Tune History

World Fiddle Day 2015 Annotated Tune List

Theme Medley:

Girl I Left Behind – First published under this name in Dublin in 1791, it may have

been in oral tradition long before that. Popular as a fife and drum march in both Britain

and America and also a Morris dance tune, it has had several sets of words over the

centuries, including the ones I wrote this year for World Fiddle Day 2015, to get away

from the battle theme.

Now here we are on this fine day

With all our bows a’blazing

Just listen to the music play

And watch the roof a’raising

We’ve travelled here from near and far

In wind and rain and weather

So from morning light to evening star

We’ll play this song together.

Miss MacLeod’s – Originally titled Mrs MacLeod’s of Raasay, this tune has been a

favourite throughout North America for at least two centuries. Mentioned in print as

early as 1781 in Scotland, it was first published in a collection of Nathaniel Dow’s in the

early 1800s and usually credited to Sir Alexander Macdonald (1745 – 95) who was an

amateur fiddler (also the composer of Lord MacDonald’s, another widespread tune in

North America). Once again, it has had several sets of words, including our adaptation

for World Fiddle Day 2015.

Hop high everybody, here we go

Hop high everybody, heel and toe

Hop high everybody, gather round

Yeah, play that fiddle til the sun goes down

Breakin’ out the bows til the dust spins round

Fiddle in the morning like a real MacLeod

Groovin’ to the beat and to the golden sound

Yeah, play that fiddle til the sun goes down.

1. Quebec

a. Waltz of the Toys – composed by Michel Faubert, member of

Charbonniers de l’enfer and a great influence in the Quebec revival scene of

the last 40 years.

b. La Bastringue – An old tune from France, La Bastringue turns up as a jig

in a Rameau Opera from the 18th century. In Canada, it is often a dance of

two men and one woman, a reminder of early days in French Canada when

the situation demanded it. Hence the “bass triangle” (la bastringue).

2. Down-East

a. Whelan’s Breakdown – Made famous by Don Messer and His Islanders,

origin unknown. It is a favourite square dance tune in many parts of


b. Little Burnt Potato – Composed by Colin Boyd of Antigonish County,

Nova Scotia (b. 1891), the tune became famous throughout the Maritimes

and eventually the rest of the country.

3. Newfoundland

a. I’s the b’y – “I’m the boy” in Newfoundlandese, this tune may be the

Island’s most famous musical export.

b. Mussels in the Corner – Another well-known Newfoundland song, this

one makes fun of people from various parts of the Island.

4. Cape Beton/Scotland

a. My Cape Breton Home – composed by the late, great Jerry Holland,

youngest member of the Cape Breton Symphony and ambassador for Cape

Breton music throughout the world.

b. The Duchess of Hamilton – from the Skye Collection, an 1887 Scottish

compilation of jigs, reels and strathspeys and a favourite source of tunes

for Cape Bretoners.

c. West Mabou Reel – composed by Dan R. MacDonald (1912-76). Dan R.

reputedly composed over 1000 tunes, many of which. Like this one, have

become Cape Breton standards.

5. Ireland

a. Fig for a Kiss – An Irish version of an old Scottish jig called “The Old

Dutch Churn,” turned into a slip jig and moved to E minor.

b. Merrily Kissed the Quaker’s Wife – An old tune, possibly of English

origin, it has words about baking scones, playing tunes on the spinet and

dancing (see http://www.thesession.org for more).

6. Brittany

a. Hanter Dro – A dance from Brittany done in long lines of people holding

hands, three steps forward, one back. Because the dance is often done for

hours, it is common for two musicians to spell each other off by trading

phrases in the tune. Many believe that these dances were done in lines of

people winding through standing stones. (Similar to Stonehenge in England,

there are singles or groups of standing stones throughout Europe, Africa

and Asia).

7. Italy

a. Beddhu Stanotte – from Salento in Puglia, southern Italy, the band,

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, specializes in playing the driving rhythms of

the pizzica dance and other old Italian rhythms on traditional instruments.

The pizzica is the local variant of the legendary mystical spider-trancedance,

the tarantella.

8. Sweden

a. Swedish Bridal Tune – a lovely tune from the mid-eastern province of Oje

in Sweden, this one is somewhat unusual in its change from minor to major,

and was probably used for processing through the village.

b. Josefin’s – Written by Roger Tallroth, the guitarist of the well-known

Swedish folk band “Väsen,” this tune has become popular throughout

Europe and North America in Celtic circles as well as Scandinavian.

