The Whitchurch Hornpipe

by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall

Neil Brookes: Fiddles and Flute.

Tony Weatherall: One-Row and Two-row Melodeons.

All the tunes on this album are to be found in a collection of tune books from North Shropshire. Some are dance tunes, whilst others have military connections from the time of the Napoleonic wars. Very few are found in other sources, and from their titles, many appear to be the work of local musicians. Four manuscripts bear the signatures of John Jones (dated1801), James Blackshaw (1837), Richard Hughes (1823) and Albert John Hughes (undated).

They are owned by Mr Richard Hughes, of Ash, Shropshire. A book by John Clews (1823) is owned by Mr John Hardy, of Audlem, Cheshire. We thank them for their help in our quest to recover some of the lost tunes of the nineteenth century.

Our intention has been to stay close to the music as written, though inevitably our individual styles have modified tunes slightly. We have allowed ourselves the freedom to add harmony where appropriate. Reference numbers in brackets give the initials of the compiler and the relative location of each tune in the collections.

THE MANUSCRIPTS This collection of tunes is selected from five handwritten manuscript books, dated between 1801 and 1837. Four of the books were compiled by members the family of Mr Richard Hughes, from Ash, near Whitchurch, Shropshire. The fifth was the tune book of Mr John Clews from Stoke Heath, Stoke upon Tern, Shropshire. It is not certain that they represented the complete repertoires of the musicians who wrote them, but they give us a valuable record of tunes that were popular at the time.

John Clews 1832

The Clews manuscript (dated 1832), together with two handwritten books of hymns and psalms, was discovered during a clear out of a farm loft at Stoke upon Tern. The owner of the farm was the grandfather of Mr John Hardy of Audlem, Cheshire. John, a fiddler and farmer himself, tells us that Clews worked at the Stoke farm as a labourer. The book contains 44 tunes, a number of which are unusual in being arranged for two or three players. Not many of the tunes are associated specifically with dancing, although a few minuets are included, and towards the end of the book the content has a Scottish influence.

John Jones 1801

The four books bearing the signatures of John Jones, Richard Hughes, James Blackshaw and Albert John Hughes were discovered in the loft of the current owner, whose name is also Richard Hughes. A fiddle, two flutes and a clarinet, were also found along with the books. All four musicians are related to Mr Hughes and came from farming backgrounds. We believe that Hughes, Clews and Blackshaw were also associated with Ash village church band. From Mr Hughes family tree, John Jones is related to the Hughes family as the father of Mr Hughes grandfathers grandmother. His tune book is the earliest of the collection and the style reflects an earlier period accordingly. He includes one or two songs, usually with only the first line or verse. There are 128 tunes in his book.

James Blackshaw 1837

James Blackshaw was a clarinet player and farmed Ash Fields. According to Mr Hughes family history, he played at the inauguration of Ash Church in 1837, and would almost certainly have known John Clews. His tune book contains some 120 tunes of wide ranging style, including quadrilles, quick steps, and some tunes with titles referring to local places. His daughter Sarah married the current Mr Hughes Grandfather in 1870.

Richard Hughes 1823

Richard Hughes was the uncle of the current owners grandfather and was a fiddle player. His collection of 168 tunes was commenced in 1823, when he would have been 14 years old, and contains some very fine hornpipes, reels and other dance tunes. There are many pieces that reflect the music of the Napoleonic Wars and the local interest in Lord Wellington and Lord Hill. The picture of him with his fiddle suggests that he was an accomplished musician. Born in Tushingham, near Whitchurch, he lived most of his life at Beech Cottage, Whitchurch. Mr Hughes tells us that he performed for local soirees, which may have included dancing. He apparently asked for no fee, save that he was fed, watered and transported to the venue. His duties for the evening sometimes included the carving of the roast! He died in 1886, leaving no children.

Albert John Hughes (undated)

Albert Hughes was the uncle of Mr Hughes and was born in 1886. Mr Hughes believes the work to be earlier, and that it is probably the work of Richard Hughes. If so, it is likely that the contents represented a separate repertoire that was used for dance purposes. Two of the 31 tunes (which include several quadrille sets) have dance instructions written below the stave.

