Fisher's Hornpipe

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FISHER'S HORNPIPE (Crannciuil {Ui} Fishuir). AKA "The Fisher's," "Fisherman's Hornpipe." AKA and see "Blacksmith's Hornpipe (1) (The)" (Ireland {Joyce}), "Blanchard's Hornpipe (2)," "China Orange Hornpipe," "Dynwr (Y)," "Egg Hornpipe," "Fisherman's Lilt (3)," "First of May (2) (The)," "Gigue double," "Kelly's Hornpipe (3)," "Lord Howe's Hornpipe," "O'Dwyer's Hornpipe (2)," "Peckhover Walk Hornpipe," "Sailor's Hornpipe (4)," "Wigs on the Green" (Ireland {Roche}). English, Irish, Scottish, Shetlands, Canadian, Old-Time, Texas Style, Bluegrass; Hornpipe, Reel, Breakdown. USA & Canada, widely known. D Major {most versions, particularly modern ones}: C Major (Howe): G Major {M.E. Eames, often in the Galax, Va. area, also Bayard's version collected in Prince Edward Island}: A Major (Mississippi fiddler Charles Long, Plain Brown): F Major {Burchenal, Cranford, Ditson, Hart & Sandell, Honeyman, Linscott, Miller & Perron, Miskoe & Paul, Perlman, Raven, Phillips/1995, Welling}. Standard or ADad tunings (fiddle). AB (Howe, Wilson): AABB (most versions): AA'BB (Perlman): AA'BB' (Hart & Sandell, Miskoe & Paul).

"Fisher's Hornpipe" is one of the most popular, widespread and frequently published fiddle tunes in the world. On the subject of the title, several writers have posited various speculations on who the 'Fisher' might have been. Charles Wolfe, among others, believes it was originally a classical composition by German composer Johann Christian Fischer (1733-1800), a friend of Mozart's. Samuel Bayard (1981) noted that the tune dates to latter-18th century England where it was composed by "J. Fishar" and was "published in 1780" (Most of the local southwestern Pennsylvania alternate titles Bayard gives, appearing above, are "floaters"). Scholars Van Cleef and Keller (1980) identify the composer as one James A. Fishar, a dancer, musical director and ballet master at Covent Garden during the 1770's, and note it is included as "Hornpipe #1" in J. Fishar's (presumably James A. Fishar's) Sixteen Cotillons Sixteen Minuets Twelve Allemands and Twelve Hornpipes (John Rutherford, London, 1778). It has also been attributed to "18th century English fiddle player J.W. Fisher" [Callaghan, 2007]. A few years later the melody appeared in England under the title "Lord Howe's Hornpipe" in Longman and Broderip's 5th Selection of the Most Admired Dances, Reels, Minuets and Cotillions (London, c. 1784). McGlashan printed it about the same time in his Collection of Scots Measures (c. 1780, p. 34) under the title "Danc'd by Aldridge," a reference to the famous stage dancer and pantomimist Robert Aldridge, a popular performer in the 1760's and 1770's. See also early versions of the tune under the title "Blanchard's Hornpipe (2)." The hornpipe appears in a number of 19th century English musicians' copybooks as "Egg Hornpipe."

Although it is known in Europe as a hornpipe, it has also been played as a reel for dancing the Shetland Reel in Scotland's Shetland Islands. Linscott (1939) thinks the melody resembles an "ancient" Irish folk tune known as "Roger MacMum," implying it might have been derived from that source. There are stylistic similarities, to be sure, although "Roger" is a distinct melody from "Fisher's."

