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Saturday, 5 December 2020

Come Lasses and Lads to Bangor

Musescore: Come Lasses and Lads to Bangor
MuseScore 3.5

Coronavirus has put paid to our WEA folk ensemble class. We won’t be starting again before spring at the earliest. I say it myself but we are pretty good. That is not because of any contribution I make sitting at the back banging out chords on guitar, but because of our accomplished fiddle, flute, banjo, mandolin, accordion, concertina and bass players, and Mrs. D. who takes her bassoon.  

Before the pandemic, we played concerts and ceilidhs, and carol services at Christmas, usually for charities. The leader got us good gigs. We twice played the ceilidh at the Underneath the Stars festival. We can therefore claim to have been on the same bill as Kate Rusby, The Proclaimers and Billy Bragg. Actually, we were on at the same time as the Proclaimers but people still walked 500 yards to fall down at our door.

Will we have ceilidhs again? All that clapping together, hand-to-hand chaining and swinging your different partners means that what one person has, everyone has by the end of the night. Then there is the puffing and panting, and laughing and shouting in loud voices, so the members of the band get it as well. Then, the wind players blow it back all over the dancers and non-dancers alike to ensure that no one escapes at all. If I was a coronavirus I would love ceilidhs.

So gigs and practice are off. Since March we have been meeting through Zoom. The problem with that is that the sound from different participants does not synchronise, and there are also volume discrepancies and other issues, so we cannot play all together. 

Zoom meetings are therefore divided into sections. We have a ‘Tune of the Week’ where someone introduces a new piece and plays it, and then we all play it again with everyone muted except the person whose tune it is. We have a ‘YouTube Clip of the Week’ which someone selects and introduces. We have a section where someone plays a new tune several times and the rest of us have to try to pick it up without any clues, even as to which key it is in, which is quite difficult. We have guest players: Northumbrian pipes and the hurdy-gurdy being amongst the most unusual things we’ve had. And we discuss everything.

A few weeks ago, I was ‘Tune of the Week’. Out came the nineteen-thirties News Chronicle Song Book (the topic of a recent post) and it fell open at the seventeenth century English air Come Lasses and Lads. So that it was. I played it through a few times to make sure I could, but then, overnight in my head, it transformed itself into Day Trip to Bangor, the one-hit wonder for Fiddler’s Dram in 1979. The two tunes are rather similar in places.  

We share music scores through MuseScore (pictured above), an amazing piece of software, especially as it is free. It does almost everything you could want, including scores for multiple instruments, chords, transpositions, different key and time signatures, and so on. It will also play them. But it is quite complex (because music is complex) and takes time to learn (although it is not the most difficult software I have used – 3D imaging is a level above.)

I put Come Lasses and Lads note-by-note into MuseScore (the free version does not yet do sheet music capture). I plucked out a bass line from the piano chord accompaniment and added and arranged Day Trip to Bangor by ear. Here to give everyone a severe dose of the rum-tee-tum-tees – the musical equivalent of coronavirus – is Come Lasses and Lads to Bangor, played by MuseScore, voiced for guitar and bassoon, with default piano chord accompaniment. 

Of course, at the Zoom meeting Mrs. D. and I had to play it ourselves. Let’s just say we got away with it. 

A couple of additional thoughts:

I don’t believe I heard the term “ceilidh” until around 1980. Before that they were “country dances” or “barn dances”. My mother used to go “old-time dancing” in a church hall. At school, we danced these dances from six to sixteen, which stood me in such good stead that when I later joined a social group which organised several “ceilidhs” a year, the future Mrs. D. was so impressed by my Gay Gordons that she married me. 

You might also ask whether the bassoon is really a folk instrument. Perhaps it is slightly unusual, but eighteenth and nineteenth century village bands often included a serpent which sounds at a similar pitch (think Thomas Hardy). And what did they have in Fiddler’s Dram? Drowned out by the rather strident voice of the lead singer was a bassoon. 


35 comments:

  1. Allegedly, when you return home (possibly from Bangor), your neighbours peek through their twitching curtains and announce, "Gay Gordon's back!" Another interesting blogpost Tasker.

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  2. I didn't know how to pronounce the word ceilidh until well past 1980. The only time I have really enjoyed a ceilidh was in the Scottish Highlands. It sort of fits up there.

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    1. You get trouble if you ask them to dance the Cumberland Square Eight.

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    2. I thought that was a string of sausages.

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    3. No, that's what they think of the English now.

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  3. 'The musical equivalent of coronavirus' had me laughing out loud. The Gay Gordons should reunite and pepper their rum tee tum tees liberally with stand up comedy. The crowds would flock. The enthusiasm would spread...well...much like coronavirus, I suppose.

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  4. I've seen the Proclaimers and Billy Bragg once spoke to me. Didn't you have a jolly good time, the day you went to Barnsley?

