Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

'Good Humour for the Rest of the Night': Traditional Dance Music in Northumberland and Cumberland

Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

'Good Humour for the Rest of the Night': Traditional Dance Music in Northumberland and Cumberland

Article excerpt

The Voice of the People. Ed. Reg Hall. CD + booklet.

Topic Records TSCD675, 2014. [pounds sterling]12.00.

This splendid issue from Topic Records reinforces their history of commitment to the preservation and study of our folk heritage. It comprises a 53-page booklet and. CD with sixty tracks of tunes from the north of England. The recordings were made in 1954 by Peter Kennedy--representing a devotion beyond duty since they were done during his honeymoon and at his own expense! Thanks to modern reproduction techniques, they have been cleaned up to a remarkably clear standard.

Instruments involved are fiddle, melodeon, piccolo, whistle, and jew's harp. Most of the performers were involved in rural occupations, except for Billy Conroy who was an Ashington .coal miner. Peter had done some groundwork in 1947 as EFDSS representative for the region, becoming acquainted with many local musicians. So, on his 1954 field trip he was able to select some of the fine performers of the day, namely fiddlers George Armstrong, Adam Gray, Tom Hunter, Ned Pearson, Jim Rutherford, Jake Hutton, Willy Taylor, and Geordie Taylor. Billy Ballantine plays piccolo, and Jimmy Hunter produces amazing sounds from the mouth organ. Bob Clark plays jew's harp, locally galled a 'gewgar'.

Although the tracks are short, they have a vitality derived from the experience of using the melodies as dance tunes. Peter kept the recordings to one tune per track, and it would have been interesting to let the musicians roll on to repeats and sets of similar material. The sleeve notes show where they relate to particular dances. This music would be played in various situations, from home musical evenings to village concerts and social dance nights, often going on till the early hours. Meetings would depend on the agricultural calendar and weather, as some of the farms were in outlying Places. There is an infectious rhythmical pattern in the style of the playing which enhances the solo aspect of performance.

The informative booklet accompanying the CD is edited by Dr Reg Hall, who has done an immense amount of research, providing a background to the environment of the music, its history, and social significance. Although this is presented in a scholarly manner, the easy flow encourages the reader to move into the world of the farmhand, shepherd, and family, where the music played such an important role. Many quotes from local enthusiasts recalling shared enjoyments of the period add to the richness of the dialogue. …

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