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Playing English and Welsh Morris dance tunes clawhammer style

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Jul 12, 2020 - 1:25:59 AM
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58 posts since 6/29/2015

Does anyone play English and Welsh Morris and country dance tunes on banjo.? They are generally such simple
Melodies and in 4/4 time and have been around for 500 years.
Traditionally they were played by simple village folk on basic instruments such as the tabor pipe and drum but in the last 150 years to the melodeon and fiddle. With all this lockdown due coronavirus this year, I’ve missed my fill of watching the Morris dancers. This video this morning on the hangout reminded me of the tunes again;

banjohangout.org/myhangout/vid...&id=37964

And Janet Burtons Old Tom
Of Oxford played on that bassy cello banjo.

banjohangout.org/myhangout/vid...?id=36610

Does anyone else have videos of Morris tunes to share?

Here’s my attempt of Janets tabbed
Old Tom of Oxford.


youtu.be/wT3IWbNPwEU

Jul 12, 2020 - 1:35:31 AM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

58 posts since 6/29/2015

Anyone got an hour of two to tab out this Welsh tune I recorded in 2012 at the Welsh food festival near Powys castle. It starts with a simple tune and develops into several variations. Think the instruments accompany img the dancers were fiddle, concertina and piano but I had consumed plenty of alcoholic free samples so my memory is hazy

https://youtu.be/g2myPK0I_7M

Edited by - Hay-on-Wye on 07/12/2020 01:36:54

Jul 12, 2020 - 3:35:48 AM

m06

England

8980 posts since 10/5/2006

Neill, I do play English folk tunes on tenor banjo and play for Morris here in North Somerset. However I'm also a (wooden) flute player and have found that instrument to be a more natural and instinctive fit for me in my English musical setting...to the extent that flute ended up keeping my tenor banjo in it's case at English folk sessions and I play only flute for the Morris.

Clearly that's not any kind've genre 'rule', just what evolved naturally for me. As is shown by yourself and a few others who post very nice versions of British/Irish tunes played on 5-string banjo. Another quirk when playing my local tunes on tenor banjo is that switches to two-finger thumb lead, not clawhammer (and not ITM plectrum-style). Again, that's just the way English music naturally shaped my playing.

You mention 4/4 time signature, yet in addition a large part of the local folk dance repertoire round here are wonderful 6/8 jigs and also 2/4 reels. Reels for dancing are a particular feature around Somerset. I think that was significant in why I went toward two-finger thumb lead. 

Edited by - m06 on 07/12/2020 03:52:21

Jul 12, 2020 - 4:01:18 AM

m06

England

8980 posts since 10/5/2006

...another link between banjo and English tunes are the early English-made 7-string banjos that appeared in response to the first touring American shows in the 1840's and before the 5-string became the dominant choice (curiously despite the fact that the touring American musicians brought the 5-string). I play an early English-made 7-string; how I play it is really lead by what it seems to do best and the booming bass side has a strong influence in that. English manufacture, the early repertoire and the contemporary early English banjo context are an interesting area for ongoing research.

Edited by - m06 on 07/12/2020 04:03:20

Jul 12, 2020 - 4:07:46 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

58 posts since 6/29/2015

Have you got any videos Mike? Be interesting to see

Jul 12, 2020 - 4:33:59 AM

m06

England

8980 posts since 10/5/2006

I've been thinking for a while to post an English tune played on my 7-string. Your thread may make me put my mind to doing that.

Just an amusing anecdote about contrasting tempo too...for those of us banjo players used to playing high-tempo OT fiddle tunes in sessions and for American-style flatfoot dance, playing for Morris is like someone switched reality onto slo-mo. When I first played for Morris I remember a red-faced, profusely sweating and seriously out-of-breath morris man sidle up to me after a tune at Morris practice and gasp out the barely audible words: "We ain't done it that fast before!"

We live and learn.laugh

Edited by - m06 on 07/12/2020 04:45:46

Jul 12, 2020 - 4:44:57 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

58 posts since 6/29/2015

Looking foreword to it!

Jul 12, 2020 - 5:58:16 AM

1211 posts since 2/4/2013

There must be some tunes that made the transition to clawhammer. The Girl I left Behind Me Comes to mind.

Jul 12, 2020 - 6:21:40 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

58 posts since 6/29/2015

Jul 12, 2020 - 6:47:46 AM

1211 posts since 2/4/2013

Cuckoo's Nest would be another.

youtube.com/watch?v=Gt36RoKhG6E

Jul 12, 2020 - 7:00:53 AM

637 posts since 1/30/2019

@mo6 I'm looking forward to the 7 string tune too!
I have a few English / Welsh tunes on my YouTube, but like Mike 6/8 time is easier on tenor, so much is on my tenor, translated across to 5 string if it works.
Here's "Owen's Jig", "Ap Siencyn" and "Byth Adra" (Clawhammer)
youtu.be/l64p-CVGWZA
youtu.be/O1-p67Fx510
youtu.be/lXXPNy1nyRk
Will Howson, @automaticslim has quite a few in his website too.
Great question Neill!

Jul 12, 2020 - 9:51:59 AM

382 posts since 10/9/2017

A while back I learned "Jamaica" for clawhammer, although I think it's easier in 2FTL. If you're not familiar with the tune, it was the theme music for "Upstart Crow" on Ye Olde BBC.

Jul 12, 2020 - 9:53:52 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

58 posts since 6/29/2015

Nice tunes and an even better backdrop in snowdonia, what are the 2 peaks behind you?

