Wha Can Help It

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X:1 T:Wha Can Help It M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Jig S:MacDonald – 2nd Collection of Strathspey Reels (1789) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:C "Slow"E | CEG GEG | AGA c2d | {f}edc (e/f/g)e|dDD D2E | CEG GEG | AGA c2f | {f}Te2c (e/f/g).d | ecc c2 :|| g | (e/f/g)e c2e | gag gec | faf ege | afd d2f | (e/f/g)e c2e | gag gec | {f}e2c (e/f/g).d | ecc c2g | (e/f/g)e c2e | gag gec | faf ege | afd d2f | ece fdf | ece f2a | gec (e/f/g)d | ecc c2 ||



WHA CAN HELP IT. AKA and see “Salute to Boston.” Scottish, Canadian; Jig or Air (6/8 time). Canada, Cape Breton. C Major (MacDonald): A Major (Gow). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. The melody is attributed to Niel Gow (1727-1807) by his son Nathaniel Gow (1763-1831) in the Gow's Sixth Collection (1822), but a version first appeared in print Malcolm MacDonald's Second Collection (1789), a volume dedicated to the Earl of Breadalbane, reprinted in 1797. MacDonald was a bass player in Nathaniel Gow's band and perhaps heard the tune played by Gow. It is possible MacDonald did not know who had composed it, or, as was common in those days, simply omitted the composer.

Cape Breton musicians play a jig tempo version, called “Salute to Boston,” although some of the second strain melodic material differs from Gow’s original. “<incipit title="load:bonnie" width=850 link="https://tunearch.org/wiki/Bonnie Strathmore">Bonnie Strathmore</incipit>” has some similarities to this tune, and "Wha can help it" was issued under the title "Bonnie Strathmore" by Cape Breton fiddler Joe MacLean on a 78 RPM recording.

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Gow (Sixth Collection of Strathspey Reels), 1822; p. 4. MacDonald (A Second Collection of Strathspey Reels), 1789; p. 6.

Recorded sources: -Culburnie Records 120, Alasdair Fraser – “Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle vol. 2.” Rounder Records 7020, Alex Francis MacKay – “Lifelong Home.” Smiddy Made SMD 615, Pete Clark – “Even Now” (1998).

See also listing at:
Alan Snyder’s Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]



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X:1 M:6/8 L:1/8 K:Amix d|ABA ABd|edB A2d|ABA GAB|dBA G2d|