Rook Book: Subscriptions open!

Subscriptions for “The John Rook Manuscript” are now open. You can subscribe over here on the crowdfunder platform: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-john-rook-manuscript/

There are a variety of reward options available:

  • Player’s Manuscript – £16 (RRP £16 + P&P)
  • Hardback Subscription – £35 (RRP £45 + P&P)
  • Hardback + Player’s – £45

The crowdfunding rewards include postage (or personal delivery!) to the UK – if you want to subscribe from abroad, I’ll need to charge postage at cost. Simply support the crowdfunder and let me know and we’ll sort something out. Surface mail to the US is about £12 at the moment .. air mail is somewhere between £25 & £30!

Subscriptions are open until 3rd June – and copies of the book and the player’s manuscript will be available at the end of August at wallpapermusic.co.uk

The John Rook Manuscript

The Rook Manuscript was created in 1840 and consists of over 1260 tunes including over 80 sets of variations. One of the intriguing things about the manuscript was that the cover including an illustration of instruments (flute, fiddle, northumbrian smallpipes, flutina, bugle/trumpet) that Rook stated that he played (and the contents also referenced some of these instruments). The smallpipes in particular were puzzling as the form shown had only been invented 40 years earlier – and yet Rook gave his location as Cumberland; how was Rook, living in rural Cumberland, connected to the very small group of earlier pipers centered in North Shields?

The manuscript is only known through a photocopy – the original is now lost – but almost nothing was known about John Rook for the last 40 years. After much puzzling and research I’ve now finally found John Rook – and not only has he been found but he can now be placed in North Shields and we have details of his musical activities – in his own hand.

All of the information and the music has been compiled into a new book coming out 30th July. There’ll also be a spiral bound players manuscript of just the music (for playability). Subscriptions for the book open on the 22nd April and will run to the beginning of June.

You can also take a look at the photocopy here – and shortly you’ll be able to buy the book or the players manuscript here. The ABC transcription of the manuscript will also be made freely available in the summer.

Wannies Yomp – 2020

A slightly bonkers boxing day tradition for Northumbrian Pipers is Wannies Yomp. Whatever the weather pipers gather at the top of Great Wanney crag at a sensible and not very strict ‘mid morning’ and play a few tunes – not the least of which is of course the “Wild Hills of Wannies”.

This year was no exception – although the post Wanney session in a local pub was definitely not on the menu. Numbers were sorely depleted with COVID restrictions – but one fool was up there in the gale:

Wild Hills of Wannies

The weather always clears the head – this was definitely one of the windier ones and playing was only really possible tucked down in the mini stell this year!

From Night ’til Morn

This is a lovely little tune that I’ve known for years – but without any background or history. I first learnt it by osmosis – but then found it in a copy of the ‘Sussex tunebook’ given to me at some stage. It’s commonly played as a polka in D – but also G and has an unusual 40-bar form which sometimes causes confusion in sessions.

From Night ’til Morn – as commonly played

The tune appears in various fiddle manuscripts in the early & mid 1800’s and also as an earlier military march with a different name (Pauve Madeleine) – but the ‘Night ’til Morn’ name eluded me.

That is until, whilst doing to research on the Rook manuscript, I got sucked into reading some background on the growth of the middle class in the early 19th century – which lead me to Jane Austen. John Rook spent a fair bit of time coaching young ladies in the playing of the piano and looking at the index of the Austen manuscripts there is certainly some crossover in repetoire. Amongst all of that can be found a version of “From Night ’til Morn” – in the key of Bb and arranged for two players / singers:

From Night Till Morn I take my glass – Jane Austen Manuscripts

Austen’s title could easily be interpreted as a drinking song but the first line of the song points to a more melancholic perspective “From Night ’til Morn I take my glass in hopes to forget my Chloe”.

This song and similar arrangements were published in the late C18th – and in many places the arrangement is attributed to William Shield – who is also responsible for the class Northumbrian Smallpipes variations to the Keel Row. A very small world indeed.