Portsmouth (1)

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PORTSMOUTH [1]. AKA - "Portsmouth Hornpipe." English, Hornpipe or Country Dance Tune (2/2 time). E Flat Major (Chappell): G Major (Barnes, Raven, Sharp). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Chappell): AAB (Sharp): AABB (Barnes, Raven). The air, probably a ballad tune according to Chappell, appears with country dance directions ("Longways for as many as will") in Henry Playford's Dancing Master [1] (11th edition of 1701 and all later editions). Walker (1924) mentions it by name as one of the “splendid tunes” contained in the Dancing Master, “which, in the absence of any known accompanying words, seem to have dropped into oblivion.” Happy to say, “Portsmouth” has achieved a revival of sorts among English country dancing aficionados. 20th century English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams used the melody as one of three for the basis of his "Sea Songs" (1923), originally arranged for military band as the second movement of his "English Folk Song Suite". Williams re-arranged the entire work for full orchestra in 1942.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in the year 501 a Saxon named Port landed at the area of Hampshire later known as Portsmouth with his two sons and killed a young British nobleman. The first docks were established in Portsmouth in 1194 by Richard I. The French burned them in 1369, but it was Henry VII who developed a dockyard there in 1496 from which Portsmouth’s growth began.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times, vol. 2), 1859; pp. 88-89. John Walsh (Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth), London, 1740; No. 103. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 13. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 72.

Recorded sources: Maggie’s Music MMCD216, Hesperus - “Early American Roots” (1997).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Hear the tune played by mandolin quartet on youtube.com [3]

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