n Winchester Records Library, there is a manuscript book, ref. 210M87/1. The title page has R Pyle 19th January 1822 written in decorated script. The book contains 171 secular tunes, largely country dance tunes with a few airs and song accompaniments, and a few psalm and hymn settings in the back. It thus reinforces the classic idea we have of an English village musician, someone who plays for dances when required and in the church on Sundays. The book came from Nether Wallop, in the Test Valley in Hampshire, and was part of a collection supplied by Mr. Mouland, a descendant of the Pyles.
Whilst there are some familiar tunes in the book, my thoughts when I first looked through the material is that Id never heard of most of them. This was confirmed when I started looking into the background. I could only find references to around half the tunes, generally in publications dating between 1780 and 1820. When played, it was apparent that many would form robust, Southern English dance tunes, readily lending themselves to spontaneous harmonies and improvisations. It seemed that they ought to see the light of day again. A chance meeting with Roger Watson of TAPs (Traditional Arts Projects) led to some funding from Test Valley Borough Council to pursue this idea. The idea of a CD of selected tunes, played by local artists, emerged, together with an accompanying book containing a larger selection.
Doug Bailey, of WildGoose Records agreed to produce the CD. Pete McClelland of Hobgoblin agreed to finance the book.
The playing on this CD represents modern, Southern English playing at its best. I hope you enjoy it. Bob Shatwell
We know little about R Pyle. He was Richard Pyle, youngest of seven children born to John and Ann Pyle of Nether Wallop in 1808. The farm still stands today in the middle of the village. Until the 1960s, it was known as Pyle Farm. It is now called Old Brook Farm. In the 1851 census, Richard is recorded as unmarried and owning the farm, where he lived with his unmarried sister, Martha. He died in 1880.
We dont know the instrument Richard played. There are sufficient well-known tunes in their common keys in the manuscript to suggest it wasnt a transposing one. The keys chosen for many of the tunes require excursions into the higher positions on the fiddle, and there are hardly any instances of notes below C on the fiddle G string. It thus seems unlikely he was a fiddle player. The flute seems the most likely instrument, although an oboe or C clarinet are also possibilities. However, Richard was 14 when he started the manuscript book. He was the youngest son of an affluent farmer. As such, it is likely he would play the traditional gentlemans instrument, the flute.
This CD is an outcome of a project in which many people have given their time and effort for little or no money. Our thanks to all of them. We would like to acknowledge the permission granted by Mr Mouland, the owner of the manuscript, to publish and use this material. We would also like to thank the staff of Winchester Records Library for their help and advice and Traditional Arts Projects for instigating this project and for providing funding, through Test Valley Borough Council, that assisted in the recording of this CD. Rob Harbron assisted early in the project, in selecting tunes for the CD. Malcolm Taylor and Peta Webb, of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House, have been very helpful in researching the origins of the tunes.
A particular thanks to all the musicians who contributed their time and talents to recording this material.
Paul Sartin, Saul Rose Tracks 1, 6 (Paul solo), 11 (Saul solo), 14.
Paul is a well known oboe and fiddle player. He was part of Belshazzar’s Feast and is presently a member of Bellowhead and the newly formed Dr Faustus. Saul was a member of the band Kings of Callicut. He is also a member of Dr Faustus with Benji Kirkpatrick and Paul Sartin.
Tim Laycock, Colin Thompson Tracks 2, 7, 13.
Tim Laycock was a member of the Melstock Band, and has worked with the Albion Band in 'Lark Rise'. Tim's current group is the New Scorpion Band. Colin Thompson edited “The English Fiddle Tutor”. He has played with Tim for many years as a duo.
Matt Green, Andy Turner Tracks 3, 8, 12, 15.
Matt Green has been playing fiddle since the age of 13, both for the Morris and with the Oxfordshire Woodpecker Band. Andy is a member of dance band Geckoes. He performs regularly at folk clubs and festivals, both solo and with Mat.
Will Duke, Dan Quinne Tracks 4, 9.
Will and Dan sing traditional songs in unison and play English country dance tunes on melodeon and concertina. Dan was a founder member of Flowers and Frolics. Will was greatly influenced by the playing of the Scan Tester of Horsted Keynes, Sussex. He started playing concertina in Sussex in 1972.
Burlsedon Village Band Tracks 5, 10, 16 (with Bob Shatwell, Roger Watson, Paul Sartin).
Burlesdon Village Band was formed in 1977. Bursledon is a village near Southampton. Their choice of tunes is predominantly biased towards the Southern English repertoire.
A book containing selected tunes from the manuscript is also available:-
Hampshire Dance Tunes
Edited by Bob Shatwell and Paul Sartin
Published by Hobgoblin