as a reel, and likewise the strathspey ‘Orange and Blue’ become the jig ‘Hot Punch’. A different variation on a tune can give an apparently new tune and hence a new title, and example being the reels Timour the Tartar and Babes in the Wood which are essentially the same tune.
Finally, tunes can become known by different names purely for convenience. The tune named simply as Quickstep by J. Pringle in Annie Shand’s collection of Old Scottish Music appears – sensibly – on an RSCDS record as Pringle’s Quickstep. I am surprised that the same thing has not yet happened with the tune named Quickstep by Nathanial Gow which is used as the original tune for the dance It’s Just for Fun. A tune title may gain identity by alteration, as in John Robertson’s Scottish Waltz, which was originally published simply as Scottish Waltz by John Robertson in 1949 and recorded under this shorter title by a number of well known bands in the 1950’s and 60’s.
So, returning to the original question, what should tunes with more than one recognizable title be called today? I personally prefer the idea giving such tunes the name which is either the most convenient to remember or the name which is most widely recognised. To this effect I would not call the tune The Laird o’ Cockpen by its original title of When She Cam’ Ben She Bobbit, nor I Lo’e Nae A Laddie But Ane as My Lodging Is On The Cold Ground! Similarly I would not keep the original title if this had been published in old English, such as Argile’s Bouling Green or Floors of Edinboro’! The answer has to be ‘keep it simple’ – so do call Davy Knick Knack by Yiddle Diddle Dum Dum if you really do find it easier to remember!
Box and Fiddle
What Tune Do You Play For That Dance?
by John Browne (North Wales ex Edinburgh)
Most country dances have an ‘original’ tune – one that is associated with that particular dance. Sometimes, however, the original tune is not specified or the dancer expects to hear a different tune from the one listed for a particular dance. So which tune should you play? John Browne has some suggestions….
When the Royal Scottish Country Dance society started its work in 1923 it began by collecting dances from a range of sources and publishing them in a series of books. Each dance was printed along with its associated original tune and all RSCDS books (there are currently 39 of them) and leaflets can still be purchased today. A number of branches, dance clubs and individual dance devisers have since published their own collections of dances, some of which contain music, others where recommended music for the dances is suggested, but all too frequently where no music is specified at all.
It is now estimated that there are some 15,000 Scottish country dances in existence – an awful lot of tunes if the dance band leader was to play a different tune for each dance!! Fortunately the dancing contingent do not expect a unique tune for each and every dance but they will, however, expect the ‘correct’ tunes for many of the dances on a typical programme. It should be relatively easy to find the correct tune for an RSCDS dance – just consult the Society publications. The tunes for other dances many take a little more time to obtain and will involve hunting them out from a large range of sources.
Having obtained your ‘original’ tune it may still not be the tune the dancers want to hear played for a particular dance. This can be the case even with some RSCDS dances where the alternative tune, for example, may be more commonly associated with the dance (the term alternative arises from the early publications of the Society where two tunes – an original and an alternative – were printed for each dance). A number of early recordings of some dances by bands of the era actually used the alternative tune as the original. Examples include John McNeil’s Reel for the dance ‘Cadgers in the Canongate’ rather than the published original of the same name, and Lady Montgomerie for the Montomeries’ Rant rather than Lord Eglintoune. Dancers today still typically expect these alternative tunes as the originals for these dances (although some may dispute this – the RSCDS recorded music for both of these dances in 1988 using the ‘correct’ originals as in the books).
Dr. Jean Milligan, co-founder of the RSCDS, was to write two books of Scottish country dances, 101 Scottish Country Dances in 1956 and 99 More Scottish Country Dances in 1963. These contained a number of dances which had already been published by the Society as well as a number of newly-sourced dances. Although the original tune was specified for some of the dances for most the musicians were given a choice (e.g. ‘original or any good reel’ or even ‘any good reel’). Perhaps this indicates that the Society did not consider the playing of one given tune for a dance to be particularly important at this time, a view perhaps supported by the Society’s publication (in 1932 and 1954) of collections of alternative tunes for all of the dances in its first 14 books. Looking through the two books of Dr. Milligan in 1998 one realizes just how many (most) of the dances are still danced today and also how many have a tune commonly associated with the dance. One well-known dance from 99 More… is Hooper’s Jig, a dance which never had a specified original tune but which is now always danced to the late Tom Anderson’s tune Peter’s Peerie Boat.