1 A Favourite Waltz (RH157). 
One of our favourites too! 

2 Mrs. Cholmondeley’s (JB070); Ellesmere Quick by Davies (JB036) 
Mrs C's (pronounced Chumley) probably refers to the wife of the Rector of Hodnet, who actively promoted dancing at his rectory. Ellesmere is a small town not far from the Welsh border. One of the Ash farm workers at this time was a Mr Davies. 

3 Sally’s March (JC025). 
Almost certainly named after Lord Salisbury, this march is very grand. Was he aware of his nickname, I wonder? 

4 Nineteenth Century (JJ025); The Hanley Hornpipe (AJH024). 
Hanley is a Potteries town in the neighbouring county of Stafford. 

5 The Flock’s in a Cluster (JJ003). 
Sounds like it should accompany a Morris dance to me, but I resisted the use of bells on this recording! It is the third entry in Jones’ book, and so possibly is one of the oldest in the collection. 

6 Juliana (JC035). 
A more well-known dance tune that is nevertheless infrequently played. 

7 Lady Nelson’s (RH139); Lady Montgomery’s (RH095); Reel (RH086) 
Three of Richard Hughes’ excellent reels, of which there are several in his book. 

8 Old Kiss My Lady (JB019). 
Well documented in several manuscripts of the time, both as ‘Old’ or ‘New’ versions, it must have been a great favourite of the period. The first part is marked ‘bugle’, the second ‘flute’ and the third part ‘trio’ in the MS. 

9 The Old Man Killed with a Cough (RH054); Jack Maddocks (RH050) 
Two rather Irish sounding jigs, so we play them accordingly! 

10 The Whitchurch Hornpipe (JB002). 
Presumably a locally composed melody, this tune has a Welsh flavour. The third part is marked ‘bass solo’. 

11 The Kerry March (JB039). 
It is likely that the title refers to Kerry, near Newtown in the Welsh Marches. There is also a hill of this name in the region, and walkers may be familiar with the Kerry Ridgeway between Kerry and Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire. 

12 The Shropshire Hero (JB032). 
Lord Rowland (‘Daddy’) Hill was one of Wellington’s right-hand men, and is undoubtedly the subject of this stirring march.His early schooldays were spent in Ightfield, the neighbouring village to Ash. 

13 Worcester Farewell (JJ131); La Belle Jeannette (RH097). 
The second tune is known in several manuscripts including the Shropshire tune book of John Moore. 

14 Reels: The Woolsack (RH036), Oh What a Row (RH018); Reel (RH092) 
Three more reels from Richard Hughes’ book. We hope you don’t find the title of the second reel too apt! 

15 The Soldier’s Cloak (JJ056); The Oak Stick (JJ059). 
The first is a version of the song in which a Soldier entertains a young lady in his sentry box with the usual consequences! The second is also known as 'Lord Wellington' in Hughes’ manuscript. 

16 Albert Hughes’ Waltz (AJH026). 
The undated AJH MS may be a separate part of RH’s work, and includes some quadrille sets and a couple of dance notations 

17 Wellington’s Victory (RH011). 
Presumably referring to the ‘Close Run Thing’ at Waterloo. 
A Favourite Waltz (RH157).
One of our favourites too!
Mrs. Cholmondeley’s (JB070); Ellesmere Quick by Davies (JB036)
Mrs C's (pronounced Chumley) probably refers to the wife of the Rector of Hodnet
Sample not available
Sally’s March (JC025).
Almost certainly named after Lord Salisbury
Sample not available
Nineteenth Century (JJ025); The Hanley Hornpipe (AJH024).
Hanley is a Potteries town in the neighbouring county of Stafford.
Sample not available
The Flock’s in a Cluster (JJ003).
Sounds like it should accompany a Morris dance to me
Juliana (JC035).
A more well-known dance tune that is nevertheless infrequently played.
Sample not available
Lady Nelson’s (RH139); Lady Montgomery’s (RH095); Reel (RH086)
Three of Richard Hughes’ excellent reels
Sample not available
Old Kiss My Lady (JB019).
Well documented in several manuscripts of the time
Sample not available
The Old Man Killed with a Cough (RH054); Jack Maddocks (RH050)
Two rather Irish sounding jigs
Sample not available
The Whitchurch Hornpipe (JB002).
Presumably a locally composed melody
The Kerry March (JB039).
It is likely that the title refers to Kerry
Sample not available
The Shropshire Hero (JB032).
Lord Rowland (‘Daddy’) Hill was one of Wellington’s right-hand men
Sample not available
Worcester Farewell (JJ131); La Belle Jeannette (RH097).
The second tune is known in several manuscripts including the Shropshire tune book of John Moore.
Sample not available
Reels: The Woolsack (RH036)
Sample not available
The Soldier’s Cloak (JJ056); The Oak Stick (JJ059).
The first is a version of the song in which a Soldier entertains a young lady in his sentry box with the usual consequences! The second is also known as 'Lord Wellington' in Hughes’ manuscript.
Albert Hughes’ Waltz (AJH026).
The undated AJH MS may be a separate part of RH’s work
Sample not available
Wellington’s Victory (RH011).
Presumably referring to the ‘Close Run Thing’ at Waterloo.
Sample not available