Many older versions are in the key of 'F' major, although Joseph Kershaw's in his fiddler's manuscript (from North West England) noted it in 'D'. "Fisher's" appears in numerous musician's manuscript books from the late 18th century on (see Ann Winnington's music book—Winnington was born in America, but was a resident of England). In Lincolnshire musician Joshua Gibbons 1823–26 manuscript the tune is entered under the title "Egg Hornpipe," perhaps after the practice of some stage hornpipe dancers to strew the stage with eggs and to dance among them without breaking any, to demonstrate skill and control. It was one of the most frequently noted tunes in English musicians' manuscripts, appearing in the Watson, Burnett, Green, Ellis Knowles, Harrison, Mittel, Clare, Lambert, Miller, Owen, Spencer, Tildesley, Clarke, Leadley, Lister and J. Moore, as well as the aforementioned Winnington, Kershaw and Gibbons [Callaghan, 2007]. Phillip Heath-Coleman [1] finds a variant as Oxfordshire Morris dance musician William Kimber's "1st of May/First of May (2) (The)" (a title applied to many different tunes), and reports that "Neal Lanham collected a diddled version of the same simplified variant from Billy French at Sudbury, Suffolk, in which the same bars reflect the 'original' of 'Fisher's' more closely."

The tune became widely popular in a short span of time. It was already known as "Fisher's Hornpipe" in both England and the newly independent United States when it was written out by the American John Greenwood in his copybook for the German flute of c. 1783. Another 18th century American publication, a 1796 collection entitled An Evening Amusement for German Flute and Violin, was printed in Philadelphia by Benjamin and Joseph Carr and contains the hornpipe set in 'D' Major. An American country dance was composed to the tune and first appeared in this country in John Griffith's Collection, a Rhode Island publication of 1788. Both dance and tune became American classics and entered traditional repertory throughout the county. A fiddler with the Moses Cleaveland surveying party (the city of Cleveland, Ohio, is named after him) is recorded as having played "Fisher's" during an impromptu dance on the first evening the party camped on the banks of the Cuyahoga river, as recorded in the diary of a surveyor with the party. It was one of the most widely known fiddle tunes and, along with "Rickett's Hornpipe," the most popular hornpipe played in the Southern Appalachians (although as time went on hornpipes were not generally dropped from the repertoire, certainly as an accompaniment for dancing, but "Fishers" remained in the repertoire as a fiddler's tune which was frequently played when a few musicians would get together for their own enjoyment). The tune retained its popularity, and Jim Kimball states that both "Fishers" and "Ricketts" (along with "Devil's Dream (1)" and "Soldier's Joy (1)") were favorite tunes for the last figure of square dances in western New York state into the early 20th century.

Around the Galax, Va., region quite a few fiddlers, like Charlie Higgins, Emmett Lundy and John Rector, played 'Fisher's' in the key of 'G' Major. Harvey Sampson played "Fisher's" in 'G', but also in GDgd tuning! Tommy Jarrell, of nearby Mt. Airy, N.C., plays the tune in 'D' Major, as did his father, Ben Jarrell, though the tune usually appears in 'F' Major in early collections (the earliest American appearance, John Greenwood's flute MS of 1783, has the tune in 'G,' however). 'F' major renditions are still common (along with 'D' Major versions) among fiddlers in central and north Missouri—though relatively rare in the Ozarks region of the state—perhaps because of the because of the influence of the old town orchestras or brass bands (with flat-keyed wind instruments), radio broadcasts from Canadian fiddlers, and local classically trained music professors. Despite the seeming prevalence of the hornpipe set in 'F' major in early publications, Jim Kimball finds that the John Carroll manuscript collection, copied before 1804, gives "Fisher's" in the key of 'D' Major, as does the John Studderd manuscript, c. 1808–1815, and the John Seely manuscript, c. 1819–1830 (Carroll was an Irish-American military musician stationed at Fort Niagara at the time he wrote his manuscript who apparently played both fife and fiddle; Studderd was a native of England prior to emigrating to western New York state in the 1820's; Seely, according to family history, was a fiddler who lived in western New York state for whom "Fishers" was a favorite tune). "Fisher's" was entered into the Woburn (Mass.) Fife Manuscript of 1807-c. 1840 [2], inscribed with the name of Seth Johnson, and, on the next page, "Woburn, April 20th, day 1807. I Bought this Book. Price 5:3." The hornpipe was included in the music manuscript collection of musician M.E. Eames, frontispiece dated Aug. 22nd, 1859 (p. 39), as "Fisher's Hornpipe," although he gave the alternate title "Blanch Hornpipe" (see "Blanchard's Hornpipe (2)"). "Fisher's Hornpipe" was one of the tunes recorded for the Library of Congress on 78 RPM from the playing of fiddler Patrick Bonner of Beaver Island, Michigan. Bonner was the youngest son of immigrants from Arranmore Island, County Donegal (the island was destination for a number of Arranmore families), and the Donegal fiddle tradition can be heard in his playing.

