Stouke Tunes

Oliver and Susan Nares – who live in our neighbouring townland of Stouke – have played for us before (here and here), and embellished Susie’s post with two of Oliver’s wonderful photographs ‘of the music’. Two more tracks from them today. Firstly, Ollie plays a pair of tunes on his Eric Martin Cajun-style melodeon (listen out for those sonorous deep bass notes):


The first tune is one I always called LNB Polka, although I have never seen an explanation for that name. In fact it’s a barn-dance rather than a polka (the lines are blurred depending how you play it) and the real name is La Roulante. It was written by Jean Blanchard (b 1948), a musician, collector and scholar of traditional French music from the Massif Centrale and Auvergne regions. He is best known as an expert on the Cornemuse (French bagpipes), but an equally brilliant performer on the Accordéon Diatonique (that’s a French-tuned melodeon). Often played very fast (perhaps too fast!) this tune should have a steady tempo to suit a barn dance – Ollie’s pace is ideal. I first heard the tune played by the ‘folk fringe’ group Blowzabella in the 1970s, learned it then, and passed it on to Ollie…

Jean Blanchard back in the French festival days (left) and today (right)

Ollie follows the French piece with one which hales from the Orkney Islands – Jimmy Garson’s March. This is a great tune and there are many ways of playing it: as a straight march which is in the Scottish pipe band repertoire, or with syncopation – quite what that turns it into, I’m not really sure!

Today, Susie is treating us to a fine slip jig with Cork connections on her harp – Drops of Brandy:

Some sources suggest this is a Scottish tune, but it is in fact in O’Neill’s collection ‘The Dance Music of Ireland – 1001 Gems’ (number 448). It is also known as Cork Fancy.

Many thanks to the Nares of Stouke for these.

A Trip to France!

A bit of a diversion! Ballydehob Session regulars will be aware that I try to inject a measure of traditional French dance music into our playing. This is because of my own background: I was playing mainly English and French music when I lived back in Devon. With other players I would go off on musical forays through Brittany and the French Massif Centrale in search of good tunes. We found many! And this was before I had really begun to digest the Irish repertoire. So they are sitting here in my French tuned GC melodeon, always ready to jump out when a change of mood is required… Also, in normal times, we have quite a few French musicians visiting us here in West Cork in the summer months, and they are quite pleased to hear us acknowledging their own traditions.

Firstly, just to be contrary, I usually preface any French interlude with a Spanish air! It’s this one – Anoraxa – and I learned it very many years ago from a bagpiper:

Usually I go straight from this slow air into some traditional French waltzes. Here are three that go well together – the first is La Marianne:

I learned the waltz from the playing of Frédéric Paris back in the day, when we attended the annual St Chartier Festival of instrument makers, music and dance. It was there that I met Eric Martin and commissioned the instrument now owned and played by our friend and neighbour, Oliver – he’s playing it here. This is Fred some 30 years ago:

You would expect Frédéric’s surname to be pronounced in the French way, like the city (Paree) but, oddly it’s actually pronounced in the Anglicised way (Parisss).

Next up, one I have always called The French Waltz, although I know that others who are familiar with it give it different names:

And the last in this set of French waltzes is known as Robin’s Waltz, and it’s a fine tune. I tend to play it in the way I first heard it: AA BB AA and then as many more ‘A’s as you care to put in… It just keeps on going!

I’ll finish off this French session, for the moment with a couple of French ‘Scottisch’ tunes. Supposedly, the history of the Scottisches in France is that they were versions of tunes picked up from Irish and Scots players and adapted to suit traditional dances. So they should be relevant to us! They are lively dances.

Firstly, Scottisch à Virmoux:

Secondly – and often played together with the last one – is Scottisch à Catinaux:

Next time we’ll return to the Irish tradition – but, a plea: we have a lot of subscribers to this site (which is great!) but very few contributors. Please, let us have your tunes. Anything goes, as you can see, and we’re not expecting ‘performances’ – let’s just get lots of tunes on the site so that we can spend our ‘lockdown’ time constructively!

Au Revoir

Encountered on my travels in Guémené-sur-Scorff, Brittany in 1987