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Alex Monaghan of FolkWorld EU

reviews The Whitchurch Hornpipe by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall

Just when you thought all the possible hornpipes and waltzes had been written, along comes this CD based on recently rediscovered 19th-century manuscripts. Taken from around 450 tunes annotated from 1801 to at least 1837, The Whitchurch Hornpipe presents twenty-five pieces on melodeon, flute and fiddles. The main interest of this recording is in the new-found material, most of which is very pleasant indeed. The Nineteenth Century and Hanley hornpipes are worthy additions to the family, and the title track is well chosen. Albert Hughes' Waltz is a lovely example of old English dance music. Whilst the playing is more than competent, it's not as tight as it might be, and the flute double-tracking seems to muddy the sound. The recording volume level is also surprisingly low, reducing the overall dynamics. Even so, it's still quite listenable.

There seems to be more than a little Welsh influence in some of the melodies, Ellesmere Quick and O What a Row being two examples. There's also a strong military flavour, not surprising given the Napoleonic era from which much of this material comes. Names such as Wellington's Victory and The Shropshire Hero are warlike enough, but The Soldier's Cloak, Worcester Farewell and Sally's March may say more about the people left behind. Of course not all these tunes are completely unknown: Lady Montgomery's Reel is common enough in other traditions, The Oak Stick is a close relative of a tune I know as The Randy Wives of Greenlaw, and there are other familiar measures, but most of the tunes here will be new to most people.

Sitting between the Welsh and English traditions, with an ear for a good tune whether it be French or Irish, these Shropshire scribblers have preserved some fine stuff and The Whitchurch Hornpipe is very welcome as both a source recording and a relaxing hour of regional music.