Dance band leaders have – for many years – been quick to record new dances shortly after being published. If the new dance did not have a specified original tune then the band leader would select a set of tunes with an appropriate tune for the original. It appear that on occasions there has been a race to record a new dance with more than one band making a recording – each band using a different original! In due course it is likely that just one of the ‘originals’ will become accepted as the ‘adopted original’ for the dance. With Posties’ Jig, for example, the adopted original became ‘Lassie Come and Dance Wi’ Me’. On other occasions, however, a specified original tune for a dance has been replaced by a different ‘original’ tune from a recording. This happened with The Black Mountain Reel where the originally recommended ‘Trumpet Hornpipe’ was not used by McBain’s Band when they recorded the dance, using instead a new tune especially composed for (and named after) the dance by a member of the band. The dance deviser now lists both tunes as the recommended ‘originals’ for this dance. The selection and recording of new tunes for dances still continues to this day, even for dances where there is already a specified original tune. The Bees of Maggieknockater has been recorded so many times – the most recent being just two years ago – to so many tunes, more often as not without using the specified original tune of ‘Forres Country Dance’, that it will surely become up to the dancers to decide which tune they will wish to dance the dance to.
It is often possible to ‘guess’ the correct tune for a dance as many dances use well-known original tunes of the same name (e.g. Corn Rigs, Roxburgh Castle, De’il Amang the Tailors, etc). However, watch out for the following popular dances as they do nor use the ‘expected’ original tune of the same name : Peggy’s Wedding (Willie’s Ga’en a-Coortin’), Ca’ the Ewes tae the Knowes (Miss Mariane Oliphant, Rossie), and Highland Laddie (Cairney Mount). Interestingly this last tune comes from the song As I Cam’ O’er the Cairney Mount using the air originally known as Highland Lassie, which is not so far removed from the dance title – see last month’s B&F article on tune Titles.
You may find that the tunes you have correctly identified for a particular dance is also the specified tune for another dance, something which can cause a degree of frustration for the bandleader if Muirland Willie and Highland Fair are on the same dance programme, for example, or The Bonnie Lass of bon Accord and the Belle of bon Accord. Although the specified original tune for the dance Belle of…..is in fact the tune Bonnie Lass of…. This is another of these dances where there has been more than one recording of the dance using different tunes for the original. Some dancers will ask for the tune The Silver City played as a strathspey for this dance, others - especially in the London area where the dance is popular – will ask for Helen Black of Inveran in strathspey tempo.
So, turning to our original question of which tune do you play for a particular dance, in practice the musician will often have quite a lot of choice even though many of the dances on a ‘typical’ dance programme will have specified original tunes. It is important that you play the correct originals for the dances with the ‘catchiest’ tunes (e.g. Shiftin’ Bobbins, Cumberland Reel, Glasgow Highlanders, etc) but as such tunes are usually fairly easy to play they should not pose too much of a problem. Nobody likes poor tunes – dancers and musicians alike – and it is normal practice (you’ll be glad to hear) to play more ‘tuneful’ alternatives for dances where poor original tunes have been specified. So, with these points in mind, get out and play for that dance….
Box and Fiddle
How Do You Play That Dance?
by John Browne (North Wales ex Edinburgh)
Playing for Country Dances requires a degree of discipline in the choice of tunes, the number of bars and the number of times each tune is played, and the tempo they are played at. So how do you play for a Country Dance? John Browne has a few tips….
I once recall a dance band leader saying that he had never played for a Country Dance but on the occasions when he played at functions and was asked for a given dance – say the Eightsome Reel – he would keep on playing until the dancers cried ‘Stop’!
If the above applies to you then keep reading! (In actual fact, though, keeping an eye on the top couple and finishing the music when everyone in a set has finished dancing may be the only way to play for some of the rowdier functions!) But more of this later.
Taking the first point first – which tunes should you play for a dance? – follows on from last month’s article in the B&F on the choice of original tune. Having chosen a suitable ‘original’ the musician needs to add further tunes to make up a set of tunes for the dance. These alternative tunes should be similar in style to the original so that the set is ‘well-rounded’ and pleasing to the ear. Good understanding of the differences in style between many traditional tunes and many ‘modern’ tunes will obviously help here. A master of putting together interesting dance sets, in my opinion, was the late Andrew Rankine, his sets never failing to please and inspire musician and dancer alike.
Armed with the tunes to be played for a dance the next consideration is how long each tune should be played, or to put it more exactly, haw many bars should be played. The length of most well-known traditional tunes is 32 bars and (thankfully) most popular dances are in phrases of 32 bars. A common length of a country dance is 8 x 32 bars, where each couple in a 4 couple set will dance two turns of 32 bars each, first from the top and then from second place. Once each of the four couples in this example have had their two turns the dance will have been danced 8 x 32 bars. There are many combinations of dance length and number of bars including, for example, 4 x 32 bars, 8 x 24 bars, 4 x 48 bars, 8 x 40 bars and so on.
