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Jenny Coxon of EDS

reviews The Whitchurch Hornpipe by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall

Increasing numbers of eighteenth and nineteenth century English music manuscripts are now available, thanks to the dedicated work of enthusiasts, and the generosity of the current owners. These come in various formats: music notation, notation plus recordings, recordings only – some with information (where known or researched) about the writers of the manuscripts. They come in books, on CDs or enhanced CDs, and on tune websites such as the compendious Village Music Project. Neil Brookes (fiddle, octave fiddle and flute), and Tony Weatherall (melodeons), returned to their English music roots after exploring other traditions; each performed with several different bands as a musician, and in Neil’s case also as a caller. On this recording they play selected tunes from five nineteenthcentury books from Shropshire: the John Clews (1832) book, now owned by John Hardy of Audlem, whose grandfather owned the farm where it was found; and the books of John Jones (1801), Richard Hughes (1823), James Blackshaw (1837), and Albert John Hughes (undated), now owned by a family member, Richard Hughes. Background research (see EDS Autumn 2007) indicates that some of these musicians were associated with Ash village church band.
The Whitchurch Hornpipe CD features solo fiddle or melodeon, as well as duets and double-tracked bass fiddle; where instruments combine there are some lovely understated fiddle harmonies. Highlights for me are ‘The Flock’s in a Cluster’, possibly one of the oldest tunes; ‘The Shropshire Hero’, a grand march; and ‘Albert Hughes’ Waltz’. There are a number of unfamiliar items, well worth listening to and learning. I believe the entire collection will eventually be available in abc; adding to that rich store of written music which brings us closer to the musicians of 200 years ago.