 9. Greece/Macedonia

a. Miserlou – A Greek “rebetico” song (urban popular music), written in 1927,

the song spread throughout the Middle east in Arabian, Klezmer, Armenian

and Turkish cultures. It also became a “surf rock” hit in America, recorded

by Dick Dale, The Beach Boys and the Ventures.

b. Tino Mori – A Macedonian favourite, Tino Mori’s mother is lamenting that

her daughter has become engaged and will move far away. 7/8 is a very

common rhythm in Macedonia and this tune is a beautiful introduction to it.

 10. Eastern Europe

c. Dark Eyes – Often thought of as Russian or Romany, the words were

actually written by Ukrainian poet Evheniy Grebenka in 1843 and later set

to a popular waltz melody whose origin remains obscure.

d. Uskudar – While the exact origin is unknown, the tune was popularized as

a Turkish song in the 19th century. Widely traveled, it has been adopted by

many cultures and has words in Turkish, Macedonian, Yiddish, Ladino,

Armenian, even Korean and Japanese.

e. Tanz Tanz Yidelach – recorded by Romanian-American bandleader Abe

Schwartz and his orchestra in 1913, it has remained a quintessential Jewish

folk melody to this day.

11. Japan/Mongolia

a. Sakura – An old Japanese folk song, ‘Sakura” means “Cherry blossom,”

a national symbol of both the beauty and the transience of life.

b. Mongolian Shepherd’s Song – Many songs from this part of the world

are “pentatonic,” i.e., only 5 notes out of the scale. This one has a nice

unresolved character.

 12. India/Pakistan

a. Laal Meri Pat – from Pakistan, this song is in praise of Sufi saint Laal

Shahbaz Qalandar (The Red Saint, so-called because of his red clothing)

who lived in the 12th century and preached tolerance for all people.

 13. Africa

a. E Kereke – a well-known children’s song in Cameroon (a “joujou

caraba”), this is a song they would sing going from door to door asking

for money and treats at Christmas and New Year’s.

b. Kwela #2 – Kwela music was a popular South African township style of

the 1950s, played on pennywhistles. This one was originally called

“Thoasa,” composed by Peter Makonotela. “Thoasa” means a student

studying to be a traditional healer in the Sotho language.

14. South America

a. El Condor Pasa – based on older Andean folk tunes, El Condor Pasa

was composed in 1913 by Peruvian composer Daniel Alomía Robles and

hugely popularized by Simon and Garfunkle on “Bridge Over Troubled

Water” with English words by Paul Simon.

b. La Cumparsita (The Little Parade) – Perhaps the most popular

tango of all time, it was composed in 1913 by an 18-year old student as

a Uruguayan carnival march, with words added several years later

sending it on its way to stardom.

c. Tico Tico no fuba – First recorded in 1931 by Orquestra Colbaz, the

tune was made famous by Carmen Miranda in the film Copacabana. The

title translates literally as “Sparrow (tico) in the cornmeal (fuba)”.

15. The Caribbean

a. La Cucaracha (the Cockroach) dates from at least the time of the

Mexican Revolution and originally had political overtones, referring to

unpopular leaders.

b. Jamaica Farewell – probably based on a much older Caribbean

folksong, Jamaica Farewell was popularized by Calypso singer Harry

Belafonte in the 1950s.

c. Guantanamera – Guantanamera (the woman from Gauntanamo), was

originally a romantic song but became popular as a peace anthem with

words adapted from famous Cuban poet, José Marti, sung by Pete

Seeger, José Feliciano and a host of others.

16. United States

a. West End Blues – originally recorded by Joe Oliver’s band, featuring

Louis Armstrong, in 1929, it was one of the first and most important

blues recordings ever made. Armstrong probably just improvized the

opening chorus, but its popularity has enshrined the melody.

b. Year of Jubilo – A civil war freedom song by Henry Clay Work (c.

1862) the tune has remained popular in both Appalachian and western

Canadian fiddle repertoires.

c. Redwing – probably adapted from “The Happy Farmer” of Schumann,

the tune is credited to popular song composer Kerry Mills in the early

20th century. It has remained one of the most popular North American

fiddle tunes ever since. In some Aboriginal communities, the melody is

thought to have Aboriginal roots (the original song is about a Native girl

– “Oh the sun shines bright on pretty Redwing”).

17. Western Canada

a. Ookpik Waltz – composed by Frankie Rogers, a B.C. musician especially

known for playing western Swing music.

b. Teardrop Waltz – composed by Metis fiddler Reg Bouvette of

Manitoba in the 70s, it became a western hit and has at least two sets of

words to it, one by Ian Bell of Ontario, called “The Home Waltz”.

FINALE: Wavin’ Flag – from K’naan, born in Mogadishu, emigrated to New York and

finally to Rexdale with his family. His hit song “Waving Flag” has become an anthem for

World Unity.

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