FolkWorld EU

Alex Monaghan

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.

Shreds & Patches

Paul Burgess

Wild Goose here present more recently discovered manuscripts and another batch of fine and unusual tunes in the English tradition, to follow on from their `Hampshire Dance Tunes' album from last year. Whereas that featured an array of artists, with an extensive booklet and indeed, tunebook to accompany the issue, this issue is considerably more subdued.

Neil Brookes is a fine English fiddler, specialising in the tunes of his Cheshire locality, whilst the Boat Band, with whom Tony Weatherall's sparky box-playing is a feature, have a proud and pioneering tradition of presenting local English dance music. Here we have 26 tunes from four early 19th-century collections: many with local titles and all bar a couple previously unknown and unperformed. The playing is enthusiastic and lively, sounding as if the players have the tunes well under their fingers rather than just going through them for the recording. There are a couple of multi-tracked "band" performances, thought these are resolutely chordal rather than part-based as would have been usual at the time.

The recording is a trifle odd - the fiddle and melodeon swap sides on tracks 1 and 2 and microphone placing unduly emphasises a couple of the right-hand notes of the melodeon. This is a shame as it detracts slightly from the quality of the performances. The notes are skeletal (with Oh What A Row, for instance it would be more interesting to be told that it was a popular song of 1822, which was published as a cotillion two years later, rather than merely "we hope you don't find the title of the second tune too apt.") - a strange thing considering the excellent work which went into the "Hampshire" Collection.

These small blemishes are a shame, but they are small and should not detract from an excellent and unusual collection of tunes, which should have anyone interested in English dance music hastily acquiring a copy


Greg Stephens

Regional English instrumental music is the flavour of the decade and here's an extremely welcome addition to what is currently available. Tony Weatherall (melodeon) and Neil Brookes (fiddle and flute) give us an excellent romp around material from five recently discovered fiddlers' tunebooks, all from north Shropshire. There is an ever-present danger in recording traditional music from printed sources that you sometimes end up with a precise, carefully �reading the dots� kind of sound,  but have no fears: there is nothing of that here, the playing is as spirited as you could wish. Which is of course only what you would expect from such lively and experienced musicians as Brookes and Weatherall. You will probably be unfamiliar with them as a duo, but they are each well-known in their own right. Neil has also recorded with Roy Clinging, popularising Cheshire tunes and songs; Tony is very widely known,  a stalwart of the London scene before decamping back to his native haunts on the Shropshire,Cheshire and Staffordshire borders. He has recorded extensively with the Companions of the Rosy Hours, the Hackney Ramblers and the Boat Band, to mention only those that immediately come to my mind.

The tunes are a fine cross-section of what you find in such notebooks, a mixture of the strictly local presumably written by the compilers or their close associates, and others culled from wider sources, national or beyond. Neil Brookes who supplies the liner notes is parochially patriotic(as befits a person bringing local music to a wider public), but he is stretching it a bit when he says �very few are found in other sources�, I think. I reckon a third or more of the tunes on the CD are found elsewhere, and that proportion is probably higher in the MS books as a whole. However, �very few� is open to interpretation!

The question of origin is always interesting when we look at local tunes. On the front cover, the music is described as �from the Shropshire/Cheshire borders�, and on the back the sources are referred to as �from 19th century Shropshire manuscripts�. Both statements are totally true, but they fail to mention an interesting fact. Ash, the source of four of the books, is indeed in Shropshire and is only three miles from Cheshire. But it is also only five miles out of Wales, and I think researchers into Welsh traditional music would be well advised to have a thoughtful look at these books. Neil Brookes points out in the notes that the Whitchurch Hornpipe has a Welsh flavour; and anyone who has studied fiddle musicfrom Cheshire, Shropshire and  Herefordshire sources will have noticed that many tunes, especially some local hornpipes, have a decidedly unusual, and possibly un-English, cast. Historians have often commented on the quasi-genocide of Welsh fiddle music and its practitioners in the 18trh and 19th centuries. Surely it is reasonable to surmise that the tunes, and the fiddlers, may occasionally have fled in an easterly direction, to the adjoining areas of England where fiddle music was more highly prized? More research, please.