Jul 12, 2020 - 10:02:12 AM

780 posts since 6/25/2006

I really like Ray Chandler's banjo playing - he plays banjo in English folk band The Rude Mechanicals - he plays fingerstyle but in a rhythmic way  https://raychandler.net/audio.html

Edited by - hobogal on 07/12/2020 10:03:30

Jul 12, 2020 - 11:13:24 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

58 posts since 6/29/2015

Roy chandlers site has some great tunes

Jul 13, 2020 - 12:57:53 AM

m06

England

8980 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawker

There must be some tunes that made the transition to clawhammer. The Girl I left Behind Me Comes to mind.


Many, many tunes from the English (and Scottish and Irish) repertoire transitioned with emigration, contact and assimilation.

The tune The Ship's Carpenter is a one particularly fascinating example to trace that transition right up to the modern day and it's American clawhammer manifestation. smiley

Jul 13, 2020 - 1:49:04 AM
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637 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Hay-on-Wye

Nice tunes and an even better backdrop in snowdonia, what are the 2 peaks behind you?


Moel Penamnen on the left, and the rounded one is called Cribau. Just above the A470, a couple of miles north of Blaenau Ffestiniog. And here's a fact: Abraham Lincoln's maternal grandparents lived just over the back of those hills.

Thanks for the comments, tunes mostly from alawoncymru.com, with Byth Adra on the session website.

Jul 13, 2020 - 1:52:44 AM

637 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by m06
quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawker

There must be some tunes that made the transition to clawhammer. The Girl I left Behind Me Comes to mind.


Many, many tunes from the English (and Scottish and Irish) repertoire transitioned with emigration, contact and assimilation.

The tune The Ship's Carpenter is a one particularly fascinating example to trace that transition right up to the modern day and it's American clawhammer manifestation. smiley


Ship's Carpenter - yes, very interesting. If you've seen the most recent film version of "Far from the madding crowd" with Carey Mulligan, there's a nice version of ships carpenter in the drunken dance scene. 

Jul 13, 2020 - 8:32:53 AM

JSB88

UK

138 posts since 3/9/2017

I am finding this a very interesting thread. I would like to learn a few English folk tunes and am quite taken with the idea of playing 2ftl on a tenor banjo, as 2 finger picking is what I most enjoy and am best at on the 5 string. Very early on in my banjo days I tried to learn the mermaid but gave up. Now I can’t find the youtube lesson on it.

Jul 13, 2020 - 10:49:52 AM

637 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by JSB88

I am finding this a very interesting thread. I would like to learn a few English folk tunes and am quite taken with the idea of playing 2ftl on a tenor banjo, as 2 finger picking is what I most enjoy and am best at on the 5 string. Very early on in my banjo days I tried to learn the mermaid but gave up. Now I can’t find the youtube lesson on it.


Hi John,

Here's a tenor banjo tab for the mermaid in GDAE tuning. https://www.tenor-banjo-tabs.com/the-mermaid.html

And a video of 2ftl playing it on the five string. https://youtu.be/BVgidY32fio

Quite often I'll learn the tune on a tenor, then, when the tune is in my head move it over to five string. It's a good way to learn, if you have both banjos. 

Some things sound better staying on the tenor though.

Good luck!

Andy

Jul 13, 2020 - 11:04:07 AM
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JSB88

UK

138 posts since 3/9/2017

Thanks Andy, I’ll give it a go. I’m a 5 string person, I have never even held a tenor banjo but often fancied having a go. It was the flat picking that put me off, never had the imagination to simply 2ftl it. I will give the 5 string versions some active listening and having a bit more skill (?) now will have another go. Thanks

Jul 13, 2020 - 2:03:06 PM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

58 posts since 6/29/2015

Bleu Ffestiniog is a strange place, every time I’ve been there it’s been shrouded in fog. The Main Street has a massive cliff overhanging it yet I keep going back there. I knew a Uilleann pipe reed maker who lived there called Alun Moller. He passed away several years ago now. He’d fallen on hard times and had to move from his lovely house in Rhyd Which looked out towards Snowdon.

I digress, I’m trying to learn the three sea captains in clawhammer, it’s proving to be tricky but he’s a video of a melodeon version I found on youtube

 

https://youtu.be/ae4a9okD2xA

Edited by - Hay-on-Wye on 07/13/2020 14:04:32

Jul 13, 2020 - 11:35:57 PM

637 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Hay-on-Wye

Bleu Ffestiniog is a strange place, every time I’ve been there it’s been shrouded in fog. The Main Street has a massive cliff overhanging it yet I keep going back there. I knew a Uilleann pipe reed maker who lived there called Alun Moller. He passed away several years ago now. He’d fallen on hard times and had to move from his lovely house in Rhyd Which looked out towards Snowdon.

I digress, I’m trying to learn the three sea captains in clawhammer, it’s proving to be tricky but he’s a video of a melodeon version I found on youtube

 

https://youtu.be/ae4a9okD2xA


We're at the bottom of Crimea Pass. Weather better here! Did you watch the Welsh drama "Craith" (Hidden). Last series based in Blaunau, was really grim, lots of that mist!

3 Sea Captains is a 6/8 tune on the session. If I ever get through wandering boy, I'll have a go. 6/8 takes time to get back into for me on clawhammer, my right hand just does 4/4 automatically. I do bum ditty ditty, rather than bum bum ditty for 6/8s. Works when I eventually get it in my head!

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