Acrobat's Hornpipe (1)
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ACROBAT'S HORNPIPE (1). AKA ‑ "Acrobat's Clog." American, Irish; Hornpipe. B Flat Major ('A' part) & F Major ('B' part). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Cole, McNulty, Mulvihill): AA’BB (Cranford). This tune was called "The Nightengale" until P.T. Barnum began using an adapted version as a theme for his circus acrobats. The attribution "As performed by G.L. Tracy" appears in Ryan's/Cole's. George Lowell Tracy (1855-1921) was a young man who later composed light opera and composition books, according to musicologist Charles Wolfe. Evidently Tracy arranged music as well, for one publication from the 1880's indicates a Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) work was arranged by him. "The Acrobat" appears in Ryan's Mammoth Collection (1883) and its direct successor, Cole's 1000 Fiddle Tunes (1940, from the same printing plates as Ryan's), wherein it is noted that it "Can be used as (the vehicle for) a Clog." Perhaps the earliest recording is from 1905 by violinist Charles D'Almaine, born in 1871 in England, who died in 1943. D'Almaine emigrated to the United States in 1888, and by 1890 had established himself as "instructor on violin" in Evanston, Illinois; by 1910 he had removed to Yonkers, and in 1920 was a chiropractor in New York City (info. from Paul Gifford).
Acrobat's clog is said to be a version of a tune called "The Nightingale," but the "Nightingale (2) (The)", a clog, also printed in Ryan's Mammoth Collection has only minimal similarity to "Acrobat's Hornpipe."
Source for notated version: Winston Fitzgerald (Cape Breton) [Cranford].
Cape Breton musicians learned the tune from the Ryan's/Cole's books, and it was played by the influential fiddler Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald.
Print Sources: Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 97. Cranford (Winston Fitzgerald), 1997; p. 4. McNulty (Dance Music of Ireland), 1965; p. 23. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 35, p. 99 (appears asThe Acrobat"). Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 133.
Recorded sources: Edison Gold Moulded Record 9797, Charles D'Almaine - "Hornpipe Medley" (1904. Consists of "Jimmy Linn's", "Locker's", "The Acrobat", "The Champion", "The Autograph").