Anway, enough of conjecture, the music is a joy. Tunes from a couple of centuries ago can be approached from a lot of angles; do you reconstruct it as it might have been, make it up to date, Celticise it, use period instruments, use electric guitars? Opportunities are endless. The Brookes and Weatherall approach I  would characterise as coming from a very civilised pub session, where the music has been quietly lurking for a long long time. The melodeon playing, as you would expect from Tony, is as quirky and bouncy as you would wish, always played with a twinkle. Neil adds some very welcome depth with judicious additions of his excellent octave fiddle and flute, giving a fine 18th ensemble feel, and his fiddle-bowing always seems impeccable to me. Their twin approach is beautifully demonstrated in the last track, �Wellington's Victory�, which is a complete delight. Many MS tunes present problems: is this to be treated as a fast polka or a slow reel? Is this a waltz, or a fast jig? Is this an air or a dance? These things are by no means always clear. With the last track, they cut this Gordian knot with great panache, by playing this lovely tune in two completely distinct ways, Neil Brookes kicking off with a heartfelt Carolan-like elegance with fiddle and flute, and Tony Weatherall then strikes up with his completely jolly double-time melodeon reading. Other highlights are the opening tune �A Favourite Waltz�, and two lovely sets of reels: unlike certain English musicians, this duo is not in the least scared of reels! There is also a fine �Kerry March�, which the patriotic Brookes attempts to claim as  a Shropshire tune on the basis of the fact that in that county there are a hill and a village both called Kerry. Well, maybe, but I would think the rather more famous Irish Kerry is a bit more likely. These books are crammed with marches, and Shropshire musicians were in the army fighting alongside Irish regiments in Ireland, mainland Europe and India throughout the period of this music. But full marks to Neil for pride in what he has found, and what he has made of it.

Mention must be made of fiddler and farmer John Hardy of Audlem, and Richard Hughes of Ash, who are the owners of these MSS. They played important roles in the finding and making public of this wonderful music. I hope their example will be followed by many others discovering old brown dusty books sleeping quietly in attics!

Perhaps I should also in passing declare an interest: I have played in the Boat Band with Tony Weatherall for ten years, which has educated me in just how well it is possible to play the melodeon    

In conclusion: a recent discussion, on the fRoots magazine internet forum concerned the various journalist clich�s used in reviews of folk records. One contributor attacked the practise of ending reviews with the phrase �highly recommended�. Well, too bad, I say, what's wrong with clich�s?

Very highly recommended.


Vic Smith

fRoots Playlist selection

Neil on fiddle and Tony on melodeon have produced as interesting and exciting performances of English dance tunes as you are likely to hear anywhere. They are all taken from handwritten manuscripts of the first half of the 19th century, mostly from one Shropshire family.

They consist, as one might expect, of tunes that sound as though they have dance music or military band origins with marches, hornpipes waltzes and reels. The six reels from the Richard Hughes manuscripts are of particular interest, as is the way that Tony adopts a noticeably English way of playing reels. In fact, the whole album could be held up as a model of the way that English dance music should be played - plain functional music that also makes exciting listening when played with this zest.

Some of the tunes are interesting variants of popular dance melodies-Soldier's Cloak, Juliana - but more are relatively unknown and deserve to be heard more. Contact with the musicians brought the information that there are over 450 tunes in these manuscripts and that their publication is envisaged some time in the future, an event that should be eagerly anticipated.


Jenny Coxon

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.


