Saturday, April 22, 2017

Whatever It's Called

At the session I just mentioned somebody also brought up this tune, under the title of "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine." Despite it having the form of a Scottish march, the folks I was with played it with very little pointing--I thought this fit the tune charmingly. I knew finding a setting to show off here might be a little difficult because of previous acquaintance with a catchy tune called "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine," which wasn't this one at all; it was something more obviously related to the pipe march "The Battle of Waterloo," and the folk songs "Mick Maguire," and "The Regular Army-O."

To make matters rather more complicated, both tunes also carry the alternative title of "Bonaparte's Retreat" *and* there is a third tune, out of the American Old-Time repertoire also called "Bonaparte's Retreat." In case you are still with me, here's a final twist: the very Scottish sounding tune I heard at the session the other night is a standard among the old-time crowd as well (though, if YouTube is anything to go by, usually under the "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine" title).

 The old-time route seemed to be the way to go if I wanted a fairly round version of the tune (the plot thickens: if I read the Internet aright, in Cape Breton the tune, much more pointed, is called "The Braes of Dunvegan"). It seems particularly popular among banjo players. Here is a banjo version that sets out the direct simplicity of the tune just the way I like it:

Despite the form being certainly familiar, I was surprised that it was a tune I hadn't heard before. Or thought I hadn't. After a few hours, this song was dragged up from the cellars of memory. Though I still couldn't tell you where I'd heard it. It's not an identical twin, but it sounds a first cousin anyway, doesn't it? Or are the subject matter and meter just putting ideas into my mind?


Finally, going a bit further afield, here is a setting less apparently similar in the tune. I found it while looking for the Eliza Carty song above. It is included here less because it's tangential to the topic and more because if there's one thing I like as much as (or more than) disarmingly simple marches, it's masterful unaccompanied singing.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Reel by Any Other Name

Why hello, there. As a year's silence suggests, posting around here may never be a very predictable thing. I have, however, certainly been turning ideas over in my mind. So we'll start with the old fallback; I went to an Irish session* this evening and heard a tune I liked immensely. And, lucky me, I came home and found a recording of it that I also liked immensely. It's charming and fun on the fiddle (at least I think it is fun; I haven't quite got the hang of it yet), but I think it would sit exceptionally well on the pipes, too. So here you go: "The Antrim Rose," is the first tune in this set by Michael Muir and Rufus Huggan.

*Do you find the phrase "Irish session," extremely hard to pronounce? What about "Irish wrist watch?" You're welcome.

Monday, December 14, 2015

And Something to Listen To

Here is a sampling of a very pleasant CD entitled Cello Suite Number 2 in D Minor and Other Selections, "Other Selections" being bits from other of Bach's cello suites. Including The One, to my great satisfaction. The twist--they aren't played on cello here, but on mandola, the mandolin's more robust brother. Such picked instruments have a natural inclination to sound a bit abrupt in contrast to bowed instruments so I was quite impressed with the resonant quality of the playing here that is so well suited to the subject matter.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Something to Look At

Those pictures of a brilliant night sky set in contrast to a landscape get me every time. But this was the first one I'd seen that featured a peculiarly Tehachapian twist to the landscape. I've heard the grass in the foreground called "wild rye." I don't know how accurate that is, but where it has taken over, it grows with a quite pleasing generosity, and rolls like surf when the wind blows across it. The oak, for them as takes note of such things, is probably Quercus lobata.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rather Along the Same Lines

Some friends from my band, who were in Scotland for the week of Piping Live! and who saw this year's 'Worlds in person, surprised me with a smashin' new CD they picked up over there: The Fred Morrison Trio: Live at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. (And an autographed copy, no less, God bless 'em! I was pretty excited about that. Indeed, I am still excited about that.)

You can go over to Bandcamp and hear why this would be an exciting thing. Of course, to me, two things stood out: 1.) it's Fred Morrison; 2.) I now have my very own recording of "Kansas City Hornpipe." But this was the reaction before I even listened to the CD. Even if you are not a fiddler who has been coveting "Kansas City Hornpipe" for a year and more, there is a rather immeasurable lot to like about this album. In no particular order:

  • The variety. The collection never gets wrapped around one flavour--an impressive feat when you consider that there is only one lead instrumentalist. But there are border pipe tracks a-plenty, set off among whistle tracks, and my crown jewel above on the uillean pipes, of course.
  • The musicality. It is Fred Morrison after all--and live at that! A contagious delight in the tunes looses very little, I think, in this case, by being encased in the (metaphorical) amber of a recording. The music itself is alive, the musician just happens to be whirled along with enjoying the fun, and the listener is just as compelled.
  • The musicianship. That man can play the pipes, to say nothing of the whistle. And the backing musicians (especially a guitarist at the speed of Track 10) might not be entirely human. 
  • The tunes. Everyone is bound to have different favourites here, and I would hate to distract too much from others' potential choices by rambling on about my own subjective likes. But did I mention "Kansas City Hornpipe" was part of the album? Of course, being a pushover when it comes to slow airs, I was particularly struck by "Passing Places," as well. If the album never stagnates in its sound, it never does in style either. You can have the firecrackers of an insane "Sleepy Maggie," the bleak, wistful phrasing of "Passing Places" and the very. . .well, downtown, swing of "Downtown," all under one roof.
  • I meantersay, it's just a grand album all-round.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Late Notice

UPDATE: Saturday's competition is being streamed by the BBC. I knew that. . .

 Whatever else I do, or mostly don't do, around this blog, I always feel that I should say something about the World Pipe Band Championships broadcasts. Well, I missed giving any heads-ups for today's qualifier round, but you can catch the finalists on Saturday, beginning with the MSR at 02:30 PST and the Medley at 07:15PST on LiveStream. It should be a great contest, if this morning's quality was anything to go by.

And here are samples of the aforesaid quality (the Livestream people very kindly put each set up separately as soon as it is finished being broadcast): "You have fingers like a Canadian piper" should be an international compliment among musicians. (And oh, that air!): The tone here makes me feel the same way that watching the ocean makes me feel. It makes me plain happy to be alive to see and hear something so grand. "Rather beyond my likes and dislikes," as Sam Gamgee said of elves. It's just that good. I am off to work shortly and haven't had any luck in tracking down the video of St. Laurence O' Toole's medley, but if you have a moment, go find it and watch it. It's magnificent.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015


There is little excuse for missing posts the entire Christmas season, only to appear on Epiphany with a link to an article about. . .bees. Perhaps I can shoehorn them in to the liturgical side of things by pointing out that they are a lovely shade of gold, and it is, after all, a day associated with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But I do believe that's stretching it. The real reason I'm putting it up is because the pictures are recent, they are excellent, and the one downside of winter around here is that one doesn't usually see such things in the depths of it. So here, have some carpenter bees. (And a very blessed Epiphany to you!)