XYZ – James Hill Hornpipe?

by Rob Say on August 14th, 2016

Reading and researching old music manuscripts takes a lot of effort and is very much a specialised interest – but just occasionally it all comes to life in unexpected ways. I was recently playing in Devon and was sharing some music with some friends, when fiddler Paul Burgess played a lovely G minor hornpipe that felt strangely familiar:

modal_snippet

Paul had it from an 19thC manuscript as ‘A Modal Hornpipe‘ – whilst I’ve always known my version as a James Hill hornpipe called ‘XYZ‘ and commonly played in A minor a bit like this:

XYZ_snippet

I eventually found the G minor transcription in the William Irwin manuscript at the Village Music Project. Irwin was a fiddler in Langdale and two of his books dataed 1838 & 1850 were partially copied in the early C20th but the original MSS have been lost. The question then becomes which came first; Irwin’s Modal Hornpipe or Hill’s XYZ?

XYZ was a famous racehorse born in 1808 who won numerous races in the North East from 1811 to 1814. James Hill was born in c.1810 and wrote music through out his short life but many the sources and attributions to James Hill come from much later – a challenge addressed in Graham Dixon’s wonderfully presented & encyclopaedic book ‘The Lads Like Beer‘.

The tune explicitly named XYZ appears with a direct attribution to Hill in the Jock Davidson (Kielder Jock) manuscript and the Clough family manuscripts – both sources from the early C20th. Unattributed but named versions appears in both the Robert Davison and William Green manuscripts; both c.1850. The RD version titled ‘X.Y.’ is much closer to the Modal Hornpipe than many:

XY_snippet

In all of the earlier versions there are musical curiousities and what can only be called mis-transcriptions. The c.1850 version from Collingwood is transcribed in A Major and the Robert Davison version (included in the PDF) has a particular ‘double flat’ in the B part!

There’s nothing definitive in any of these manuscripts to say which (if any!) is the primary source and a good tune is still a good tune to be played and enjoyed – but I’ll still keep my ear out for such coincidences as they’re a constant joy. Here’s a PDF with three transcriptions: XYZ and Modal Hornpipe

Sold: Shaw 9k NSP, Boxwood – concert G

by Rob Say on August 14th, 2016

This set is now sold.


Here’s a concert pitch set of Northumbrian Smallpipes made by Dave Shaw. Chanter & drones are Boxwood & Brass. It has a 9 keyed chanter with the standard 7 + F naturals; the middle B and e holes are angled to ease the finger spacing. Four drones each with tuning beads, hand rolled ferrules and Dave’s piston drone ends (not chained stoppers). Fully reeded, full playing condition – bellows & case included.

Price: £1050 + delivery

Location: West Northumberland – and occasionally elsewhere

Contact me to buy or for more details.

What is an Interchangeable Stock?

by Rob Say on February 1st, 2016

One of the features available on some sets of Northumbrian pipes is an interchangeable stock – here’s a description of what that means:

  • Non-interchangeable: Chanter is plugged into a wooden stock that is tied into the neck of the bag. Unplugging the chanter exposes the reed.
  • Interchangeable: A socket is tied into the bag and the chanter and stock are plugged in. Unplugging the stock protects the reed.

An interchangeable stocks is commonly used to allow a player with one set to switch between two or more chanters (e.g. 7k & 17k chanters or ‘F’ and ‘G’ chanters) whilst protecting the reed.

It is also possible to have an interchangeable dronestock – allowing you to swap sets of drones – but this is far less common and significantly more work to make.

Burleigh Smallpipes Timeline

by Rob Say on December 4th, 2015