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Sleeve Notes for Fortyssimo by The Old Swan Band

FortyssimoThe Old Swan Band celebrate their 40th anniversary with this eclectic selection of tunes. Whether English, Irish, Scottish, French Canadian, Australian, traditional or composed, borrowed and/or adapted, they all end up with that distinctive Old Swan Band ‘stamp’. The musicians who make up this band also play in several other bands (a dozen or so to be imprecise) and tunes leap across the spaces between and re-seed themselves. Notes and names change, tempos and keys vary, but they all end up in the same place – on the dance floor. We hope you’ll enjoy listening to this music but our abiding wish is that you’ll roll back the carpet, get the right shoes on and shake a leg. That’s what legs are for.


Fi Fraser – Fiddle
Paul Burgess  - Fiddle and Octave fiddle
Flos Headford – fiddle
Jo Freya - Saxes and Whistles
Neil Gledhill – Bass Sax
John Adams – Trombone
Martin Brinsford – Harmonica and Percussion
Heather Horsley – Piano Keyboard

Track Notes

1 Bonny Breast Knot / Getting Upstairs / Blue Eyed Stranger

Three stalwarts of the English tradition. Bonny Breast Knot was collected by Maud Karpeles in Devon and Somerset. Getting Upstairs and Blue Eyed Stranger are both from the Headington Morris tradition, in Oxfordshire.

2 La Ouellette / Parnell’s March

La Ouellette was recorded by Famille Lajoie on Canadian RCA Victor in 1930. Parnell’s March came to us via Northumbrian fiddler Willy Taylor. It’s well known in Ireland as a slide (12/8), was published in a 1936 uilleann pipe tutor by Tadhg Crowley, and has possible pipe band connections. A version is to be found with Newfoundland fiddler Rufus Guinchard.

3 Leeds Polka / Jenny Bell Polka

The Leeds Polka was apparently collected by Leeds antiquarian Frank Kidson, but although it sounds like a typical mid-19thC polka, it appears in David Ashton & Chris Dyson's 'A First Collection of Yorkshire Dance Music'. In the foreword they say "the tunes in this book have been adapted from a collection dated 1752". This pre-dates the polka craze by 100 years. Not for the first time we’re confused. Jenny Bell - a popular tune from the north- east associated with pipers such as the Clough family and Jack Armstrong.

4 Gypsy’s Hornpipe/Astley’s Hornpipe/Coleford Jig

Gypsy’s Hornpipe is in the Hardy family manuscript in Dorset. Astley’s Hornpipe is in Northamptonshire poet John Clare’s manuscript. It’s named after Philip Astley who was an 18thC London showman who worked with horses and is sometimes credited with creating the modern circus. Coleford Jig is a tune recorded from Stephen Baldwin, a fiddler from the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border whose father played fiddle for Clifford's Mesne Morris Dancers. Stephen himself played for Bromsberrow Heath Morris Dancers and started his own set of dancers at Mitcheldean - possibly the only genuinely traditional Morris team of its type founded in the 20th century. For photos of Stephen see our sleeve notes for 'Gamesters, Pickpockets & Harlots'.

5 Les Trois Puits/ Barbara Allen/The Green Ship

Les Trois Puits ("Well, well, well") Written by Paul Burgess, this is named after a wonderful B&B in Congenies, Southern France, run by Frances and Caroline Brown. Barbara Allen started as a tune called "The Butchers of Bristol" from a North-West English manuscript, which was reconstructed and reworked by John Offord (of 'John of the Green the Cheshire Way' fame). So far, the only sighting of The Green Ship has been in the manuscript collection of Lancaster dancing master John Winder, whose book is dated 1789. Was it a local composition? It’s difficult to believe that such a good tune wouldn’t start to travel, so it may yet turn up elsewhere.

