Rosin the Beau

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X:2 % T:Rosin the Bow M:6/8 L:1/8 S:Joyce – Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:A E|ABA cBA|f3 a2f|ecA ABc|(F3F2)E| ABA cBA|f3 a2f|ecA BAB|(A3A2)|| C/d/|ece efg|a2f a2f|ecA ABc|(F3 F2)E| ABA cBA|f3 a2f|ecA BAB|(A3 A2)||



ROSIN THE BEAU. AKA and see "Old Rosin the Beau," "Mrs. Kenny('s)," "Acres of Clams," “Lord Harry the Swell,” "My Lodging's on the Cold Ground." American, Waltz, Air and Contra Dance Tune; Irish, Jig; English, Morris Dance Tune (6/8 time). A Major (Ford, Joyce): G Major (Bayard, Laufman, Mulvihill, Wade). Standard or AEae tunings (fiddle). AB (Bayard, Joyce, Wade): ABB (Ford): AABB (Laufman, Mulvihill). A multi-purposed melody popular as a song and dance air in several genres, in multiple forms and tempos. It is used for a single step in the North-West England morris dance tradition and as a waltz at New England contra dances. Samuel Bayard (1981) noted the air was known to most fiddlers, fifers, and singers in Pennsylvania, as in many parts of the country. He identified a melody by 18th century Scottish cellist-composer James Oswald that appeared in his 2nd Collection (1740’s, p. 25) as a 6/8 "Gigg," that is extremely close to "Rosin," and he wondered if Oswald's was the ancestral tune for the air, or if Oswald himself was influenced by an older air. Further, Bayard found that a tune called “Dumfries House” in Gow’s Complete Repository Part I (3rd Ed., p. 13), ascribed to fiddler-composer John Riddle, has a 2nd strain that equals "Rosin the Beau," and a that Welsh harp tune in Bennett's Alawon fy Ngwlad also is quite close.

Regarding Irish versions, the Fleishchmann index (1998) gives that the tune was derived from a 17th century Irish tune in 6/4 meter called “On the Cold Ground;” that tune, however, is English, attributed to Matthew Lock from the play The Rivals. O’Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody, 1922) remarked: “The name ‘Rosin the Bow’ has clung to the writer's memory since childhood, and the tune, like the song about ‘Old Rosin the Bow’ (a nickname for the fiddler) may have passed into oblivion, had not the melody been fortuitously found recently in a faded miscellaneous manuscript collection long discarded by (Chicago Police) Sergt. James O'Neill. A version of it I find is printed in Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909).” Irish fiddle master Michael Coleman recorded "Rosin the Beau" on 78 RPM in 1934 under the title "Men of the West (1)," in a medley paired with "Mrs. Kenny."

A version of “Rosin the Beau” was collected by Anne Gilchrist from Newton Heath, Lancashire, where it was used in the villages Rush-cart processional. Her source, Smith Williamson, formerly a bandsman in the Moston and Newton Heath., explained that ‘for want of a name the tune had used to be sung to some doggeral verses of the late Ben Brierley’s…composed when quite a young man at Failsworth.’ The name of the tune used by the Newton Heath dancers was “Lord Harry the Swell.” The Newton Heath procession was described by Elijah Ridings (1802-):

The Village Festival

Behold the rush-cart and the throng
Of lads and lasses pass along!
Now watch the nimble morris-dancers,
Those blithe, fantastic antic prancers...
All young fellows, blithe and hearty,
Thirty couples in the party...
Now strike up music; the old tune;
And louder, quicker, old bassoon;
Come bustle, lads, for one dance more,
And then cross-morris three times o'er...

The title appears in a list of standard tunes in the square dance fiddler's repertoire, according to A.B. Moore in his History of Alabama, 1934. The title appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. The words to "Old Settler's Song" a.k.a. "Acres of Clams," sung to this tune, were written by Frances D. Henry of Olympia, Washington in 1874. The last verse is:

No longer the slave of ambition
I laugh at the world and its shams,
As I think of my pleasant condition
Surrounded by acres of clams.


Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - "Copied...from a MS. evidently written by a skilled fiddler with much musical taste, from Limerick, but the name of the writer nowhere appears" [Joyce]: Hogg (Pa., 1948) [Bayard].

Printed sources : - Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 620, p. 546. Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; pp. 56-57 and p. 127 {discord version} (lyrics included, pp. 56-57). Joyce (Old Irish Folk Music and Song), 1909; No. 352, p. 162. Laufman (Okay, Let's Try a Contra, Men on the Right, Ladies on the Left, Up and Down the Hall), 1973; p. 15. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 15, p. 122. O’Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922; No. 99. Wade (Mally’s North West Morris Book), 1988; p. 24.

Recorded sources: - Rounder 7059, Alex Francis MacKay with Gordon MacLean – “Gaelic in the Bow” (2005). Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40126, Rodney Miller – “Choose Your Partners!: Contra Dance & Square Dance Music of New Hampshire” (1999).

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



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