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Jul 30, 2021 - 4:21:59 AM
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282 posts since 5/25/2015

The London Hornpipe (aka Evan’s or Ewan’s Hornpipe, Navvy On The Line, The New London Reel)

I originally came across this tune in a book of guitar tabs for Scottish fiddle tunes, under the name “Evans”. It seems to appear for the first time in print as “Ewan’s Hornpipe” in Middleton’s “Selection of Strathspeys, Reels etc. for the Violin” (1870) and then again as “Evans” in “The Athole Collection” published in 1884 (possibly a mis-reading of the name Ewan?).

After a bit of further research, it turns out that the tune is perhaps more widely known as “The London Hornpipe”, which is the name it appears under in “Ryans Mammoth Collection” (1883).

There are at least two other tunes in circulation called “The London Hornpipe”, taken from other 19th century collections, so the names of these tunes are a bit “fluid”, to say the least.

Here are a few examples of the tune:

The tune was part of the repertoire of Cyril Stinnet of Missouri, and he plays it on this 1979 recording, starting at the 1:29:00 mark (1 hour 29 minutes - near the end).

McCann: Cyril Stinnett's tape, c. 1979 - YouTube

Charlie Walden plays a nice version here Day 44 - London Hornpipe (366 Fiddle Tunes) - YouTube.

Charlie also has an interesting web page that discusses the similarities between this tune and the tune “Reel du Sherbrooke” from Quebec here: Tune Connections & Origins: London Hornpipe & Reel du Sherbrooke – Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association (missourifiddling.com)

The tune also quite often appears under the name “Navvy on the line”. Here is an archive recording taken from an old 78, by an unknown artist. This version seems to be mainly based on the ‘A’ part of the tune, with a simplified ‘B’ Part.

Navvy on the line - Reg Hall English, Irish and Scottish Folk Music and Customs Collection - World and traditional music | British Library - Sounds (bl.uk)

(This British Library Sounds site is a fantastic rabbit hole for listening to field recordings of folk tunes).

There was a thread earlier this week about the difference between reels and hornpipes. This is clearly identified as a hornpipe, but most of the sheet music versions are written without a dotted rhythm pattern, which suggests it was played in fairly straight time. As a result, it doesn’t look radically different to a lot of reels (indeed, it sometimes goes by the name “The New London Reel”).

When playing it, however, I think you get the sense that there is a “bouncy” feel to the tune, with a “1 and a 2 and a 1, 2, 3, hey!” rhythm, with the notes dancing over the top.

There are a few online accordion/melodeon videos of “Navvy On The Line” that play the tune with more of a swing/dotted feel that sounds, perhaps, more like a traditional hornpipe.

Navvy on the Line - YouTube

I’ve attached a video of my version, and tab (in G), which plays the tune in full, using a lot of melodic patterns. It would be interesting to hear a simplified arrangement, that keeps the feel of the full tune, if that’s possible.


Edited by - gentrixuk on 07/31/2021 03:03:03

Jul 30, 2021 - 5:52:34 AM
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GMB

USA

358 posts since 5/29/2009

Mark,
Brilliant! Thanks for the research, performance and tab. I really enjoyed this one, will start learning it today!

Jul 30, 2021 - 11:04:57 PM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

253 posts since 6/29/2015

That’s an amazing tune mark, not come across that one before. I love hornpipes. Really interesting write up too

Jul 31, 2021 - 2:29:53 AM
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1041 posts since 1/30/2019

Thanks Mark,
It needs simplifying for me, there are a lot of busy bars of music there. You play it beautifully. I might have a go at a more "impressionistic" version. (I.e I'll fudge the hard bits ....)
What a good choice, and great history.
Andy

Jul 31, 2021 - 10:13:47 AM

282 posts since 5/25/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Andyrhydycreuau

Thanks Mark,
It needs simplifying for me, there are a lot of busy bars of music there. You play it beautifully. I might have a go at a more "impressionistic" version. (I.e I'll fudge the hard bits ....)
What a good choice, and great history.
Andy


Hi Andy. Yes it's pretty much the busiest tune I know! It's hard to "unhear" all the notes once they get stuck in your head. 

