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Sussex Tunes
The folk music of Sussex, UK
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libraquarius
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October 6, 2019 - 4:39 pm
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Is anyone working on or playing any Sussex tunes?

I have lived in Sussex for most of my life, and I was born in Brighton. I'm a raw beginner with the fiddle, and I will be looking for (and listening for) our native music to play. Sussex folk have a rich tradition in music, and I would like to contribute and enjoy the folk music experience once I have attained confidence in my playing.

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cid
October 6, 2019 - 6:04 pm
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Is there a YouTube link you could post for a sample of it? I am beginning to lean towards fiddle music more and more. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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libraquarius
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October 7, 2019 - 2:20 am
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Hi @cid,

Recordings of fiddle music from Sussex seem to be rare. I found the following YT videos:

Sussex Waltz:

Sussex Carol:

Most Sussex folksong is delivered as unaccompanied song, as in the following YT video of one of the famous Copper Family from Rottingdean, near Brighton: Thousands or More (Jim Copper):  

I need to get out more: folk music lives in public spaces, such as pubs and folk clubs. One person who 'got out more' was Ralph Vaughan Williams, the 20thC English composer who collected dozens of folk tunes from around the south of England, and transformed them into orchestral pieces. Some of his collected tunes could be reverse-engineered back into fiddle tunes; a readily available sample of this is 'Kingsfold', an English variant of 'Star of the County Down': "Kingsfold" violin / guitar duet:  The second half of that clip is improvised, and delightful.

I hope these few samples will inspire you to search more; they've got my hairs standing up.

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cid
October 7, 2019 - 7:26 am
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Oh, I love that! Yep, definitely drawn to fiddle. I can hear them on my FiddleDeeDee. Well, by someone who can play it better, and can do double stops. I will get there.  

Thank you, @libraquarius, very much enjoyed them. Is the “lilt” different on Sussex Fiddle? I can’t pinpoint exactly what the difference is. Not being from your part of the globe, I am not really familiar with the nuances between the different fiddle musics. It does sound different than the America Fiddle I have heard, but could be just the songs. I usually hear the fast tempo fiddle when I see fiddlers play on tv shows, or movie bits.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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libraquarius
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October 7, 2019 - 8:02 am
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Hi @cid,

Heh! What's a FiddleDeeDee? I searched the word, but it (literally) made no sense. Oh, and yes, it will be a fine thing when I can bow well enough to sustain double-stops, too.

I'm not so sure about the 'lilt'; is this the same as the 'swing' which I've heard US fiddlers talking about? A way of leaning into and out of the bow through the measure, giving a sub-tempo. I tend not to worry too much about differences in style from one place to another (that may change as I get more proficient personally), but I have always enjoyed the American fiddle sound: one of my favourite recordings is of Red Tail Ring (a Michigan duo) playing the old song, "The Blackest Crow".

But back to Sussex; I haven't been in a folk club since my late teens. I will have to find some local haunts where fiddle (and song) are enjoyed, and get with it; another strain on my time, but an enjoyable one.

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GregW
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October 7, 2019 - 8:39 am
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libraquarius said

Is anyone working on or playing any Sussex tunes?

I have lived in Sussex for most of my life, and I was born in Brighton. I'm a raw beginner with the fiddle, and I will be looking for (and listening for) our native music to play. Sussex folk have a rich tradition in music, and I would like to contribute and enjoy the folk music experience once I have attained confidence in my playing.

  

Other than Kingsfold and only because it sounds like County Down I can't name any tunes that I can say are from Sussex.  I'm wondering if the style is what Ive heard referred to as old English country tunes.  There are a couple of tunes from Sam Sweeny's The Unfinished Violin CD that you might be familiar with.  If you like fiddle music it is an excellent CD.  He is also from your area, I believe, but I might be several hundred miles off 🙂 . Id be interested if any of them are considered Sussex tunes.  Thanks for the youtube links!

