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Oct 1, 2021 - 8:58:58 AM
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6742 posts since 6/27/2009

Hangman’s Reel may be unique in being the only four-part tune played to save a fiddler from the gallows.  It’s rare any time that a four-part tune becomes a popular old-time tune, but this is one.  

 

Hangman’s Reel is often associated with Whitetop, Virginia fiddler Albert Hash (1917 – 1983), though he said he learned it from a recording of a Texas fiddler, Bill Northcut (1935 - 1992).  

 

Tune Archive reports via Judy Hyman it is related to a tune from the British Isles and from a French-Canadian tune called Reel du Pendu, popularized by the famous fiddler John Carignan (1916 – 1988). History and samples are discussed in this video with Kerry Blech (Bill Northcut clip at 3:36).

 

Albert related one such story of a Canadian prisoner to Wayne Erbsen that you can read here.  Wayne admits to embellishing the story over the years.   Documentation of any of these hanging stories is nebulous at best.  Other stories are told about the hanging tune Calahan/The Last of Calahan.  And another in this vein: Last of Callahan history.  It’s a challenge or impossibility to sort out the real facts.

 

A thorough write-up ten years ago of The Reel of the Hangman was covered by Tony Spadaro, RIP, The Old Woodchuck many of us remember.  Lots of information and music to glean here:  The Reel of the Hanged Man (Le Reel du Pendu).

 

Enjoy these samples and please post your own:

 

Albert Hash’s Hangman's Reel

Bill Northcutt’s Hangman's Reel

Jean Carignan (1916 – 1988), Reel du Pendu (Hangman’s Reel) (astounding skill here!)

Tania Elizabeth, French Canadian fiddler, Reel du Pendu

Kirk Sutphin & friends

Josh Turknett

Hangman's Reel from Scotland and Shetland

 

Here's my favorite by Chris Coole, portraying the reel's richness and intricacy:

Hangman's Reel played in a lowered pitch

 

Here are some of the many enjoyable posts of Hangman’s Reel on BHO.  

Dan Levenson

Tom MacKenzie

 

I posted mine five years back upon learning about Albert Hash and the musicians in Whitetop after traveling The Crooked Road, Virginia's Musical Heritage .

 


Edited by - JanetB on 10/01/2021 09:21:38

Oct 1, 2021 - 9:34:51 AM

Jimmy Sutton

England

247 posts since 9/30/2013

Hi Janet,

Have you ever heard Shetland Fiddler Aly Bain play this? He used it as a signature tune for his TV series on fiddlers some years back. There is an audio track by him on you tube.

Oct 1, 2021 - 10:34:52 AM
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6742 posts since 6/27/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Jimmy Sutton


Have you ever heard Shetland Fiddler Aly Bain play this? He used it as a signature tune for his TV series on fiddlers some years back. There is an audio track by him on you tube.


I found a good video of Aly Bain with his explanation and source for the tune.  He gives its origin as being from Norway where it was called Devil's Polka and that it was brought to Canada and embellished with a story.  Aly learned it from the master Jean Carignan and plays it masterfully as well.  Thank you, Jimmy.

Edited by - JanetB on 10/01/2021 10:42:43

Oct 1, 2021 - 1:11:01 PM
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226 posts since 10/26/2018

Sounds good, Janet!
Northcutt's version sounds a lot like the Canadian version with its calico tuning and all. I have always liked this one and now that I've listened to that version and Mr Hash's, I've got some relearning to do as my version seems like a watered down version that was taught to me in my first year of fiddling.

Edited by - WVDreamin on 10/01/2021 13:13:27

Oct 1, 2021 - 6:56:05 PM
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7289 posts since 11/4/2005

That's a fine version, Janet, with some very interesting melodic figures weaving your setting very smoothly together. Ed Britt and I used to play this all the time; here is a video from one of our busking sessions in Harvard Square, back in August, 2017. Our fiddling friend John Maguire had started busking with us the year before.
 

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 10/01/2021 18:56:41

Oct 2, 2021 - 11:34:38 AM

6742 posts since 6/27/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Don Borchelt
Ed Britt and I used to play this all the time; here is a video from one of our busking sessions in Harvard Square, back in August, 2017. Our fiddling friend John Maguire had started busking with us the year before.

I remember those days not long ago when you and Ed busked.  That performance of Black Eyed Susie should have earned you enough for all three to have a nice lunch.  Here's your excellent article with Ed memorialized in Banjo Newsletter.

 


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