West Mabou Reel

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WEST MABOU REEL. Canadian, Reel. Canada; Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island. G Major (most versions): A Major (Shears). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (most versions): AAB (Shears): AABB. Mabou is a town in western Cape Breton. "West Mabou Reel" is a classic double-tonic reel thought at one time to have been composed by Donald John (the Tailor) Beaton (1854–1919), a Mabou fiddler renowned to this day in the region. According to fiddler John Campbell, the melody had another name prior to the 1920's, but at a big gathering in West Mabou, perhaps in the 1920's, the reel was played quite a bit and was known afterwards as "West Mabou." The reel is well-known among Cape Breton musicians and frequently recorded. Dunlay and Greenberg (1996) remark, however, that the melody seems to have “Irish variants and probable origins.” Paul Cranford finds three similar tunes in Irish tradition: “Mayo Lasses (The),” “Johnny When You Die (1),” “Old Maids of Galway (1) (The).” See also Patrick Street’s “Turf House Reel (The).” Dunlay & Greenberg note the tune facilitates “doubling the melody” (i.e. two fiddles, one playing an octave below the other).

Source for notated version: Donald Angus Beaton (Mabou, Cape Breton) [Dunlay & Greenberg, Dunlay & Reich]; Carl and Jackie Webster (Cardigan, central Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman].

Printed sources: Dunlay & Greenberg (Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton), 1996; p. 94. Dunlay & Reich (Traditional Celtic Fiddle Music of Cape Breton), 1986; p. 61. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 48. Ruckert (John Campbell: A Cape Breton Legacy), 2009; p. 150. Shears (Gathering of the Clans Collection, vol. 1), 1986; p. 56.

Recorded sources: Audat 477-9010, Lee Creemo – “And the Eastern Variation.” BM-91, Buddy MacMaster – “Glencoe Hall.” BRG 012, BRG 013, Cape Breton Symphony – “Pure Cape Breton” (1987). Celtic CX 48, The Five MacDonald Fiddlers – "Scottish Reels...". Culburnie CUL 113D, Alasdair Fraser & Tony MacManus – “Return to Kintail” (1999. Learned from Buddy MacMaster). DAB4 1985, Donald Angus Beaton "A Musical Legacy" (1985). Rounder 7003, John Campbell – "Cape Breton Violin Music" (1976). SA93130, Donny LeBlanc – “Rosining Up the Bow” (1993). Smithsonian Folkways Records, SFW CD 40507, The Beaton Family of Mabou – “Cape Breton Fiddle and Piano Music” (2004). Topic 12TS354, Alex Francis MacKay – "Cape Breton Scottish Fiddle" (1978). UCCBP 1007 (Univ. College of Cape Breton), Donald MacLellan – "Celtic Music of Cape Breton, vol. 1" (various artists). WMT002, Wendy MacIsaac – “That’s What You Get” (1997?). Cape Breton's Magazine Tape, Mike MacDougall – "Mike MacDougall's Tape For Fr. Hector" (1985).

See also listing at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index [1]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [3]
Hear/see Donald Angus Beaton playing the reel c. 1970 on youtube.com [4]
See Paul Stewarts standard notation from John Campbell's book [5]




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