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Colin Andrews of Whats Afoot

reviews Hampshire Dance Tunes CD by Hampshire Dance Musicians

Richard Pyle (1808 - 1880) was a farmer from Nether Wallop, Hampshire, who began writing down country dance tunes, together with a few airs, song accompaniments and hymn settings in a manuscript book at the age of 14. It is not known for certain what instrument he played, though probably a wind instrument such as the flute or oboe.
Many of the tunes Bob Shatwell found in the manuscript book (in Winchester Records Library) were unfamiliar, and even extensive research failed to reveal much information about some of them . The results of Bob's work can be found in a book, Hampshire Dance Tunes, published by Hobgoblin, and on this CD, which contains a selection of the tunes in 16 tracks, as well as midi files of all the tunes in the associated book.


The CD is an abolsute gem, particularly when one thinks that some of these tunes may not have been heard for over 150 years! It's not only a great album for the tunes, but also the variety of top musicians that bring them to life, in robust, Southern England style; Paul Sartin (co-editor of the book) & Saul Rose, Tim Laycock & Colin Thompson, Mat Green & Andy Turner, Will Duke & Dan Quinn, and the Bursledon Band, with Roger Watson, Paul Sartin, and Bob Shatwell (no mean fiddler himself!) The combinations of fiddle and squeezeboxes - various types concertinas and melodeons provide added foot-tapping interest, and make you want to get up and dance, and, in my case, reach for the squeezebox to try the tunes for myself.


It's hard to pull out any sets of tunes for particular mention since they are all very listenable, and in only a few cases, such as Waterloo Dance, Morgiana & The Triumph, are the names recognisable.


Bob Shatwell has been living & playing folk fiddle in North Hampshire area for many years, though formerly lived in Sussex (He played with Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men at my wedding!) All credit is due to Bob and to all who have contributed in bringing this long-forgotten material to life.