|Poor Man's Fortune Program Notes, ECR Concert Series
March 12, 2020, 5pm
1. Ronds de Loudia • A set of "round dances" from Loudia in central Brittany. Richard got the first tune from Breton trad-rock band Ar Re Yaouank (The Young Guys). Larry learned the second rond from Breton flute master Jean-Michel Veillon. The last two ronds are from a 1994 recording by Bagad Kemper, Lip Ar Maout. In this dance, participants fold arms over each other and form a circle, men and women alternating, while moving to the left (in the Southern hemisphere they move to the right). Dancers in Loudia were fond of wearing shawls and it's thought that the arm position of the dance was developed as a discrete way to prevent their shawls from slipping off while dancing.
2. The Brewery Tap • A tune Richard composed in 1999 in honor of "The Brewery Tap" in Houston where he's spent many a happy hour. It grew out of a jam session there with EJ Jones. Richard had just moved to Houston and if the tune had words they would be about finding hope in the midst of despair.
3. Lassie Gae Milk on My Cow Hill / Go to Berwick Johnny • A set of 3/2 hornpipes set for Northumbrian (Northern England) bagpipes. Lassie Gae Milk on My Cow Hill was collected by Robert Riddell in his "Collection of Scotch Galwegian Border Tunes", 1794. It's also known as All Night I Lay With Jockey. Neither titles are in any way associated with actual cow's milk or horseraces. Go to Berwick Johnny was collected by James Oswald in 1760 for his "Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 6." The Old English name Berwick has to do with a dwelling place or outlying farm involved with barley cultivation. The town of Berwick itself is in the border region of northern England. The tune may date from the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1707, when a wanted man could cross the border to safety over the Tweed River at Berwick. Centuries ago, Clan McTrump tried to build a wall there and make the Scots pay for it, but Scots never pay for anything.
4. En Revenant de noces / Pach'pi • This is a Berry version of A la claire fontaine (By the Clear Fountain) a traditional French song with numerous regional versions in France as well as in French-speaking Canada. In this version, a girl on her way back from a wedding stops by a fountain and laments to a nightingale that she has lost her lover because she refused to give him a bouquet of roses. The pach'pi (passepied) is a dance from Upper Brittany. It is a type of Breton dance influenced by British dances of the 17th century or French contredances of the 18th century.
5. Is Doing Yet? • We begin this set with a march called Ton bale mur which is the melody of a song about traveling people. Following is a set of rond loudia. This set features the most iconic instruments of Brittany, the bombard and biniou. Breton tunes rarely have names, but the third tune is called Rond du chien (Dog Dance) and was composed by Jean-Michel Veillon.
6. Asturian March / Muñeira del Casu • This is a set of traditional dances from the Celtic part of Spain, Galicia and Asturias, featuring the gaïta or Spanish bagpipe. The first tune is a march from Asturias, just East of Galicia. A Muñeira is a traditional Galician dance in 6/8 which has has a similar structure to the Irish jig and are often indistinguishable. The word "muiñeira" means literally both millstone and a mill landlady (or the miller's wife, if a man).
7. Orange Gherkin in the Merkin / Jimmy Ward’s / The Butlers of Glen Avenue • A set of Irish jigs performed on the Spanish bagpipe. Larry composed the first tune while stuck in traffic on Mo-Pac last year. He originally called it The Freeway Jig but after the election he changed it to Orange Gherkin in the Merkin. Jimmy Ward's is a common Irish tune also known as An Chéad Phunnann, The Clare, The First Sheaf, Port Shéamus Mhic A Bháird, Seamus’s, Tom Ward’s, Ward’s and Ward’s Favorite to name a few. The Butlers of Glen Avenue was composed by banjo player Tony Sullivan in 1979.
8. Paddy’s Rambles through the Park (A) / Pixel • Paddy’s Rambles through the Park was composed by famed Donegal fiddler John Doherty, who told the story of a Donegal man (probably Johnny himself) who was crossing through a pairc (pronounced ‘park’), or farm field, on his way home late one night (perhaps after one too many at the pub). In this park the farm hands had piled large cairns of stones to clear the fields, and it was here that Doherty’s hero heard the wailing lament of the Banshee singing this melody. At the first cry he looked behind the nearest cairn, and of course found nothing, but on approaching the next cairn he heard it again, and again he looked for but did not find the singer. Doherty said this pattern repeated itself through the park all night till a little while before daylight in the morning. He never found the source of the song but he learned the tune nonetheless. Pixel was written by Richard in memory of a good friend's cat, Pixel, who died in the Houston floods of 2001.
9. Ridées six temps / Acadian 2-Step • This one is a bit of an odyssey. We begin with a suite of "ridées in 6 time" from Pays de Redon in Brittany. Serge learned this from an old cassette tape of a band called Vents D'Oust which boasts two of the finest luthiers in Brittany, Gilbert Hervieux and Olivier Glet, who made our bombardes and biniou. After laying out a traditional Breton riff, we segue into the Acadian 2-step, a tune Serge learned from Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet many years ago. We figure geography dictated that most Cajuns have some Breton blood, and like to think that this medley unscientifically proves it.
10. Iron Legs / Bewick’s Hornpipes / Jan Mijne Man / Go Mauve • This is a medley of two types traditional dances. The first two are English hornpipes, Iron Legs and Bewick’s Hornpipe. Serge made a “field recording” of them in St. Chartier, France in 1989 where he heard legendary English dance band Blowzabella performing them. The last two are schottisches, a dance originating in the early 19th century in Bohemia. It was so named in German after Scottish Highland dances, though the two are unrelated. The schottische has since become a common folk dance throughout Europe, including Scotland! Jan Mijne Man (My Man John), is a Dutch schottische and Go Mauve was composed by Ian Luff of Blowzabella.
11. The Snuff Wife / Cutting Bracken / The Braes of Malanish • A set of Scottish piping jigs. The Snuff Wife is by piper Iain MacDonald and a "snuff wife" is a seller of powdered tobacco. Cutting Bracken (Tha mi sgìth in Gaelic) originated from Puirt à beul (mouth music), often sung as 'work songs' or to keep the English from hearing your pipes. Cutting Bracken is often referred to in Scotland as "Puin' (Pulling) Bracken". The Braes of Mellinish is a Scottish country dance tune (Bruachan Mhealanais in Gaelic). The tune appears in William Gunn's Caledonian Repository of Music Adapted for the Bagpipes, 1848, and is attributed to "Captain Mackay."