Gloomy Winter

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GLOOMY WINTER('S NOW AWA'). AKA and see "Reverend Mr. Patrick MacDonald of Kilmore," "Lord Balgonie's Delight," "Lord Balgonie's Favorite," "Lord Balgownie's Favorite," "Mr. Nairne's Strathspey." Scottish (originally), Canadian; Strathspey and Air. Canada, Cape Breton. A Minor (Cranford, Kerr): E Minor (Howe). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Cranford, Kerr): ABC (Howe). Composition of the melody was claimed by Alexander Campbell (1764-1824) in his Albyn's Anthology (1815), who was supposed to have composed it about 1783 under the title "Strathspey, Rev. Mr. Macdonald of Kilmore." John Glen (1891) notes that there has been considerable discussion on the origin of the tune, which was inserted in Niel Gow's Fourth Collection (1800) under the title "Lord Balgonie's Delight" ('a very old Highland Tune'), and who thus has a rival claim. The antiquarian Stenhouse and Glen each researched the tune, with Stenhouse concluding it was an old one, tracing some resemblance between it and other tunes. In Daniel McLaren's collection published six years earlier than the Gow collection Glen found the melody under the title "Mr. Nairne's Strathspey" but could find no remarks on the age or antiquity of the melody. He reviewed Campbell's original music sheet and concluded that Campbell should be credited with authorship and that Gow's claim was unsupportable. In fact, the tunes origins may have been older than either source, as "Gloomy Winter" bears resemblance to "Cordwainers' March (The)," a trade tune of the shoemaker's guild, printed by Aird some twenty years before Gow. Purser (1992) is of the opinion that Campbell should be left with the composition, and sees no particular evidence to award it to the Gows.

Lyrics were written by the famous Scots poet Robert Tannahill, who, like Campbell died in tragic circumstances (Tannahill drowned himself while Campbell died in miserable poverty). George Farquhar Graham notes in the Appendix to his Songs of Scotland (1853) that there is a letter he found that proves Tannahill obtained his tune from Gow's volume. In the last decade of the 20th century "Gloomy Winter" was used by English composer Michael Nyman as the theme for the movie The Piano.

Source for notated version: Winston Fitzgerald (1914-1987) [Cranford].

Printed sources: Cranford (Winston Fitzgerald), 1997; No. 213, p. 85. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 148. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; Set 9, No. 1, p. 7.

Recorded sources: Winston Fitzgerald - "House Parties and 78's." Rounder 82161-7032-2, Bill Lamey - "From Cape Breton to Boston and Back: Classic House Sessions of Traditional Cape Breton Music 1956-1977" (2000).

See also listing at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]




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