David Kidman

Here's a wonderful record of two experienced musicians enjoying themselves thoroughly in bringing to our attention a host of rarely-heard compositions taken from a collection of manuscript tune books from North Shropshire, dating from the early-to-mid-19th-century. No dry dusty note-precise academic-style renditions here, just good honest committed playing from musicians who are steeped in the performance of music for dancing and adept at conveying its listenable qualities too. Neil's an excellent fiddle and flute player, an English dance music specialist who's also worked with Roy Clinging on Cheshire's musical heritage, while melodeonist Tony has been a mainstay of the British cajun scene for some years and is currently a member of the Boat Band. They work well together, and their sense of joy in the discovery and execution of these tunes is palpable: listening to them is like being present at a classy session with everyone enjoying every minute. The sense of momentum they generate (and importantly, maintain) is both natural and impressive, as is their use of instrumental texture; in particular, Neil's use of the octave fiddle to augment and thicken the basic melodic lines. And although there's necessarily an amount of sensible double-tracking of fiddle and flute parts, the effect is never one of over-decoration and I really appreciated the sheer variety of texture which Neil and Tony bring to their scoring of these pieces. The tunes themselves are a delightful mixture of hornpipes, waltzes, reels and polkas, with a good helping of military marches too (ranging from the grand to the elegant to the stirring). I particularly enjoyed the Nineteenth Century/Hanley's Hornpipe set and the following morris-like tune The Flock's In A Cluster, also The Kerry March (even if one debates its geographical reference!) and the wonderfully lyrical Albert Hughes' Waltz. And I'm intrigued by Neil's claim that the disc's title tune has a Welsh flavour. But whatever, this is a stimulating disc that should encourage more owners of obscure old manuscripts to make the music public.


Mary Humphreys

I have been waiting, with pleasurable anticipation for this recording for a year. Ever since I heard Neil Brookes play the eponymous tune in a session at Sidmouth I have been impatient to be playing more where that came from. Unlike many longawaited events, this does not disappoint in any way. In fact the CD surpasses all my expectations. When I first got the recording I played it through 3 times non?stop (it WAS long car journey) but it never palled and new delights came my way each time I heard it.

The music on this CD comes from the 19th century handwritten manuscript books compiled by members of the family of Richard Hughes of Ash, near Whitchurch, Shropshire and John Clews of Stoke Heath, Stoke upon Tern, Shropshire. Very few of the tunes are well?known today ? more is the pity. I think this CD will remedy that.

The recording, extensively?researched notes on the manuscripts and mixing of tracks is by Neil Brookes, with the final mastering at WildGoose studios. The artwork and design is by Tony Weatherall. You might be interested to know that Neil is the nephew of Sam Steele who collected in East Anglia in the 1960s ? particularly Walter & Daisy Bulwer. He is obviously keeping the family tradition alive here. Having recently been to a workshop at Chester Folk Festival (it was packed!) to hear Neil and Tony talk about the research, selection, arrangement and recording of the tunes I was very impressed by the scholarship and dedication put into getting this CD published and available to a wide audience.

You might expect 200?year?old tunes to be a bit staid and stuffy. Not these! There is a lightness of touch . and musical sensitivity here in this duo which may surprise those who consider these tunes should be played on authentic period instruments ? a melodeon being anachronistic in early 19th century music. I defy such folks to listen to Tony's playing on the Hanley Hornpipe and the Kerry March or La Belle Jeanette on one-row and retain their point of view. The tunes transfer to modern ceilidh instruments perfectly. Just listen to The Shropshire Hero named after Lord Rowland Hill, one of Wellington's generals played by Neil double-tracking on on fiddle and octave fiddle lovely stuff!

Although the manuscripts had little in the way of harmonic indications, Tony and Neil have brought the tunes alive with a sparkle and gaiety that just beg to be danced to. There is swing a?plenty and impeccable timing. I confess that our ceilidh band has already appropriated some of the tunes. I am willing to bet that there will be a great dissemination of Shropshire tunes throughout the ceilidh circuit in the coming years as a result of this wonderful CD.

Lancashire Wakes

Whenever a newly unearthed collection of tunes becomes available, dance musicians the length of the country will usually prick up their ears in the hope of finding some gems to add to their repertoire. Such gems are to be found on this splendid album by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall. The twenty?six tunes are selected from a collection found in five hand written manuscript books from the North Shropshire area, many of which are thought to be the works of local musicians. Dated between 1801 and 1837, they are mainly dance tunes, but others such as Wellington's Victory and The Shropshire Hero, have clear military connections from the Napoleonic wars.

