St. Anne's Reel

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X:1 T:St. Anne’s Reel L:1/8 M:C| S:Jay Ungar (Hudson Valley, New York, 1980) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D de|f2 (fg) fedB|A2 F2 F3 A|B2G2G2 (FG)|B2A2A2 a2| f2 (fg) fedB|A2 FA DFAd|(BG)Bd (cA)cd|(e d2 )e d2:| |:ag|fdf(a fd)fg|ag2(a g2)(gf)|e(dcB) Ace^g|ba2b a2 (ag)| fdf(a fd)fg|ag2(a g2) (gf)|e(dcB) Aceg|f d3 d2:||

ST(E). ANNE'S REEL. AKA – “St. Agathe.” AKA and see "Burravoe Rattler (The)," “Reel de la Baie Ste. Anne (La),” "Reel des esquimaults," "Ste Agathe." Canadian (originally), American, Irish; Reel. Canada; Québec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Reiner & Anick, Silberberg): AABB (Begin, Brody, Cranford/Holland, Jarman, Mallinson, Martin & Hughes, Miller & Perron, O'Neill, Perlman, Sweet, Taylor): AA'BB' (Phillips). The reel, well-known in a number of genres in the English-speaking world as "St. Anne's Reel," was first recorded by Montreal fiddler Willie Ringuette as "Quadrille du loup garou - 4ème partie" (1927), followed by a 78 RPM issue by another Montreal fiddler, Joseph Allard (fiddler) (1873-1947), as "Reel des esquimaults" (1930). Still another Montreal fiddler, Isidore Soucy (1899-1962), later recorded a version as "Reel lune de miel" (Honeymoon Reel). There are at least two bays named St. Anne in eastern Canada (as the French alternate title above would suggest), and there is a French community called Baie Sainte Anne, on St. Anne’s Bay near the mouth of Mirimichi Bay, New Bruswick. However, Allard researcher Jean Duval believes the title refers to the municipality of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue at the western end of the island of Montreal[1].

“St. Anne’s” was popularized by Radio and TV fiddler Don Messer (printed under the title “Sainte Agathe” in his 1948 Way Down East collection[2]), and his version has been assimilated into several North American and British Isles traditions and remains a staple of fiddlers’ jam sessions. When asked to play a Canadian tune, for example, American fiddlers generally will play “St. Anne’s” first. It was in the repertoire of Cyril Stinnett, who epitomized the "North Missouri Hornpipe Style" of Mid-West fiddling, and the reel has become a part of the repertory of most Missouri fiddlers. Missouri 'received wisdom' is that Canadian tunes were learned from listening to Canadian radio broadcasts in the hey-day of the big AM band stations, which could be heard clearly in the northern part of the state, but whether "St. Anne's" was actually learned from broadcasts in unknown. Alternatively, "St. Anne's" may have been brought back by contest fiddlers in the 1960’s who attended the renowned contests in Weiser, Idaho, and in Canada. Rounder Record's Mark Wilson says its popularity in the United States dates from the 1950’s after it was recorded by Nashville fiddlers such as Tommy Jackson (whose influential playing was revered by fiddlers throughout the country). Perlman (1996) similarly states the tune entered Prince Edward Island tradition from radio broadcasts from Québec, but that it has become more elaborate (especially in western PEI) over the years to suit the rhythms of the local step-dancing. The earliest notational transcription of “St. Anne’s” appears to be in the Jarman collections of the 1930’s and 1940’s, where the arrangement is credited to fiddler John Burt with a copyright date of 1937.

"St. Anne's" has also entered Irish traditional musical repertory as well, and has been recorded a number of times. The tune has some affinity to older reels (primarily Irish), including two printed by O'Neill in his Waifs & Strays of Gaelic Melody, The Factory Lass (249) and "The Home Made Reel" (250). There is a similarity in the first part to “Skylark (1) (The),” composed by Sligo-born James Morrison, as well as to "Scholar (The)." However, these tunes are neither cognate nor ancestral, merely similar in parts.

Burravoe, Yell, Shetland fiddler Peter Scollay (1922-2000) played a version of "St. Anne's" under the title "Burravoe Rattler (The)" when he was recorded in the field in August, 1954.

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Bégin (Fiddle Music from the Ottawa Valley: Dawson Girdwood), 1985; No. 48, p. 57. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pp. 243‑244. Bulmer & Sharpley (Music from Ireland, vol. 1), 1974; No. 8. Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 139, p. 52. Jarman (Cornhuskers), 1944; p. 7. S. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician No. 4: Collection of Fine Tunes), 1983 (revised 1991, 2001); p. 14. Mallinson (100 Essential), 1995; No. 47, p. 21. Martin & Hughes (Ho-ro-gheallaidh), 1990; p. 33. McNulty (Dance Music of Ireland), 1965; p. 14. Miller & Perron (New England Fiddle Repertoire), 1983; No. 139. Miskoe & Paul (The Fiddle Tunes of Omer Marcoux), 1994; p. 32. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 5. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 73. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 208. Reiner & Anick (Old Time Fiddling Across America), 1989; p. 48. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 149. Sweet (Fifer’s Delight), 1965/1981; p. 49. Taylor (Crossroads Dance), 1992; No. 35, p. 25.

Recorded sources : - Apex 26291 (78 RPM), Don Messer & His Islanders (1950). Bee Balm 302, “The Corndrinkers.” Condor 977‑1489, "Graham & Eleanor Townsend Live at Barre, Vermont." County 725, The Riendeau Family‑ "Old‑Time Fiddling." Flying Fish, Bryan Bowers‑ "The View From Home." Folkways FTS 31098, Ken Perlman ‑ "Clawhammer Banjo and Fingerstyle Guitar Solos." Green Linnet SIF‑104, John & Phil Cunningham ‑ "The Celts Rise Again" (1990). Green Linnet SIF‑3036, Silly Wizard ‑ "Live in America" (1986). Heritage XXXIII, The Correct Tone String Band ‑ "Visits" (1981). June Appal 007, Thomas Hunter (N.C.) ‑ "Deep in Tradition" (1976). June Appal 014, John McCutcheon ‑ "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" (1977. Learned from Tommy Hunter). Mulligan LUN 027, Martin O’Connor - “The Connaughman’s Rambles.” Philo 2000, "Louis Beaudoin" (1973. Learned from his father). Rounder 7006, Theresa and Marie MacLellan (Cape Breton) ‑ "A Trip to Mabou Ridge." Shaskeen - "My Love is in America." Rounder CD7014, Dennis Pitre – “Fiddlers of Western Prince Edward Island” (1997). Rounder CD 7016, Gerry Robichaud – “The Slippery Stick” (1996). Rounder Heritage Series 1166-11592-2, Gerry Robichaud (et al) – “The Art of Traditional Fiddle” (2001. Learned from New Brunswick tradition). Rounder Select 82161-0476-2, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley: Hammered Dulcimer Music” (reissues, orig. released 1977). TRAX 026, Aly Bain - “Aly Bain and Friends.” Temple House Ceili Band - “Music for the Sets, vol. 1.”

See also listing at :
Alan Snyder’s Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]
Alan Ng’s [2]
Hear Joseph Allard's 1930 recording at the Virtual Gramophone [3]

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  1. Jean Duval, "La Musique de Jospeh Allard 1873-1947", 2018, p. 72.
  2. Note that the reel was printed as "Sainte Agathe" in Messer's printed collections of music, but on Don Messer and His Islander's 78 RPM recording of the tune (Apex 26291) in 1950 the tune appeared on the label as "St. Anne's Reel."