Mason's Apron (The)
X:1 T:Mason's Apron M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel K:A |:ed|c2A2 ABAF|EFAB c2BA|dBB2 BcBA|Bcde f2ed| c2A2 ABAF|EFAB c2BA|Bcde fefa|AAcB A2:| |:ed|cAeA fAeA|cAeA fedc|dBfB gBfB|dBfB gfed| cAeA fAeA|cAeA fedc|Bcde fefa|AAcB A2:|]
MASON'S APRON (Práiscín an Mhásúin/Saorcloice). AKA - "Apron (The)." AKA and see "Braes of Glenorchy (1)," "Carton's Reel (1)," "Gallagher's Reel (1)," "Goodwife (The)," "I Don't Like the Guidewife," "Isla Reel (1) (The)," "Lady Carbury/Miss Carberry," "Lowrie Tarrel," "Mason's Cap (The)," "Mason Laddie (The)," "Miss Hope’s Favorite," "Pig the Tore the Shirt (The)," "Práiscín an Saorcloc," "Reel de Longueuil," "Reel des Bretelles," "'S' coma leam do shean taighe" "Tablier Du Macon (Le)," "Toss the Feather," "Wooden Spoon (The)." See also related American tunes "Jack of Diamonds (1)" and "Wake Up Susan (1)." Irish, Scottish, English, Shetlands, Canadian, American; Reel. A Major (most versions): A Mixolydian (Roche):G Major (some Irish versions). Standard or AEae tunings (fiddle). AB (Athole, Balmoral, Breathnach, Gow, Hardie, O'Neill, Roche, Silberberg, Surenne, Sweet): AAB (Kerr): AABB (Brody, Cole, Jarman, Kennedy, Mallinson, Miller & Perron, Raven, Skye, Songer): AA'BB' (Phillips): AABBCCDDE (Gatherer): AABBCCDDEEFFGG' (Martin & Hughes). The melody is Scottish in origin, according to most sources, despite having been strongly associated with Irish fiddling tradition in the present day. Early Scots versions appear in Alexander McGlashan's (173?–1797) collections under the titles "Isla Reel (The)" and "Braes of Glenorchy (1)," while one called "The Mason Laddie" is in Robert Ross's 1780 volume A Choice Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances (Edinburgh). It quickly became a popular piece, with continued longevity; for example, a note in MacDonald's Skye Collection (1887), printed a century after Ross's volume, states: "One of the best tunes that can be played for a Country Dance." It was a particular favorite of William Hardie Jr. of Methlick (1856–1944), and was the usual encore of the Scottish fiddler Duncan McKerracher (1796–1873), the so-called "Dunkeld Paganini" (whom family history had it once danced on a table to the playing of Niel Gow), who it was said played the tune wearing his Masonic apron. The reel appears twice in the mid-19th century music manuscript collection of William Hall Lister and Robert Lister, once under the title "Isla Reel (1) (The)" (in four strains) and again as "Mason's Apron" (two strains). Mason's Apron is also the name of a Scottish country dance, though uncommon in the repertory.
The melody lends itself to innumerable variations, and many fiddlers, even those not particularly known for spontaneous expostulation, compose their own. Of the two variations printed by Gatherer (1987), the first was composed by him, while the second, "quite common amongst Scottish and Irish fiddlers, was claimed by both Bobby McLeod and Sean Maguire." The latter, a famous Irish fiddler, has been credited with taking (this) "rather common two-part reel," adding variations and creating a virtuostic piece which impressed other Irish musicians who either copied it or added their own variations, say the Boys of the Lough. Maguire added three parts to the two-part "Mason's Apron," requiring playing in positions and challenging to many fiddlers. Some fiddlers play pizzicato notes during the tune as a variation and some Irish versions have been rendered in the key of G major, including that by Paddy O'Brien (of Tipperary) and flute player Matt Molloy; the latter's is a much admired version on that instrument. Joyce printed the tune as "Lady Carbury," and uilleann piper O'Farrell included it in his 4th volume of his Pocket Companion (1804-16) under the title "Miss Hope’s Favorite—Scotch." Breathnach (1976) says the tune was sometimes played in AEae tuning by Irish fiddlers, and he provides Joyce's "Lady Carbury," "Mason's Cap (The), "Gallagher's Reel," "Wake Up Susan (1)," "Mason Laddie (The)" and "Carton's Reel (1)" as alternate titles (in notes to No. 211, CRÉ 2). "White Leaf" is a related Irish reel. Sligo master Paddy Killoran recorded "Mason's Apron" as a two-part reel in March, 1939. The Rev. Luke Donnellan collected "Mason's Apron" in south County Armagh in the first decade of the 20th century, with an alternate title of "Roxberry Reel." A Scottish ceilidh tune printed by James S. Kerr in the 1880's called "Breakdown (The)" shares substantially the same first strain with "Mason's Apron." See also the Highland bagpipe version of "Mason's Apron" under the title "Goodwife (The)," and the first strain of Walter Bulwer's "Shipdham Hornpipe" and Ira Ford's "Picnic Romp."
Many fiddlers in a variety of traditions have used the tune as a vehicle to display their skill at theme and variations. The melody is, for example, widely played in the French-Canadian fiddling tradition of Québec (see "Tablier Du Macon (Le)"), and variants can frequently be found in several American regional styles. Alan Jabbour (1971), for example, sees associations with this tune and the "Hell On the Wabash"/"Wake Up Susan"/"Hell on the Potomac" complex of American tunes. The first sound recording appears to have been by New York accordion player John J. "Dutch" Kimmel in 1915.
See also the 6/8 form of he melody as "Stool of Repentance;" like "Mason's Apron" it also dates to the latter half of the 18th century.