Midland Folk Festival 2013 Newfoundland Tunes Workshops

Traditional Newfoundland Tunes Workshop
Sheet Music: PDF ABC

Green Grows the Rushes-O: This is a well-known tune all over — I’ve seen it listed as a highland or a barndance, and it may be the tune of an English song — but it’s quite popular as a single in Newfoundland. I got this version from Andrew Dale and Phil Churchill of The Once. This one has words as well, to the first part:

Green grow the rushes O
Down among the bushes O
The sweetest kiss I ever had
Was down among the rushes O

I had trouble finding a recording that matches this version. Aaron Collis and Emilia Bartellas play a version which is close to mine as the middle tune in this set, but they play the tune in D, not G. Danny Mills plays it in G, but his is a fancier version of the tune. Here’s my attempt at the tune as given.

Chain: This is Mrs. Clara Belle Fennelly’s version of the very well known single “Mussels in the Corner”. The changes are relatively slight, mostly new beats added, but really reshapes the entire tune — I knew it for more than a year before I realized the connection between the two! She didn’t have a name for it (as far as I know), so these days it is usually called by the dance figure it was played for, Chain. It was collected by Christina Smith, but I got it from Gerry Strong and Daniel Payne’s album Chain. Here’s a nice video of the tune played by Danny Mills.

Bridgett’s Reel: This is a well-known Emile Benoit composition, named for a pub he liked. This is the tune as I have it, I’ve seen / heard a number of versions with some minor differences. Here’s Danny Mills again with a slightly different version, and here’s me playing this one.

Emile Benoit’s Old Jig #6: This isn’t one of Emile’s compositions, it’s just an old tune he played and didn’t have a name for. It actually seems to be a Emile-ized version of the Irish jig “Paddy O’Rafferty”. I got it from the Dardanelles, who recorded it as the second tune in “Joesphine’s Jigs” on Eastern Light. I don’t see any online recordings of this one at all, so here’s me playing it.

Traditional Newfoundland Tunes: Rufus Guinchard Workshop
Sheet Music: PDF ABC

From Daniel’s Harbour, Rufus Guinchard (1899-1990) is one of the giants of Newfoundland fiddle. There’s a nice documentary of Rufus up online. The tape I focused on for this workshop was made in 1969 by Trevor Bennett. It features Rufus playing 40 or so tunes, and a good bit of conversation between the two men as well. I’ll post a link to it as soon as it is available online.

On the tape, Rufus’s fiddle is tuned significantly flat of concert pitch. For the MP3s posted here I shifted it to concert pitch, and the changes ranged from 1.2 semitones flat to 1.5 semitones flat — apparently his tuning drifted during the recording. (I used Sonic Visualiser with MTG’s Melodia plug-in to analyze and determine the pitches on the tape, and Audacity to shift the pitch.)

Uncle Manuel Milks The Cow: Said to be the first tune Rufus learned to play, the name comes from the words that the pre-teen fiddler put to it soon after learning it:

Uncle Manuel milks the cow
Uncle Manuel milks the cow
Auntie Kate is sick in bed and
Uncle Manuel milks the cow

The words go to the second part of this double. Rufus’s recording shifted to concert pitch.

I’se the B’y: This is Rufus’s double version of a classic traditional Newfoundland song. For comparison, here’s the basic tune at The Session. To my ear, Rufus’s version really strongly wants that first beat to be a pickup, but I have no idea how to make the song come out evenly in that case — pretty sure there’d have to be some 9/8 measures involved.

I’se the b’y that builds the boat
And I’se the b’y that sails her
I’se the b’y that catches the fish
And brings them home to Liza.

Rufus’s recording shifted to concert pitch.

Country Waltz: Rufus learned this waltz from hearing Don Messer on the radio. I don’t know if “Country Waltz” was the original name of the tune; my attempts to track down more information on the version Rufus learned from have proved futile so far. Though I did run into some fiddle players from Toronto who learned it from fiddler Jamie Snider, who presumably learned it from Rufus while he was living in Newfoundland. Note that the Kelly Russell Collection gives the parts in the opposite order. Rufus’s recording shifted to concert pitch.

Esau Payne’s: Rufus learned a number of tunes from Uncle John Peter Payne, who was an older fiddler in his community. (Note that “uncle” was a general term of respect for an older man in Rufus’s culture; as far as I know John Peter Payne was not actually related to Rufus. Ditto for Uncle Manuel.) Esau Payne was Uncle John Peter Payne’s “old uncle”, a fiddler who was an old man when Rufus was a little boy. This tune would have been one of his. In every version of this tune I’m familiar with, the A in the A part’s 1st ending is held — sometimes even longer than making it a 9/8 measure would imply. I think it’s still longer than a proper bar of 6/8 in this version, but it feels like a very quick beat for 9/8. (Guess I need to get to work learning how to study rhythms as well as pitches in Sonic Visualiser!) As far as I know, this recording of the tune is unique in having an extra beat in the second ending of the B part! Rufus’s recording shifted to concert pitch.


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