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Phil Headford of Shreds & Patches

reviews Hampshire Dance Tunes CD by Hampshire Dance Musicians

Both book and CD are subtitled "Country dance tunes from the Pyle family manuscript 1822". They share the same lovely artwork and clarity of presentation, making a pair of objets dart to be treasured. The editorial effort on each is shared between Bob Shatwell and Paul Sartin, and is focussed on a manuscript discovered in Hampshire Records Library. The 16 tracks on the CD are shared between Matt Green and Andy Turner, Paul Sartin, Roger Watson and Bob Shatwell, Saul Rose, The Bursledon Village Band, Tim Laycock and Colin Thompson, Will Duke and Dan Ouinn. It also carries 59 midi files (twice) of tunes from the 171 dance tunes in the Richard Pyle manuscript. Musicians who do not read from sheet music often find these midi files an easy means of learning new tunes.

The first track of the CD sets the tone these are tunes and sets which are going to be tackled with respect, but with appropriate invention by some of the finest exponents of English dance music. Fiddle, concertina and melodeon are used in various (mostly duet) combinations which emphasise the tunefulness of the genre, and the robust side of its nature is brought out by the inimitable BVB (boosted by Shatwell, Watson and Sartin on the last track).

The first track, Oxford University Volunteers Quick Step, is presented as a duet in the MS, and is beautifully exercised by Paul Sartin on fiddle and Saul Rose on melodeon, who weave their melodic lines and chordal inventions into a tapestry of restrained animation. Colin Thompson and Tim Laycock then use fiddle and concertina to cast the same magic on Two Unnamed Waltzes, as do Matt Green and Andy Turner with The Barber of Seville, Earl of Rosslen and Chainess Dance. Will Duke and Dan Quinn then work their trademark wonders on the Belvedere Waltz using concertina and melodeon. Though each duo approaches the music with the same respect, the techniques and attitudes are as varied as the titles. Then the Bursledon Village Band launches us into a different orbit on Lete and The Triumph, as if we hadn't already worked out that these tunes are for dancing to. And so it continues. Your favourite track is always the one you're listening to. The album is captivating and thought-provoking, and the quality of the recording is all we have come to hope for from the WildGoose stable.

The book contains 74 tunes, with historical notes on the manuscript and its tunes, and thoughtful contributions from John Adams, Vic Gammon and the editors. The tunes are clearly set on A4 pages, and printed in a format readable from a music stand, usually two tunes to a page. They are grouped according to time signature, and have in some cases been transposed for ease of playing on fiddle and melodeon. Some of the tunes will be familiar to those of us immersed in music of this character, but most will be novel, and all are eminently useable. The practice of placing the time signature after the opening repeat signs may be off putting to some musicians, but barely affects the legibility of the staves. Guitar-style chords are provided, along with the caveat that they represent only one of many ways of harmonising each tune.

Both book and CD are well worth obtaining, and worth studying. The reputations of WildGoose and Hobgoblin can only be enhanced by these publications, and the harmonisation of artwork and presentation makes the duo extremely attractive.