Ian Anderson, writing in fRoots magazine, described The Old Swan Band as ‘a well oiled machine’, qualifying it with the additional comment ‘in more ways than one’. True, the band was born in a Cheltenham pub called The Old Swan (for a time an Irish theme pub and now just The Swan) and the band members are often to be found adding their considerable musical weight to English tune sessions in pub back rooms, but ‘well oiled’ must refer to the band’s ability to reach deep into the often hidden vein of English dance repertoire and pull out a gem of a tune which will be delivered to the world in distinctive style. This style is typified by driving fiddles and harmonica, fat brass, persistent and inventive percussion, all glued together with rhythmic and sweet piano. Whether applied to a newly researched tune or to an old favourite, the Old Swan sound is unmistakable.
Fi Fraser - Fiddle
Paul Burgess - Fiddle
Flos Headford - Fiddle
Jo Freya - Saxes & Whistles
Neil Gledhill - Bass Sax
John Adams - Trombone
Martin Brinsford - Harmonica & Percussion
Heather Horsley - Piano Keyboard
Mrs O’Dwyer’s/Packie Russell's (Trad arr. OSB/Trad arr. OSB)
Ellen O'Dwyer was a concertina player, whose tune is also known as Slugs and Snails. After all these years it probably doesn't much resemble how she originally played it any more! Packie was one of the famous Russell family of Doolin, Co. Clare. Both Mrs O'Dwyer and the Russells were recorded in Co. Clare in 1974 by John Tams and Neil Wayne - a fantastic piece of work.
The Queen’s Jig/The Basque (Trad arr. OSB/Trad arr. OSB)
The Queen’s Jig comes from the 11th edition of Playford’s English Dancing Master (1701). The breakdown ‘Sweeping the Town’ is said to be an American derivation. The Basque Jig was found by Gloucestershire musician Dave Haines who got it from a Bombarde and binou band in Brittany, whose EP he brought back with him.
Walter Bulwer’s No. 2 & 1 (Trad arr. OSB/Trad arr. OSB)
Walter Bulwer was born in 1889 in the village of Shipdham in Norfolk. His father died before he reached his teens,so, with his elder brother Chamberlain, he was brought up by his mother, living in her father's house. He played music from an early age, was musically literate and played for many social functions on fiddle, viola, banjo, mandolin, clarinet and trombone. His wife Daisy played banjo and piano and when musicologist Reg Hall started meeting them in 1959, they were past doing gigs but enjoyed evenings at home playing popular songs of the 1920s and 30s, and also the old hornpipes and polkas, plus some Walter used to make up as he went along!
Staffordshire Hornpipe/Mad Moll of the Cheshire Hunts (Trad arr.OSB/Trad arr. OSB)
Staffordshire Hornpipe and was collected by Cecil Sharp from James Locke of Newport Shropshire.
Mad Moll of the Cheshire Hunts was also collected by Sharp from John Locke, and is not to be confused with another tune from James Locke, Mad Moll of the Cheshire Hounds which is an odd version of Flowers of Edinburgh. John and James were members of the famous Locke family who travelled extensively in the area of the Welsh/English border. One of their regular haunts was Gorsley Common on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border - a rough and lawless area dreaded by wayfarers. The Lockes must have been well known to the Baldwin family who lived here when Charlie Baldwin was born (see Gloucester Hornpipe).
Dashing White Sergeant/Brighton Camp (Bishop/ arr. OSB /Trad arr. OSB)
The tune which is used for the formal Scottish dance The Dashing White Sergeant was originally a song intended for an opera by English musical composer Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786 -1855) who was most famous as the composer of Home Sweet Home. The archetypal English tune Brighton Camp (otherwise known as The Girl I Left Behind Me) could well have Irish provenance, the earliest known version of the melody being printed in about 1810 in Dublin publisher Hime's Pocket Book for the German Flute or Violin. Louis Antoine Jullien, the French composer and orchestra leader toured England extensively with his sets of Quadrilles and Polkas. A real showman, famed for his magnificent waistcoats and for conducting classical music with a diamond-encrusted baton, he produced several sets of Quadrilles based on national airs and those based on Irish airs includes this tune as one of the main themes. The words associated with the tune are dated by historian Lewis Winstock at 1758, but was the tune the same? The jury’s still out. When leaving camp it was said that the British Army would often play this tune, because of the association with the words.Both of these tunes demonstrate how difficult it is to apply national labels to tunes.
The Woodcutters Jig/The Swedish Dance (Headford / Trad arr. OSB)
The Woodcutter’s Jig was written by our own Flos Headford and named after one of his favourite hostelries in Whiteshill, on the hills near Stroud.
The Swedish Dance was collected by Cecil Sharp on August 2nd, 1909 from Thomas Swallow of Lower Guiting, Gloucestershire and is a truncated version of the English jig When Daylight Shines. It was traditionally danced at harvest suppers in Guiting and was collected there for the second time in 1935, by H Hurlforth Albino, from Charles Denley, whose family had strong connections with the old Guiting morris dancers. The dance itself was a version of Three Meet: dances were labelled "Swedish" if the couples were in groups of three with alternate men and ladies.
