Cheshire based English concertina player Dave Ball brought his tune archaeology project to the YCC meeting on 17 February 2019.
He has been collecting tunes associated with particular calendar dates for some time now, his database is now up to about 1500 tunes and only three of the 365 days in the calendar remain uncovered.
This session was a mixture of discussions around the historical notation of tunes, tune archaeological technique, and of course a bit of playing.
Dave started by getting us to play a tune with just the note names given as letters – a good step to learning a tune, in effect, “by ear”. Then we considered the difficulties encountered in sourcing tunes from old manuscripts – sometimes unbarred, no time or key signature, sometimes just plain wrong notes written down. This led us to consider how to think in detail about playing and shaping a tune from the raw material provided, and this approach then featured with all the rest of the tunes we looked at.
The first was a tune for 18th March Dance in Rob Roy, just presented to us as a series of unbarred quavers with no time signature & an incomplete key signature, which appears to have been incidental music for a stage play, premiered in 1818. We managed to work this up into something playable before he revealed the actual tune.
Dave provided much fascinating information about the use of such music in theatre of the time and also recounted anecdotes about characters with tunes written about their exploits, including the man who first did a parachute jump (1802 – successful!) and had a tune written in his honour.
Some Yorkshire tunes were presented, of which we played one The Honest Yorkshireman (…that, of course, includes us all!) again composed for the theatre in 1735, with calendar date of 11th July. We then looked at Tom & Jerry, 26th November’s tune (which was very similar to the well known session tune Donkey Riding). Interestingly this tune celebrated the two picaresque characters later immortalized as the cartoon cat and mouse characters.
Finally, Dave presented a couple of the vast number of tunes associated with Queen Victoria. One of these, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee (for 20th June), was a lively tune reminiscent of a hornpipe, which conjured images of Vic dancing merrily.
The calendar tune project has been a vast undertaking for Dave, which is now nearing its completion, and he hopes to be touring with selections from the collection with his band Cabinet of Monkeys later this year.