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cid
October 7, 2019 - 8:47 am
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@libraquarius So sorry! FiddleDeeDee is what I call my Fiddlerman Concert Deluxe violin. LOL I have a warmer violin for non-fiddle music. I call the fiddle violin, FiddleDeeDee.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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libraquarius
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October 7, 2019 - 9:06 am
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Hi @GregW,

I'll take your advice on the Sam Sweeny CD; I'll look around for a copy. The folk music of England is pretty homogenous in style (braces for opprobrium); it's only when you look to the nieghbouring countries of Wales, Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland that you notice a real difference, and even then we British Isles crowd are pretty good at mixing it up.

Hi @cid,

Ahh... I haven't named either of my violins yet, but I guess I ought to call the old one Joe after its (alleged) luthier, Johannes Cujpers. The newer one just gets called 'the solid', being made mostly from a single piece of second-hand pine.

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Mark
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October 7, 2019 - 9:45 am
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libraquarius,

Thanks for posting thoses videos I enjoyed them,

Did anyone notice the first violin was a rounded body violin, like the Strad Joshua Bell use to play. But what I found interesting was the head stock I don't  remember seeing  one like that before, kinda cool looking.

Mark 

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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cid
October 7, 2019 - 9:54 am
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@libraquarius You could always call it, “Woody”.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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libraquarius
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October 7, 2019 - 10:33 am
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Hi @Mark,

I hadn't noticed, and I'm glad you pointed it out. That method would save a lot of fuss in morticing out the pegbox (although that's fun in itself).

(Round-bodied violins interest me: I would like to make a spruce lath and doped canvas violin body; it'd probably sound dull and be very delicate, but has anyone ever done it before? It would need careful design of the truss-work between the neck joint and the bridge / tailpiece, and I'm getting way off-piste, here.)

There are a lot of videos around of the Copper family singing. Their singing pedigree stretches back over several generations, and they're still going strong. The tunes are wonderful, but it's sometimes difficult to isolate the top line since they sing in close harmony.

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cid
October 7, 2019 - 10:41 am
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I noticed the body, but not the pegbox. Would that make it harder to string for most people?

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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libraquarius
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October 7, 2019 - 3:34 pm
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Hi, @GregW,

The Sam Sweeny album contains a tune called "The Girl I Left Behind", and I certainly recognised that. A little investigation revealed it's base tune is "Brighton Camp", and it's a tune I heard in my youth in a room behind one of the pubs in the village, where our local folk club met. I may be years before I can play it, but it's something I want to do.

The rest of the album is a great listen, and I'm pleased it's been put on YT, properly licenced. A good find, thank you.

Hi, @cid,

After a lifetime of electric guitar machine heads, I found a regular violin pegbox a bit of a handful; I find I need to use fine-nosed pliers when restringing. The two-drilling tuning head shown above looks pretty neat.

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GregW
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October 7, 2019 - 5:42 pm
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libraquarius said
Hi, @GregW,

The Sam Sweeny album contains a tune called "The Girl I Left Behind", and I certainly recognised that. A little investigation revealed it's base tune is "Brighton Camp", and it's a tune I heard in my youth in a room behind one of the pubs in the village, where our local folk club met. I may be years before I can play it, but it's something I want to do.

The rest of the album is a great listen, and I'm pleased it's been put on YT, properly licenced. A good find, thank you.

Hi, @cid,

After a lifetime of electric guitar machine heads, I found a regular violin pegbox a bit of a handful; I find I need to use fine-nosed pliers when restringing. The two-drilling tuning head shown above looks pretty neat.

  

Good deal..there is also a YouTube of the story behind the title and how he came in possession of the fiddle he plays.  I'll let you search it out if interested.  Its the introduction video.

I think thats one of the best versions of girl I left behind me I've heard.  Battle of the somme and A lament are two others that I can keep on repeat.  Im not sure about the origin of the wellesley or the rising of the lark or eventide.  They don't sound Irish or Scottish so was curious if you were familiar with them as English tunes.

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cid
October 7, 2019 - 5:51 pm
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@libraquarius I, at times, will carefully use a pointed pair of little pliers to help pull the strings at the peg box end up just enough to he able to wind. Mostly the D and and A strings. Sometimes I get lucky and I can turn the peg and get it lined up good to get the string to go through enough. 

