High Level Hornpipe (1)

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X:1 T:High Level Hornpipe [1] L:1/8 M:C| S:Anonymous Northumbrian musician's MS c. 1840-1860, known as "John S:Baty 8," now kept in Chantry Bagpipe Museum. K:Bb FA|!segno!BdFB DFBd|fbdf BdFB|ceAc FADE|AFcA ecAF| BdFB DFBd|fbdf BdFB|G=Bcd egf_B|AFGA B2:| |:cB|Afcf Afcf|AFAc fcADF|dfBf dfBf|dBdf bfdB| egcg egcg|=eceg bgec|1 fcaf =ecge|f-efg f2:|2 fafa gb=eg|f=efg fedc!D.S.!y||

HIGH LEVEL (HORNPIPE) [1] {An Árd Mhín}. AKA – "High Level Bridge Hornpipe." AKA and see "Best Shot," "Fly By Night (2)," "Highland Hornpipe," "Louis Quinn's," "Sailor Jack's Hornpipe," "Velocipede Hornpipe." Scottish, English, Irish, Canadian, American; Hornpipe, Breakdown. England, Newcastle (northern England): USA; Nebraska, Missouri, New England. Ireland, County Donegal. Canada, Prince Edward Island. B Flat Major ('A' part) & F Major ('B' part) {most versions}: C Major (Robbins): G Major {Williamson}. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABA (Hunter): AABB (Christeson, Martin, Martin & Hughes, Messer, Robbins, Skinner, Williamson): AABB' (Hardie, Miller & Perron, Skinner): AA'BB' (Bain, Perlman): AABC (Mulvihill): AA'BB'AA'CCDDBB'AA' (Phillips). One of the most popular hornpipes in the Scottish Repertoire, it was fashioned by 19th century fiddler James Hill[1], a noted composer of hornpipes ("Paganini of hornpipe players") who lived in Gateshead, Northumberland, England (near Newcastle), though born in Dundee, Scotland. Little is known about his life, although he seems to have been a sometime publican, and was a popular tavern fiddler and sports enthusiast. The "High Level Hornpipe" was apparently first published in Britain in Köhler's Violin Repository, Book 1, although, curiously, it earlier had appeared in the c. 1867 publication of Boston, Massachusetts, publisher Elias Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels).

The piece is named after Newcastle's famous bridge across the River Tyne linking Newcastle and Gateshead, the first important rail crossing in Britain designed to carry more than two tracks. It was begun in 1846, opened in 1849 and replaced a bridge that had been built in 1781. The High Level, designed by Robert Stephenson, was based on a series of cast iron bowstring arches springing from tall stone piers; each of the six main spans stretched for 125 feet, the length of the whole being 1,372 feet, well over a quarter of a mile. It was a marvel of the age, and so splendid that Queen Victoria herself performed the opening ceremonies. A two-tier structure, it allowed three railway lines were carried on the upper deck, while pedestrians, horses and carriages traffic travelled on the road beneath. The bridge has survived almost unaltered since then, apart from the removal of two of its railway lines and some strengthening in 1922 to enable trams to pass safely across.

There is a pub at one end of the structure is called The Bridge, and has long been home to The Bridge Folk Club, where the band The High Level Ranters started. It remains a desirable venue for traditional and folk performers. Northumbrian musicians often pair the tune with "New High Level Hornpipe (2)."

Williamson (1976) says: "The tune is a very popular one in the North of England, and many players have evolved their own elaborations of it." As a solo piece it usually ends on the first strain of the tune, rather than the second, although the second part leads into other tunes when played in a medley. In the 1970's English concertina virtuoso Alastair Anderson, from Northumberland, used the tune and variations as a showcase. It also became popular in the American mid-west (especially in Missouri), largely through the playing of fiddlers who could sight-read and had a copy of Ryan's Mammoth Collection, in which it appeared (see note for "Thunder Hornpipe" for more information). Howe notes that his source was Jimmy Norton, the 'Boss Jig Player', perhaps a band-leader or principal instrumentalist for a band in the Boston, Massachusetts area. The tune was arranged for 9 parts-violins, clarionet (sic), coronet, bass, flute, viola, trombone, cello and piano-in another of Howe's publications, Howe's Full Quadrille Orchestra (No. 262). R.P. Christeson (1973) believes the melody was derived from the "Highland Hornpipe," which is commonly published (e.g. in Cole's 1000). Another melody in the Howe publications, "President Garfield's Hornpipe," is a version of a tune that was collected as "High Level Hornpipe (2)" from south-west Pennsylvania fiddlers in the 1940's by Samuel Bayard, although it is unrelated to "High Level Hornpipe (1)." "High Level Hornpipe" was a signature tune of American old-time and bluegrass fiddler Howdy Forrester. Phillips' swing version adds a fourth part in the key of G Minor.

