Annotation:Indian’s March

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X:1 T:Indians March M:C L:1/8 Q:"Moderato” N:"Performed by Sigr. Spinacuta on the Rope." B:John Watlen - Celebrated Circus Tunes (1791, p. 14) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:A E2|A2 A>A A>Bc>A|B2 E>F E>FG>A|B2 B>c B>cd>B|C2 A>A A2 c>d| e2 e>e f>ed>c|e2 e>e f>ed>c|f2e2d2c2|B2 B>B B2:| |:B2 B>B B>dc>e|d2c2B2 c<d|e2A2 f<ed<c|B>AG>F E2z2| A3 B/c/ d2d2|c3 d/e/ f2f2|e/a/g/a/ g/f/e/d/ c2 TB2|A2 A>A A2:|]

INDIAN'S MARCH. English, Scottish; March (whole time). A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBCC. Watlen notes: "Performed by Sigr. Spinacuta on the Rope." Antonio Spinacuta was the tightrope dancer for the Edinburgh circus during the 1791 season. A 'correspondent' to the newspaper Caledonian Mercury attended the Edinburgh circus on opening night and reported the Spinacuta played the violin while rope dancing (he also sometimes played the guitar as well) to the delight of the audience:

The tightrope dancing by Signor Spinacuta is a most wonderful performance...His performance on the violin on the rope, his descent into the circus (to the terror of the fidlers [sic] under him, excited the highest approbation.[1]

The writer also opined that the circus's orchestra seemed under-rehearsed on opening night, but was pleased that the band was numerous and "the music was for the most part Scotch, and well chosen." Edinburgh circus researcher Kim Baston explains that Spinacuta's act involved sliding down a rope fixed diagonally from gallery to stage, passing over the orchestra, so that the musicians indeed may have been frightened [2].

Edinburgh circus researcher Kim Baston notes that the tune was used in the pantomime The Death of Captain Cook, performed as part of the night's entertainment, and that Indian was a catch-all term employed for all indigenous peoples, in this case Native Hawaiians[3]

Rope dancing was an acrobatic feat that was not unique to Spinacuta, however, and there were a number of famous rope dancers during 18th century, some of whom also played instruments while suspended. Baston cites Speaight (History, 17) who records "la belle Espagniola" who "danced a hornpipe and a Spanish fandango, clicking castanets, without a pole" and a Mlle. Charini who "danced with her feet in chains while playing the mandolin," while a Mr. Maddox sounded a trumpet and played the violin "in full swing"[4]

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 4), 1796; No. 98, p. 39. John Watlen (The Celebrated Circus Tunes), 1791; p. 14.

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  1. Kim Baston, "The Celebrated Circus Tunes: Music and Musicians in an Eighteenth-Century Circus", Popular Entertainment Studies, Vol. 9, Issue 1-2, 2018, pp. 17-18.
  2. ibid, p. 18.
  3. ibid, p. 22.
  4. ibid, p. 23