6 Salford Lasses / Lady Compton’s Whim / Welsh Jigg

Salford Lasses is to be found in the Manchester manuscript of a certain J. Townsend (1821) and appears in A Northern Lass:Traditional Dance Music of North West England published by Jamie Knowles. Lady Compton’s Whim and Welsh Jigg come from the manuscript book of the Northamptonshire poet John Clare. The latter shares elements with both the Playford tune 'An Old Man is a Bed full of Bones' and the Irish jig 'The Priest(Parson)in his Boots'

7 Varsoviennes

Herbert Smith’s / Sally Sloane’s / Rita Baker’s Herbert Smith was the last in a long line of family blacksmiths in the pretty Norfolk coastal village of Blakeney. His varsovienne was amongst the tunes recorded by folklorist Peter Kennedy in 1952. Around the same time, Australian folklorist John Meredith started recording around New South Wales where every musician had their own version of the varsovienne. Sally Sloane was recorded in Teralba in the late 1950s and Rita Baker two decades later in Gulgong.

8 Whistling Rufus / Woodland Revels

Whistling Rufus was written in 1899 by Kerry Mills (who also wrote 'Red Wing') and Woodland Revels derives from the 'Twinkling Star', the composition of Billy Whitlock (but not the American blackface performer of that name). Whitlock recorded it on xylophone as part of "Trio Nuovo" on Regal G7870 issued in December 1922 (thanks to Adrian Tuddenham for that information).

9 The Queer Fella’s Shot-ese/ Hayward’s Schottische

Queer-Fella’s came from fiddler Charlie Bachelor of Bingara, New South wales. He learned it from his greatest influence, Henry “Harry” Reeves who played for woolshed dances in the first three decades of the 20thC. Charlie enjoyed two brief revivals of interest in his music in the 1950s with The Merry Fiddlers and in the Horton River Band prior to his death in 1984. The late Jonathan Hayward of Much Wenlock showed his grandfather’s fiddle music books, found when restoring his farmhouse, to Flos who extracted and collated this slightly sleazy schottische.

10 Not For Joe / Seamo’s Polka

Not For Joe is an amalgam of several sections of English tunes, played by Scan Tester and several musicians along the English/Welsh border. The second tune is from the playing of Oscar Woods and is one he learned from Ernie Seaman and thus called it Seamo's Polka.

11 The Rose Tree / Bottom of the Punch Bowl

The Rose Tree is an archetypal tune used by Bampton Morris. It was written by Henry Shields, or is his adaptation of an Irish air given to him by John O'Keefe. Or neither. No-one knows. The Punchbowl (or The Bottom of the Punchbowl), published in 1743, was composed by James Oswald from Dunfermline, Scotland who died in Knebworth, England around the middle of the 18th century. Both of these versions come from one of our long standing favourite musicians, Jimmy Shand.

12 Covent Garden Row / Hunting The Hare / The Hop Jig / Bishop of Chester’s Jig

Covent Garden Row is from an unidentified manuscript in the collection at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire which we got from Charles Menteith who, with Paul, wrote and published 'The Coleford Jig' a collection of the traditional dance tunes of Gloucestershire. Chicago’s Chief of Police Francis O’Neil included Hunting The Hare in his 1907 collection of Irish music. Flos found The Hop Jig in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. The Bishop of Chester’s Jig was included in the 7th edition of Playford’s Dancing Master in 1786. In English sessions it’s collected an extra beat in each part, thanks to a misreading of the music by Chris Coe many years ago.

13 Alexandra Park / President Garfield

This tune comes from Kerr’s Fourth Collection of Merry Melodies, published by James S Kerr in Glasgow in (or soon after) 1879. As there were several Alexandra Parks (London, Oldham & Manchester to name just three) the actual origin of the name is anybody’s guess. Kerr’s Second Collection (c1882) is the source for President Garfield’s Hornpipe. Garfield was born into poverty in Ohio and rose through the political ranks to the dizzy heights of President, only to be assassinated in 1881 after serving only 3 months. In Ryan’s Mammoth Collection the tune is credited to a Harry Carleton, about whom nothing is known.

14 Kelso Fiddle & Accordion Club / March of St Timothy

One of many fine tunes written by Bob Liddle, button accordionist, piper with both Kelso and Coldstream pipe bands and habituee of Kelso Folk Club. It came to us via border musicians Willy Taylor, Joe Hutton and Will Atkinson. Written by Michigan hammer dulcimer player Judi Morningstar, March of St Timothy has lodged itself in the English repertoire. As with all good tunes that go travelling, the notes are slowly ‘marching away’ from the original but hopefully we’re near enough.