In county Donegal it is a popular hornpipe (the title contrasts with another popular Donegal hornpipe, "Low Level Hornpipe (The)"). Flute player Harry Bradley says he was told by County Leitrim fiddler Vincent Harrison, a musical associate in New York of County Sligo fiddler Lad O'Beirne, that O'Beirne (1911–1980) composed the third part of the tune now commonly played by Irish musicians. O'Beirne recorded the tune together with County Armagh fiddler and bandleader Louis Quinn (a side reissued on the CD "Milestone at the Garden"), but with only two parts. Quinn got first billing on that side. and an alternate title to the tune is thus "Louis Quinn's." O'Beirne's three-part "High Level" was recorded on a home-made acetate disc, and this setting was the one covered by New York fiddlers Brian Conway and Tony DeMarco their album 1979 LP "The Apple in Winter."

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Bob Walters (Burt County, Nebraska) [Christeson]; Howard Forrester and Jeff Guernsey [Phillips]; Ervan Sonnier (1920–1994) & Toussaint Arsenault (b. 1916) {Summerside, East Prince County, Prince Edward Island} [Perlman]; Bobby Hicks [Devil's Box].

Printed sources : - Bain (50 Fiddle Solos), 1989; p. 8. R.P. Christeson (Old Time Fiddler's Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; pp. 32–33. Stephen F. Davis (The Devil's Box), vol. 16, No. 3, Sept. 1982; pp. 54-55. Dixon (The Lads Like Beer: The Fiddle Music of James Hill), 1987. Handle et al. (High Level Ranters Song and Tune Book), 1972; pp. 42–44. Hardie (Caledonian Companion), 1986; p. 39. Honeyman (Strathspey, Reel and Hornpipe Tutor), 1898; p. 53 (appears as "High Level Bridge Hornpipe"). Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 31. Hunter (The Fiddle Music of Scotland), 1988; No. 338. Jarman (Old Time Fiddlin' Tunes); No or p. 21. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 2), p. 44. Laybourn (Köhler's Violin Repository, vol. 1), 1881; p. 8. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 57. Martin & Hughes (Ho-ro-gheallaidh, vol. 1), 1990; p. 41. Messer (Anthology of Favorite Fiddle Tunes), 1980; No. 111, p. 70. Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler's Repertoire), 1983; No. 75. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 4, p. 88. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 114. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 2), 1995; p. 198. Robbins Music Corp. (The Robbins collection of 200 jigs, reels and country dances), New York, 1933; No. 180, p. 58. Skinner (The Scottish Violinist), p. 44. Skinner (Harp and Claymore), 1904; p. 136. White's Excelsior Collection. Williamson (English, Welsh, Scotch and Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1976; p. 37.

Recorded sources : - Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 167, Peter Horan & Gerry Harrington – "The Merry Love to Play" (2007). Condor 977-1489, "Graham & Eleanor Townsend Live at Barre, Vermont." Decca 12076 (78 RPM), Michael Coleman (1936. Paired with "McCormack's"). Fiddler FRLP001, Tom Doucet (Nova Scotia/eastern Mass.) – "The Down East Star." Gael-Linn CEF 045, "Paddy Keenan" (1975). Green Linnet SIF1035, Brian Conway & Tony De Marco – "The Apple in Winter" (1981. Learned from a 78 RPM recording of fiddler Lad O'Beirne with Louis Quinn). HTD CD29, Ashley Hutchings – "The Guvnor, vol. 2." Leader Records LEA 4006, "Billy Pigg, The Border Minstrel." Old Bridge Music OBMCD 04, Tom McConville – "Fiddler's Fancy." Rounder 1123, Lad O'Beirne & Louis Quinn – "Milestone at the Garden" (two tracks, one from 1933, one from around 1950). Rounder CD7014, Alton Silliker – "Fiddlers of Western Prince Edward Island" (1997). Topic TSCD 752, Ashley Hutchings – "Stepping Up" (2004. Originally recorded during the Kicking up the Sawdust sessions in 1977, but not released on the album). Trailer LER 2030, The High Level Ranters (1971). Ba 32953 Me M12896 Lad O'Beirne & Louis Quinn (The High Level, McCormack's) (Dec., 1933).

See also listing at :
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [3]
Thesession.org [4]

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  1. Hill's dates very; one source gives c. 1815-c. 1860, and another c. 1811-1853.