Gloucester Hornpipe/Polly Put The Kettle On (Trad arr. OSB/Trad arr. OSB)
Were collected in 1910 by Cecil Sharp from 88 year old Charles Baldwin (father of Stephen Baldwin) who spent his final years in the Alms Houses in Newent in the Forest of Dean. He was formerly the fiddler for the morris side at Cliffords Mesne, which faded in the 1860s. The Gloucester Hornpipe belongs to a family of tunes related to Nelson’s Hornpipe and appears all over England as The Bridge of Lodi, Down Back o’Shoddy, Saxon’s and Huntsman’s Hornpipes and more. Polly Put the Kettle on bears only a slight resemblance to the nursery rhyme or old-time fiddle versions and seems to be a one off sighting. Sharp described it as a "diamonte" or corner dance, and wasn't sure in which order the B & C musics should be played. We like it like this.
The Sloe/The Sweet Briar/Double Figure 8 (All Trad arr. OSB)
The Sloe and the Sweet Briar were collected at Stow-on-the-Wold workhouse in 1907 by Cecil Sharp from John Mason who came from nearby Icomb. Mason was a fiddler who played for Sherborne Morris, and probably others, but who also had a number of country dance tunes such as these in his repertoire. The Sloe also occurs in the Aston-on-Carrant Ms as The Slave, and appears to have originally come from an opera by Sir Henry Rowley Bishop in 1816 (see Dashing White Sergeant for more on Bishop). A play called The Slave was also presented at nearby Cheltenham for an extensive run in the 1820's. This contained a Morris dance, and it is possible that this was a means by which a selection of Bishop's popular tunes reached the Cotswolds.
Double Figure 8 was collected from William Strick of Hannington, Wiltshire by Cecil Sharp
The Vine Tree/Gentiane Mazurka (Trad arr. OSB/Trad arr. OSB)
The Vine Tree was written by our own Paul Burgess in celebration of many a good session in a Randwick (near Stroud) pub of the same name - they don't let us play there now! The Gentiane Mazurka is so named as it came from Gentiane, a band founded in France in the early seventies by renowned French folk musicians Jean Blanchard, Bernard Blanc, Emmanuelle Parrenin, Gerard Lavigne and Denis Gasser, to produce a record of traditional music from the Auvergne,
Earl of Mansfield/Bobby Shaftoe (McEwan/Trad arr. OSB)
This pipe march was composed by J. McEwan. It’s originally a three part tune but our version doesn’t include part two. Bobby Shaftoe was a real person—Robert Shafto (1732-1797), who was MP for County Durham from 1760 to 1768. He was a man of fashion who married two heiresses in turn and was known for his charm and elegance. This version is different to that used for the well known song, being one of the dance tunes once used for The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance (according to Violet Alford in 1933) and also the Sleights (Yorkshire) Sword Dance.
In & Out the Windows/Down the Road (Trad arr. OSB/Trad arr. OSB)(Check)
The second part of In and Out the Windows is well known to many as the tune to a playground game of the same name.
Go round and round the village, x3 As we have done before.
Up and down the staircase, x3 As we have done before.
Go in and out the window, x3 As we have done before.
The whole tune has been used for a number of songs including ‘We Kept Eating Parkin’ popularised by Lancashire’s Five Penny Piece but we always knew it as William Brown, from the song with the chorus "Keep that wheel a-turning (x3) And do a little more each day".
Our version of music hall giant Gus Elen’s Down the Road uses only the chorus section of the song as the verse doesn’t willingly adapt to the dance floor. It comes to us via the old players of East Anglia.
Les Jigs - The Matelot/Michael Turners's Jig/Captain Lanoe's Quick March (All Trad arr. OSB)
The Matelot is reputed to be derived from the French, or Dutch tune, Matelotte , and related to Washington's March and several others but the likeness is slight to say the least.
Michael Turner’s Jig - is an otherwise unidentified jig played by the eponymous Sussex fiddle player and written in his manuscript book. Similarly from a Sussex manuscript, William Aylemore's Captain Lanoe’s Quick March has reached the zenith of modern cultural recognition by being used in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants!
The Rose/J B Milne (Trad arr. OSB/Fitchet)
The Rose is to be found on the Topic record Melodeon Greats and comes from a 78 of Scottish melodeon player James Brown, an acknowledged championship winner on the Scottish dance scene in the early 20thC and an influence on Jimmy Shand.
Shand employed the writer of the second tune, Dundee fiddler Angus Fitchet in his band. John Bannerman Milne (1902 -1968) was a Scottish cinema chain proprietor who supported Fitchet at the beginning of his showbiz career. Fitchet was taught fiddle by his father and started playing for dances at an early age and, after his period with Shand, successfully led his own band for many years.
Grand Chain/Grommet (Trad arr. OSB/Freya)
La Grande Chaîne is a Quebequoise reel which has made its way into the English session via the Northumbrian Pipers repertoire. There has been some confusion over the original name as an alleged mishearing resulted in chaine being replaced by chien and a consequent renaming of the tune as The Big Dog! A Grand Chain is a dance movement also known as ‘grand-right-and-left’ in the United States. Grommet was written by our own Jo Freya.