Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

These two short pieces come from Buckley's New Banjo Method of 1860. James Buckley and his son G. Swaine wrote these. You can always expect some interesting twist when you see G. Swaine mentioned.

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Comment by Ian Bell on March 29, 2010 at 9:08pm
Nice set Tim. I really like the "swagger" in the timing - However I'm going to call G. Swaine Buckley on his claim to Fairy Dance. It's generally credited to Scottish fiddler/composer Nathaniel Gow and starts appearing in published sources in the very early 1800s. In the really old books it's sometimes called "Largo's Fairy Dance", and in The United States it morphed into "Old Molly Hare". It's one of the first trad. tunes I learned on the accordion. Sounds great no matter who wrote it - what John Hartford used to call an "ironclad" tune.
Comment by Tim Twiss on March 30, 2010 at 9:37am
Thanks Ian. I'm always looking for source material. You you have a copy? I saw it in the Skinner manuscript. What about that second half? It's kind of like Congo Prince and its source "Camptown Hornpipe"....follows the first part, and then a wild and creative banjoish second section.
Comment by Ian Bell on March 30, 2010 at 7:20pm
I'll have a look and see what I've got. I once saw a facsimile of the 1810-ish Nathaniel Gow book but I don't own it.
I've got a bunch of old Scottish books and reprints. I don't remember where I actually learned it from - osmosis probably.
Comment by Ian Bell on April 2, 2010 at 9:11am
Hi Tim,
I've posted scans of a couple of versions of Fairy Dance that I found on the shelves. The one in C is from "The Gow Collection of Scottish Dance Music" Edited by Richard Carlin (Oak Publications) this was taken from one of the Gow folios published at the turn of the 19th century. I was a little surprised to see it in C. The other one is from "Kerr's First Collection of Merry Melodies for the Violin" which I believe was first published in Glasgow in the 1870s and was part of set of four books each containing about 400 tunes. Here it's moved into its usual (these days) key of D. These Kerr's books were a staple repertoire source in Ontario for a long time. Mostly Irish and Scottish but the odd minstrel-style tune as well as well as "popular operatic melodies" - mostly in with the waltzes. When you compare the Buckley version of Fairy dance with the original you can see how he'd feel justified in taking some credit. He added at least as many notes to the tune as he was originally provided with by Mr.Gow!
Comment by Tim Twiss on April 3, 2010 at 2:50pm
Ian..thanks for posting that music. I did a version from the Kerr Collection you put up. It is pretty much the same as I found in the Skinner Collection. It really illustrates the arranging idea of early Stroke players, with the "A' section certainly quoting the tune enough to be recognizable, and an off the wall "B" section staying harmonically within reason, but going "out there" with some fancy banjo techniques, making use of triplets, pulls, and open strings. I would put this in the same catagory of tunes as "Congo Prince Jig" with an identifiable "A" theme, and then a fancy "B" section inserted by the banjoist/arranger. I may try one more version of this, taking it down a P5 and keeping it in a desireable "banjo" key. I played this one "as is" off the fiddle paper. Doable, but I think most Classic Stroke stuff is best served not too far above the 5th peg.

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