The title "Fisher's Hornpipe" has been mentioned frequently in periodicals and other printed sources in America over the years. For example, it was recorded as having been one of the category tunes at the 1899 Gallatin, Tenn., fiddlers contest; each fiddler would play his version of the tune, with the best rendition winning a prize (C. Wolfe, The Devil's Box, vol. 14, No. 4, 12/1/80). Similarly, it was listed in the Fayette Northwest Alabamian of 8/29/1929 as one of the tunes likely to be played by local fiddlers at an upcoming convention (Cauthen, 1990). The old Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer recorded the tune as being in the repertoire list of fiddler S.S. Ransdell (Louisburg, Granville County, N.C.), who competed in the 1906 fiddler's contest held in Raleigh. Moving north, another citation stated it had commonly been played for country dances in Orange County, New York, in the 1930's (Lettie Osborn, New York Folklore Quarterly), while Burchenal (1918) printed a dance from New England of the same name to the tune. A Report of the Celebration Held in August 1914 for the 150th Anniversary of the Town of Lancaster (N.H.) gives the title as one of the tunes and dances performed at a cotillion that month. The title appears in a list of Maine fiddler Mellie Dunham's repertoire (Dunham was Henry Ford's champion fiddler in the late 1920's), and was played by Uncle Jimmy Thompson (1848-1931) {Texas, Tenn.}, and Buffalo Valley, Pa. dance fiddler Harry Daddario. It was also in the repertoire of West Virginia fiddler Edden Hammons. In the South and Midwest the tune was recorded for the Library of Congress from the playing of Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940's by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, and (by Herbert Halpert) from the playing of Mississippi fiddlers Charles Long and Stephen B. Tucker in 1939. Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner related that it, in modern times, it was "played often at (the) Weiser (Idaho) annual (fiddle) contest" (Shumway), to which Louie Attebery (1979) concurs, calling it part of the "standard fare" of many fiddlers at that festival and contest. The great Georgia old-time fiddler Clayton McMichen recorded the tune on a 78 RPM, writes Joel Shimberg, played through once in each of three or four keys (including F, D, and G). Seattle fiddler and musicologist Vivian Williams writes: "'Fisher's Hornpipe' was played by fiddler Jake Lake (originally from Cook County, Illinois) at the wedding of Henry Van Asselt and Catherine Jane Maple in a cabin on the Duwamish River, near Seattle, on Christmas Day, 1862, according to an account written by the bride's brother, John Wesley Maple. Other tunes played at that wedding: 'Unfortunate Dog (The)', 'Devil's Dream (1),' 'King's Head (1) (The)', 'Gal on a Log', 'Arkansas Traveller'."

British Columbia collector Gibbons (1982) notes it has been "a traditional dance melody familiar to fiddlers throughout Canada," while Ken Perlman (1996) notes it has status as one of the "good old tunes" played by Prince Edward Island fiddlers. Montreal fiddlers Joseph Allard (1873-1946) and J.O. LaMadeleine (1880-1973) both recorded 'crooked' (irregular) versions of "Fisher's" under the title "Gigue double" in the 1930's. A version was in the repertoire of fiddler André Alain (1931-2000) of St-Basile-de-Portneuf, near Québec City (whose 'A' part was nine measures long), and it has been recorded by Louis Boudreault and the group La Bottine Souriante. Anne Lederman, in her article on "Fiddling" in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (1992), remarks that "Fisher's Hornpipe" was the vehicle for the dance La Double gigue, popular in the Canadian fur-trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. An early recording of "Fisher's" was made in Montreal in 1935 for Celtic Music Records by fiddler Hugh A. MacDonald [3], of Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

See also "Miss Thompson's Reel," which particularly resembles the "Fisher's" in it's second section.

Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - Edson Cole (Freedom, N.H.) [Linscott]: Frank George (W.Va.) [Krassen]; Frank Lowery (Prince George, British Columbia) [Gibbons]; Lorin Simmonds (Prince Edward Island, 1944) [Bayard, 1981]; Carr, Evening Amusement (Phila., 1796) [Mattson & Walz]; transplanted French-Canadian fiddler Omer Marcoux {1898-1982} (Concord, N.H.), who learned the tune when young in Quebec [Miskoe & Paul]; Andre Alain (Portneuf, Québec) [Hart & Sandell]; 6 southwestern Pa. fiddlers and fifers [Bayard, 1981]; Ruthie Dornfeld and Major Franklin (Texas) [Phillips/1995 {two different versions}]; accordion player Johnny O'Leary (Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border), recorded in recital at Na Piobairi Uilleann, February, 1981 [Moylan]; Dennis Pitre (b. 1941, St. Felix, West Prince County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; Winston Fitzgerald (1914-1987, Cape Breton) [Cranford]; set dance music recorded at Na Píobairí Uilleann, in the 1980's [Taylor]; appears as an untitled hornpipe in a c. 1847 music manuscript by Ellis Knowles, a musician from Radcliffe, Lancashire, England [Plain Brown Tune Book]; Source for notated version: the music manuscript of Joseph Kershaw, a musician from Slackcote, Saddleworth, North West England who began his entries around the year 1820 [Kershaw].

Printed sources : - Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 345, pp. 332-334 and Appendix No. 3, p. 573. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 107. Burchenal (American Country Dances, vol. 1), 1918; p. 47. R.P. Callaghan (Hardcore English), 2007; p. 17. Christeson (Old Time Fiddler's Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; p. 57. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 95. Craig (The Empire Collection of Hornpipes), c. 1890's; p. 3. Cranford (Winston Fitzgerald: A Collection of Fiddle Tunes), 1997; No. 45, p. 17. Oliver Ditson (The Boston Collection of Instrumental Music), c. 1850; p. 57. Dunham (Mellie Dunham's 50 Fiddlin' Dance Tunes), 1926; No. 12, p. 7. Ford (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 39. Gibbons (As It Comes: Folk Fiddling From Prince George, British Columbia), 1982; No. 6, pp. 18-19. Hart & Sandell (Dance ce soir!), 2001; No. 1, p. 39. Honeyman (Strathspey, Reel and Hornpipe Tutor), 1898; p. 40 (two versions, one in Newcastle and Sand Dance style, on in Sailor's style). Howe (Complete Preceptor for the Accordeon), 1843; p. 10. Howe (Musician's Omnibus, No. 1), 1862; p. 43. Jarman, Old Time Fiddlin' Tunes; No. 20, p. 67. Johnson (A Further Collection of Dances, Marches, Minuetts and Duetts of the Latter 18th Century), 1998; p. 14. Johnson & Luken (Twenty-Eight Country Dances as Done at the New Boston Fair), vol. 8, 1988; p. 4. Joyce (Old Irish Folk Music and Songs), 1909; No. 103. Joseph Kershaw Manuscript, 1993; No. 70. Krassen (Appalachian Fiddle), 1973; p. 79. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1); No. 3, p. 42. Köhlers’ Violin Repository, vol. 2, 1881-1885; p. 156. Linscott (Folk Songs of Old New England), 1939; p. 77. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 56. Martin & Hughes (Ho-ro-gheallaidh), 1990; p. 44. Mattson & Walz (Old Fort Snelling: Instruction Book for the Fife), 1974; p. 60. McDermott (Allan's Irish Fiddler), c. 1920's; No. 105, p. 27. McGlashan (A Collection of Scots Measures), c. 1781; p. 34 (appears as "Danced by Aldridge"). Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler's Repertoire), 1983; No. 117. Miskoe & Paul (Omer Marcoux), 1994; p. 31. Mitchell (Dance Music of Willie Clancy), 1983; p. 98 (appears as untitled hornpipe). Moylan (Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra), 1994; No. 63, p. 36. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 351, p. 171. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 168. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; Nos. 1575 & 1576, p. 292. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 825, p. 143. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 117. Phillips, 1989 (Fiddlecase Tunebook: Old-Time); p. 19. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 2), 1995; pp. 1992-193. Plain Brown Tune Book, 1997; p. 41. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 163. Reiner (Anthology of Fiddle Styles), 1977; p. 26. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 3), 1927; No. 181. Ruth (Pioneer Western Folk Tunes), 1948; No. 23, p. 10. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 130. Saunders (New and Complete Instructor for the Violin), Boston, 1847; No. 3, p. 98. Spadaro (10 Cents a Dance), 1980; p. 10. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 297. Sweet (Fifer's Delight), 1964/1981; p. 42. Taylor (Music for the Sets: Yellow Book), 1995; p. 14. Welling (Welling's Hartford Tunebook), 1976; p. 20. White's Unique Collection, 1986; No. 94, p. 17. Wilson (Companion to the Ballroom), 1816; p. 133.