Jul 31, 2021 - 12:28:03 PM
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6710 posts since 6/27/2009

Thanks for a neat old tune from across the pond, though I managed to find Missouri fiddler's Cyril Stinnett's recording which you provided at the end of what is an amazing showcase of his talent. Do you know he was a left-handed fiddler?

I always balk at learning from Ozark fiddlers who play so intricately, but I gave it a try, simplifying it somewhat and using the 5th string like a drone at times, giving my thumb more of a workout than usual.  That made it more fun to play, too. Your portrayal of London Hornpipe is as intricate as the on-line notation I looked at -- nice job! I know what you mean about giving up notes you have in your head already....


Edited by - JanetB on 07/31/2021 12:35:27

Aug 1, 2021 - 1:24:29 AM
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282 posts since 5/25/2015

quote:
Originally posted by JanetB

Thanks for a neat old tune from across the pond, though I managed to find Missouri fiddler's Cyril Stinnett's recording which you provided at the end of what is an amazing showcase of his talent. Do you know he was a left-handed fiddler?

I always balk at learning from Ozark fiddlers who play so intricately, but I gave it a try, simplifying it somewhat and using the 5th string like a drone at times, giving my thumb more of a workout than usual.  That made it more fun to play, too. Your portrayal of London Hornpipe is as intricate as the on-line notation I looked at -- nice job! I know what you mean about giving up notes you have in your head already....


That works beautifully; thanks Janet. It really keeps the bouncy feel. I came across an interesting theory about hornpipes last night, that suggests they developed as a result of improvements to roads and the expansion of long distance stagecoach travel:  "Walter Lloyd has suggested that the 'new' hornpipe rhythmn of the late 18th century,  popular for step dancing amongst ' travellers', was born from what had become the familiar rhythm of a trotting horse". 

Aug 1, 2021 - 8:43:28 PM
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272 posts since 7/7/2007

All the hallmarks of a fine tune - one listen and it is stuck in my head.

Aug 4, 2021 - 4:46:21 AM
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JLouis Thiry

France

42 posts since 3/7/2006

I like The Matt Seattle's version of "Navvie On The Line" in his "Northumbrian Piper's Pocket Green Book". It is more a pre-rag novelty tune than a traditional hornpipe. I tried to make it a banjo arrangement reminiscent of old English "dots and triplets" banjo solos, not always easy in the clawhammer style. Sounds good for Morris Dancing as well.
And I like your versions too, Janet and Mark, and I agree with the trotting horse rythm.


Aug 6, 2021 - 3:21:04 AM
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282 posts since 5/25/2015

quote:
Originally posted by JLouis Thiry

I like The Matt Seattle's version of "Navvie On The Line" in his "Northumbrian Piper's Pocket Green Book". It is more a pre-rag novelty tune than a traditional hornpipe. I tried to make it a banjo arrangement reminiscent of old English "dots and triplets" banjo solos, not always easy in the clawhammer style. Sounds good for Morris Dancing as well.
And I like your versions too, Janet and Mark, and I agree with the trotting horse rythm.


Thanks jean Louis - great triplets! I haven't seen that version before - I have a copy of the 'Northumbrian Pipers' Tunebook', but its not included in that.  This tune certainly got around over the years!

Aug 6, 2021 - 6:43:34 AM

JLouis Thiry

France

42 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:

Thanks jean Louis - great triplets! I haven't seen that version before - I have a copy of the 'Northumbrian Pipers' Tunebook', but its not included in that.  This tune certainly got around over the years!



Thank you. The books I was talking about are "The Northumbrian Piper’s Pocket – Yellow Book" and "The Northumbrian Piper’s Pocket – Green Book" a collection of tune compiled and written by the border piper Matt Seattle. These two books have been in my banjo case for decades. The vast majority of melodies in these two collections fall under the fingers so easily that they seem to have been written for the banjo.

The book you mention, "The Northumbrian Pipers 'Tunebook" is the four-volume repository of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society repertoire, mostly Northumbrian and Scottish tunes, and which also includes variations of virtuosity. This is actually the Northumbrian Pipers' Society Bible.

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