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    1. I would have liked to have seen the Proclaimers but unfortunately I was playing in a celidh band that night.

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  5. Such a shame that most of the kids now do not know the folk tunes and traditional songs. Even hymns have gone by the wayside not being used in schools like before. I used to love singing hymns in school.
    Briony
    x

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    1. Too true. We used to sing and recite things from the Iona and Peter Opie books when our kids were little. It made their bedtimes enjoyable, at least for us. One said one night "I don't like that Wink Willie Wee Wee."

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  6. That was fun. Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony features a parody of a folk bassoonist. It's not generally a rock instrument but Lindsay Cooper played one in Henry Cow. I guess a "folk instrument" is the available instrument to play that you can play. Spent first months of lockdown here knocking out Frankie and Johnny, Old Joe Clarke and Whiskey in the Jar on a newly acquired banjo. Fortunately for the neighbours, our house is detached.

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    1. Sounds fun. YouTube has lots of helpful videos for anyone learning to play almost any instrument at any level. Our banjo players mainly have 4 string Irish tuned banjos - GDAE.

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    2. Mine's a 5 string, GDGBD (most of the time). Quite got into "frailing".

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  7. If you'd grown up in a north Yorkshire parish with a strong Irish element, you'd have known ceilidhs. I was hearing that word back in the fifties and forties. Long time before I found out how to spell it. We thought caley!
    At the University I heard people talking about country dancing, posh folk, and found out, oh, they mean a ceilidh!

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    1. It took me a while to associate the heard word with the spelling seen on posters. I first heard it said in Hull.

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  8. Your post today is the first time in all of my nearly 80 years that I have encountered the word ceilidh. Thank you for teaching this old dog a new trick, in a manner of speaking.

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    1. It is a pleasure indeed to use a word that you are unfamiliar with.

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  9. O.K. and the village brass band where he plays the trumpet has been facing the same challenges as you describe; no rehearsing on Wednesday nights but occasional online meeting which is of course not the same.

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    1. It's hard not to feel demotivated about the whole thing. At least with two of us we can play together, but you can't beat going out and playing in a larger group.

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  10. Ceilidhs came to my attention in the early 80s when they suddenly became popular for wedding parties. This now seems to have passed. I used to go to dancing lessons in the 60s and at the end we always did the Gay Gordons.

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    1. Da, Dah-de dah-diddy, Dah-de dah-diddy, Dum dum dum diddy, Dum dum dum.

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  11. I'm all for BASSOON RIGHTS! Don't discriminate against this fabulous sounding instrument!

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    1. Is it like a sea god speaking or simply the clown of the orchestra?

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  12. Well I must have done the Gay Gordons as well, know we did sword dancing!. But you mention Kate Rusby, now there's a favourite Yorkshire singer.

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    1. Seen her several times. Her Christmas shows are especially good with brass and melodeons. She always has a piece of carpet on the stage to stand on.

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  13. And there will be gatherings all over the country like this which have had to give up over the year. I just hope they all manage to get together again before too long. They are the life blood of English music.

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    1. Absolutely. Not forgetting the choirs like John GJ's, and not just music.

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  14. I think it's great that via Zoom you musicians can still (virtually) get together and jam.

    I think it's a great that you can say you shared a bill with Billy Bragg, The Proclaimers and such. These are not unaccomplished people!

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    1. Everyone but one has to mute themselves otherwise it becomes a mess. I wonder if Billy and the Reid twins make a point of telling everyone they shared a bill with us. Kate Rusby is now possible the best known of them all in the U.K. Lovely voice, and she doesn't hide her Yorkshire accent when she is singing.

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  15. I can see that Zoom meetings could never come close to replacing ceilidhs but at least you are all still able to stay in touch in a musical sense. I find the level of musical software available to be amazing even though I am not a musician. My son was a music major and has done quite a bit of composing using some of the software. It's blown me away just looking over his shoulder! It is wonderful that you have such a musical family and you and Mrs. D can enjoy it together!

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    1. I've used various music software over the years, but what is great about MuseScore is how much you get for free. We're not music majors or anything like that but we've always enjoyed messing about with musical instruments.

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  16. I was brought up in Liverpool with The Spinners on the folk scene. I don't recall barn dances. When I came to Lewis in 1975 I immediately discovered ceilidhs. The word is a Gaelic word and is the only thing such gatherings are called here and in the Highlands as well. In fact I think it's a universal term in Scotland.

    I was very impressed by the software.

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    1. When I joined the WEA class I didn't really know what to expect. It seems there is folk and there is folk. Our lot are all jigs and reels and the like which is a little bit too narrow for me, but I'm learning a lot and enjoy it so I keep going. Yes, MuseScore is incredible.

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