Neil, playing fiddles and flute, and Tony on melodeons, demonstrate a high standard of musicianship on most of the tracks and manage to achieve a pleasant and effective variety in their musical presentation, suited to each set of tunes. Harmony is used appropriately, but not overpoweringly. Some tunes, such as Mrs Cholmondeley's, The Woolsack and the title track, The Whitchurch Hornpipe, have instant appeal and will entice musicians to reach for their instruments after just one hearing, while others, such as The Flock's in a Fluster and Albert Hughes' Waltz, will become firm favourites in the due course of time.

The CD booklet contains interesting descriptions of the five collectors and their manuscripts, together with brief notes on each of the seventeen tracks. There does however, appear to be a printing error on the track listing in the booklet, which shows tracks 14 and 15 the wrong way round. There are short biographies of the two musicians but I would also have appreciated seeing a photograph of them ? it's always good to put faces to the names!

The Whitchurch Hornpipe is certainly an album that both Neil and Tony should be proud of, and one that deserves to find its way into the collections of lovers of English dance music.

The Living Tradition

Danny Saunders

There would appear to be considerable interest in early English dance tunes at present. Several CDs of tunes from recently discovered or re?discovered manuscript tunes books have been released. The Whitchurch Hornpipe is just such a CD. All the tunes on the album are to be found in five books from North Shropshire dated between 1801 and 1837. Four of the books were compiled by members of the same family. Not all the tunes included are dance tunes; some have military connections from the time of the Napoleonic wars. Most are not found in any other source.

On The Whitchurch Hornpipe Neil Brookes plays fiddle, octave fiddle and wooden flute. Tony Weatherall plays melodeon. Both Neil and Tony are renowned musicians, their performing and arranging of this traditional material shows that they fully deserve this renown. Well produced with informative notes and attractive art work this is another little gem from Wild Goose Records.


Mick Tems

I HAVE great regard and respect for anything produced in the Wild Goose catalogue: it seems to me that recording guru Doug Bailey always turns up trumps. Wild Goose is very busy turning itself into an English sound library and The Whitchurch Hornpipe is a selection of 1801 - 1837 melodies taken from five handwritten books, compiled by the family of Richard Hughes of Ash and John Clews of Stoke Heath, both in Shropshire.

I was half?expecting a dry and dusty list of tunes, but Morris musician Neil (fiddle and flute) and Tony (melodeon and one of The Boat Band) have injected a vital spark that catches alight and comes alive. Both love the music, which is a part of borders heritage. The nimble squeezebox is a joy; relentlessly pushing back the boundaries. Interesting titles include The Old Man Killed with a Cough, La Belle Jeanette and The Flock's in a Cluster. Good work.


Tom Bell-Richards

The subtitle, "Dance & Popular music from 19th century Shropshire manuscripts played by Neil Brookes (fiddle, flute) and Tony Weatherall (melodeon.)" tells you pretty much all you need to know about this one!

A nice set of tunes, squarely within the English "melodeon" tradition. I can't say there were any tunes that made me think, "I must learn that" but they are very well played with just the right sort of upswing. They don't stomp crudely on the on-beat and they haven't gone overboard on the back-beat, the tunes are played "right" (and that's harder than it might seem!) For me the melodeon and fiddle sets that take up most of the cd work the best, plus a couple of tracks which include multi-tracked octave fiddle to give a "village band" feel.

There are notes about the tune sources and each set is cross referenced to source. Good old tunes, well played. There are surprisingly few recordings of music in this style that one can really recommend, but this is one.

Rock n Reel

Dai Jeffries

The Whitchurch in question is the one in Shropshire from whence this collection of 19th centurytunes comes and all are to be found in handwritten manuscripts by local musicians of the period. Neil (fiddle and flute) and Tony (melodeons) are both from that quarter of England but with very different backgrounds. Neil began playing Irish music in Manchester while Tony was a founder member of Cajun band, The Crayfish Five.

The seventeen tracks are recorded In a straightforward fashion making this a rather scholarly exercise, perfect for musicians looking for new material, and several of these fine tunes deserve wder exposure. Neil and Tony have followed the compilers' playing instructions so the third part of  'The Whitchurch Hornpipe', marked "bass solo", goes as low as a melodeon can while the marches are played with a military jauntiness, likewise the 'bugle' part of 'Old Kiss My Lady'.

I get the feeling that the tunes were perhaps written for village bands and in its simplicity this set lacks sufficient variety to sustain the interest of the casual listener. It will, I think, be a specialist's purchase.