I really like the look of violin in the video. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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libraquarius
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October 8, 2019 - 2:46 am
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Good grief,

That Sam Sweeny album is a beauty. I recognised some of the tunes, but couldn't name them; even "Eventide" was a strange but intriguing interpretation until the last 80 seconds. The story of the Richard Howard's violin choked me up; all violins have their story I guess, but that one is amazing. I'll certainly regard my own violin in a different light now: I don't know where it's been or what it's seen, I just know it's very old and deserves my love and respect.

I've found the music for "The Girl I left Behind" (Brighton Camp), and it looks simpler than it sounds; I think Sam has added some grace notes, and some of that 'lilt' that @cid mentioned. My plan to 'learn to play the violin' has become an ocean of work, and I'm feeling grateful.

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Gordon Shumway
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October 8, 2019 - 6:17 am
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libraquarius said
Ralph Vaughan Williams, the 20thC English composer who collected dozens of folk tunes from around the south of England, and transformed them into orchestral pieces. Some of his collected tunes could be reverse-engineered back into fiddle tunes 

Some of. Sometimes reverse engineering is only partially possible (the square of -4 is 16, but the square root of 16 is +/-4), and I suspect that everything VW employed can and could be found in books. Also he "blended folk tunes and hornpipes and pseudo-Tudor modality into a faux-Englishness" that a friend of mine detests, but I don't mind. Play themes from VW, by all means, but if you want folk tunes, do some book research.

Wiki has this interesting paragrapah "In 1903–1904 Vaughan Williams started collecting folk-songs. He had always been interested in them, and now followed the example of a recent generation of enthusiasts such as Cecil Sharp and Lucy Broadwood in going into the English countryside noting down and transcribing songs traditionally sung in various locations.[29] Collections of the songs were published, preserving many that could otherwise have vanished as oral traditions died out. Vaughan Williams incorporated some into his own compositions, and more generally was influenced by their prevailing modal forms.[30] This, together with his love of Tudor and Stuart music, helped shape his compositional style for the rest of his career.[2]"

Yes, the most recent antiquarian movement was the 1960s, but I had forgotten about the 19th century movement (which perhaps began with Grimm and led on to Bartok, but included a lot going on in England. I suppose it included Bull and Grieg, too)

Andrew

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libraquarius
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October 8, 2019 - 6:58 am
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Hi Gordon,

Thank you for the advice; I shall check our local library for folk song collections and history. I've approached the whole matter somewhat bluntly and with no preparation, so your timely intervention will save much blunder and wasted effort.

My regard for RVW's work (and that of Holst and others; Cecil Sharp certainly rings a faint bell) is that of a casual listener and of a lapsed chorister (a bass baritone). To the dismay of my paternal grandmother I had only a mild interest in music, and refused her offer of her semi-professional tuition when I was very young. Yes, I have a sense of regret.

I wanted to 'just learn the violin', but I've quickly realised that it isn't possible without some hard work in research and a firm grounding in music theory alongside many hours and years of feeling for that ideal intonation and timing. I have already abandoned the use of violin tabs as a vehicle for music: they are not fit for my purpose. I'm still enjoying the experience, though; a work without end, but not onerous like the work of Sisyphus.

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Gordon Shumway
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October 8, 2019 - 7:47 am
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libraquarius said
casual listener...bass baritone...

I wanted to 'just learn the violin', but I've quickly realised that it isn't possible without some hard work in research and a firm grounding in music theory ...

  

Ditto for casual listener and bass baritone, although I've never sung in a choir. I suppose I could think about it.

Some music theory is necessary, but I wouldn't worry so much about research and musicology - you can save that for leisure, otherwise your violin-playing will suffer from the pressure you will be putting it under.

Andrew

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GregW
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October 8, 2019 - 1:00 pm
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Gordon..thanks for the link above... 

  He seems like a Mel Bay (for making music more available to students) type for his time and a late start in music.  Maybe not the meat of what you were referencing but still interesting.

Vaughan Williams was born to a well-to-do family with strong moral views and a progressive social outlook. Throughout his life he sought to be of service to his fellow citizens, and believed in making music as available as possible to everybody. He wrote many works for amateur and student performance. He was musically a late developer, not finding his true voice until his late thirties; his studies in 1907–1908 with the French composer Maurice Ravel helped him clarify the textures of his music and free it from Teutonic influences.

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