Sometimes the correct length of music to play for a dance is not clear. The ceilidh dance Strip the Willow (also published in RSCDS Book no 1) is perhaps best played by keeping an eye on the first couple as stated earlier, but more often than not I find that playing four tunes 56 bars each fits the dance exactly (on the second time through each tune miss out the first repeat, or if playing 64 bar pipe jigs miss out the repeat on the third measure). In other words try playing this dance as a 4 x 56 bar jig. Also, check the number of bars if you have been asked to play the dance Dundee Reel (8 x 40 bar Jig) as in some parts of the country (most notably in Dundee I believe) it is sometimes danced 8 x 48 bars! Watch out too for the Moray Rant. If played for as written it would be an 8 x 48 bar strathspey but it is usually danced in 3 couple sets (not 4 as originally written) and therefore danced 3 x 48 bars. This also goes for ‘2 couple’ dances (where only 2 of the 4 couples in the set, dance in any one turn) which may be danced in 3 couple sets (not 4) and therefore played ‘6x’ through (and not ‘8x’ as written). The programme deviser of the dance you are playing for should tell you if these dances are to be played in this way. Each dance starts with a chord but look out for some dances such as Glasgow Highlanders (8 x 32 bar strathspey) and Blooms of Bon Accord (4 x 32 bar Reel), where there are two chords at the start of the dance, the second chord being to allow some of the dancers to change position before the dance actually starts. If you are asked to encore a dance which has two chords (e.g. Blooms…is often repeated as it is a ‘short’ dance) then only one chord should be played for the encore. While we are on the subject of encores watch out if you have been asked to encore the dance Garry Strathspey in the Edinburgh area as this strathspey is often encored as a reel! And, of course, if encoring an ‘8x’ through dance it will only be repeated ‘4x’ (i.e. once and to the bottom).
There are a number of ways that tunes can be played to make up the length of the dance. For an ‘8x’ through dance (e.g. 8 x 32 bars) you could play the original tune twice then three alternative tunes twice each to finish on the last alternative (i.e.188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.). Dancers generally prefer to hear the original tune played again at the end of the dance so the tunes could be played in the order 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168. instead. Other possibilities of tune order include 22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199. (commonly used for a 8 x 32 bar strathspey), 188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206. (a pattern often used by bands in the 1950’s and 60’s), 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168. (still frequently hear these days but gives a ‘heavy’ emphasis on the original tune).
The phrasing can also be important. Most 32 bar tunes are played A.A.B.B. and for most dances this is also the specified phrasing although occasionally A.B.A.B. phrasing is recommended (e.g. as in The Frisky 8 x 32 bar Jig and The Mairrit Man’s Favourite 8 x 32 bar Reel – although not often adhere to in these cases). 40 bar dances may be phrased A.A.B.B.B. (as in Barley Bree 4 x 40 bar Jig), A.B.A.B.B. (e.g. Mairi’s Wedding (8 x 40 bar Reel) or A.B.C.B.C (e.g. Golden Pheasant 8 x 40 bar Jig). Many of the 48 bar dances are published with A.B.A.B.A.B. phrasing (e.g. Hamilton Rant 8 x 48 bar Reel, Waverley 8 x 48 bar Jig, Airdrie Lassies 4 x 48 bar Jig) but more often than not most bandleaders play them in A.A.B.B.A.B. phrasing to make them easier to remember (and play) ‘on the night’.
The most important use of phrasing is to ensure that the music ‘fits’ the dance and that the dancers do not ‘cut across’ the music. The bars for the reel Nottingham Lace, for example, are 24+48+24 but the middle 48 bars should be played in 24 bar phrases to fir the dance – I personally use A.B.B. phrasing when I play this dance.
This article on playing for dances would not be complete without some mention of tempo – a thorny issue at the best of times! No two dance groups will like the music to be played at the same speed which can range from strict tempo (for RSCDS dances) to up-tempo (for ceilidhs). No further advice can be proffered!!
The one dance I have not yet explained how to play for(for those of you who might otherwise continue to play ubtil the dancers screamed ‘Stop’!) is of course The Eightsome Reel. This is simply a 40 + (8 x 48) + 40 bar Reel, the original tune usually being The De’il Amang the Tailors. Incidentally 24 bar phrasing (A.B.B.) for the ‘middle’ section generally works well. Happy playing….
Box and Fiddle
Dec 1998 / Jan 1999