Recorded sources: -Alcazar Dance Series FR 204, "New England Chestnuts" (1981). Breton Books and Records BOC 1HO, Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald – "Classic Cuts" (reissue of Celtic Records CX 17). Caney Mountain CEP 212 (privately issued extended play album), Lonnie Robertson (Mo.), 1965-66. Claddagh CC5, Denis Murphy & Julia Clifford – "The Star Above the Garter" (appears as "Fisherman's Hornpipe"). County 405, "The Hill-Billies." County 707, Major Franklin – "Texas Fiddle Favorites." County 756, Tommy Jarrell – "Sail Away Ladies" (1986. The only time Tommy's famous fiddling father, Ben Jarrell {who took no active part in his musical education and rarely commented on his son's efforts}, praised his playing in front of him was after hearing the younger fiddler play the tune, remarking "By gawd, that's the best I've ever heard "Fisher's Hornpipe" played"). Document 8039, "The Hill Billies/Al Hopkins and His Buckle Busters: Compoete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 1" (reissue). Elektra EKS 7285, The Dillards with Byron Berline – "Pickin' and Fiddlin.'" F&W Records 4, "The Canterbury Country Orchestra Meets the F&W String Band." Folkways FA 2381, "The Hammered Dulcimer as played by Chet Parker" (1966). Folkways FG 3531, Jean Carignan – "Old Time Fiddle Tunes" (1968). Fretless 101, "The Campbell Family: Champion Fiddlers." Gourd Music 110, Barry Phillips – "The World Turned Upside Down" (1992). North Star NS0038, "The Village Green: Dance Music of Old Sturbridge Village." Oak Records OOK CD 001, "Brittany Haas" (2004). Rounder 0035, Fuzzy Mountain String Band – "Summer Oaks and Porch" (1973). Rounder 0436, Art Galbraith – "Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks, vol. 2: On the Springfield Plain." Rounder 7004, Joe Cormier – "The Dances Down Home" (1977). Rounder CD1518, Various Performers – "American Fiddle Tunes" (1971. Played by Patrick Bonner). Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40126, Northern Spy – "Choose Your Partners!: Contra Dance & Square Dance Music of New Hampshire" (1999). Topic 12T309, Padraig O'Keeffe, Denis Murphy & Julia Clifford – "Kerry Fiddles" (appears as "Fisherman's Hornpipe"). Vocalion 5017 (78 RPM), The Hill Billies (1927). Edden Hammons Collection, Disc 2. Louis Boudreault – "Portrait du vieux Kébec, vol. 12." La Bottine Souriante – "Tout comme au jour de l'an." Manigance – "Album souvenier, vol. 1." André Alain: Violoneux de St-Basile-de-Portneuf."

See also listings at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [4]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [5]
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [6]
thesession.org [7]
Hear John McGettigan's 78 RPM recording at the Comhaltas Archive [8]
Hear the Hill Billies 1926 recording at Slippery Hill [9] and youtube.com [10]
Hear/see a bluegrass version by Michael Cleveland and Gaven Largent on youtube.com [11]



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