Sloe (The)

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X: 1 T:Slave, The T:Sloe,aka. RH.491, The R:Country Dance C:"by H.R.Bishop, 1816" B:Rev.R.Harrison's MS,c1815,Cumbria O:England A:Temple Sowerby,Cumbria Z:vmp.Simon Wilson. Review PJH, 2008. M:2/4 L:1/8 Q:1/4=110 F:http://www.cpartington.plus.com/Links/HarrisonRev/Harrison(12-4-16).abc K:D F/G/|Ad de|fe dc|BA Bd|BA FF/G/|\ Ad de|fe dc|BA Bd|ed d:| |:A/A/|BA FA/A/|BA Fd/d/|ed cB|B2 Ad|\ dc ce|ed df|fe dc|e2 d:|



SLOE, THE. AKA – “The Slave.” English, Country Dance Tune (4/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The tune was transcribed from a traditional source in the early 20th century by collector Cecil Sharp from the playing of John Mason (Stow-on-the-Wold, Glocestershire). The title Sharp had for the tune was "The Sloe." However, the tune was entered as “The Slave” in the English music manuscripts of the Rev. Robert Harrison (Brampton, Cumbria, 1820) and Robert Hughes (Whitchurch, Shropshire, 1823), as well as an untitled reel in the c. 1850 music manuscript of W.H.Lister (East Boldon, in the historic boundary of County Durham). Contemporary musician and editor Barry Callaghan[1] associated Harrison's title with an opera called The Slave, which music was composed by Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855) in 1816, although it appears Bishop made liberal use of existing folk melodies (a common practice at the time)[2]. While this conjecture has the air of plausibility, researchers Conor Ward and Fr. John Quinn could find no evidence in the libretto of the opera for the melody as the vehicle for a song. It is possible a search of the score may produce evidence of an association, but the assertion of "The Sloe" as "The Slave" in association with Bishop's opera must remain conjectural until then.

Ward finds a three part version of the tune in the c. 1840's music manuscript collection of Drumlish, County Longford, musician Thomas Kernan (c. 1807-1887) as the untitled third figure of "Sligo Quadrills [sic]."

It has also been suggested that "The Sloe" was named after the fruit of the Blackthorn.


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - John Mason (1909, Stow on the Wold) [Sharp].

Printed sources : - Barber (Nick Barber's English Choice), 2002; No. 25, p. 15. Callaghan (Hardcore English), 2007; p. 48.

Recorded sources : - DMPCD0203, Nick & Mary Barber with Huw Jones - "Bonnie Kate." EFDSS CD13, Katie Howson and Jeannie Harris – “Hardcore English” (2007. Various artists). Old Hat Music OH4 CD, Katie Howson & Jeannie Harris – “Unbuttoned.”




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  1. Barry Callaghan, Hardcore English, 2007.
  2. Bishop composed several operas in the first quarter of the 19th century, most of them forgotten and of incidental value. However, he was appointed musical director at Vauxhall in 1830, appointed to the Reid chair of music in the university of Edinburgh, and finally to the chair of music at Oxford in 1848. He was knighted in 1842, the first musician to be so honoured.
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