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Skip Gorman - New Englander's Choice

Reel Du Poteau Blanc
Rhode Island Reel
Planxty George Brabazon
Banks of Avon
Beavertail Light, The
Clog, The
Farewell to Whiskey
Favorite Polka Medley, The
Full Rigged Ship
Golden Wedding, The
Green Meadows Reel, The
Green Mountain Reel, The
Hard Is My Fate
Harvest Home
Haste to the Wedding
Jenkins Hornpipe
Johnny, Will You Marry Me
Lad O'Beirne's
Lass of Gowry, The
Lord Inchiquin
Merrily Danced the Quaker
Merry Boys of Greenland, The
Miss Gordon of Park
Mrs. Greig's
Oliver Jack
Peacock Feather, The
Planxty George Brabazon
Poppy Leaf, The
Reel Du Poteau Blanc
Rhode Island Reel
Skylark, The
Snoring Mrs. Gobeil
Spanish Ladies
St. Anne's Reel
Teviot Bridge
Up to New Hampshire
Whaleman's Lament
Woodchopper, The

Most people know Skip for his western recordings, but his home is in New England and his fiddle can sing of our rocky shores and Irish immigrants with the same authority it offers to the prairies and deserts of the west.

"New Englander's Choice"

“Twas no time for New England to dance," stated Judge Samuel Sewall, the only one of nine judges to later confess his error in imposing death sentences on three women in the Salem witchcraft trials. But despite early Puritan, religious and legal objections to fiddling, dancing and merry-making in the colonies, better days were to crown the efforts of our founding fathers and "even good cheer sometimes went forward and strong liquors walked."

Although English dancing masters were thought to have plied their trade at an early age in the colonies, it was probably not until well into the 18th century that New England-ers, young and old, danced with zest to familiar jigs, reels and hornpipes as we know them today.* At weddings, harvest and husking bee dances, kitchen junkets, sleighing parties, sheep shearings and turtle frolics, fiddle tunes and dances with odd names originating from across the Atlantic were the order of the day. "High Betty Martin," "Money Musk," "The White Cockade," and "Speed the Plough" were some favorites. But not to be overlooked are those titles of special historical significance which point to a thriving Yankee tradition: "Bennington Assembly," "Portland Fancy," "Jefferson and Liberty," and "Hull's Victory," to name a few.

By the time of the Revolution, Yankee fiddlers and fifers often shared a common repertoire. Country dances became known as "contra-dances" through the Anglicization of the French "contradanse." Later, the "quadrille" may have superseded the contradance in urban areas, and quadrille bands, often consisting of wind instruments and 'cello, in addition to the fiddle, became popular. During the latter part of the 19th century, waves of immigrants flooded the New England states, and for economic and political reasons tended to settle in cohesive urban enclaves. "Little Canadas" cropped up in the mill towns of Lowell, Fall River and Woonsocket. Many Cape Breton Scots settled in and around Boston, while droves of Irish immigrants flocked to Boston and Providence — all of these groups adding, however slowly and perceptibly, Celtic and French-Canadian bowing and fingering techniques, as well as tunes, to the Yankee tune bag.

Although some folklorists, collectors and dance callers such as Helen Hartness Flanders, Eloise Hubbard, Elizabeth Burchenal and Ralph Page worked to preserve or raise the cultural awareness of the fiddle and dance traditions of New England, changing social patterns brought on by radio, phonograph and automobile, and especially the emergence and popularity of Country and Western music of the post-World War II era, all but eliminated the tunes and dances as New Englanders had known and loved them., It was, for example, at this rather plastic point in time that a recorded rendition of "Red River Valley" or "Mac the Knife" with drum and saxophone accompaniment was likely to replace the live playing of a traditional tune in an authentic style at square or contra-dances.

In large part, it was left to a young and culturally aware generation to restore the lost art of traditional music and revive the old fiddle and dance styles which, although dormant for decades, are now found flourishing in contradances and old-time fiddle contests throughout New England.

*See notes on New England Traditional Fiddling (1926-1975) by Paul Wells (JEMF 105) — a record.

The reels, jigs, hornpipes, strathspeys, marches, polkas, airs and the lament that make up this album are not all indigenous to the New England area. Nor has it been our intention to play them exactly as they might have been played at any particular time in New England's early history. Rather, gathered here is a selection of favorite tunes harvested from hundreds, even thousands, over years of listening to and playing traditional music in and around the Northeast. Represented are melodies and styles from many sources — Scottish, Irish, English, French-Canadian and Shetland — all of which have had a great impact on the evolution of traditional fiddling in New England. Some were indeed played around the colonies in years past, and I've included five of my own compositions.

So, with special thanks to Sandy and Caroline Paton and to musicians the caliber of Peter Craig, Nick Hawes, Dave Paton and Steve Liebman, I'm very pleased to present to you these tunes — one New Englander's choice in a continuing tradition.

0, that you may grow to love them as I have.

Skip Gorman
Suffield, Connecticut
October, 1983



REEL DU POTEAU BLANC (The White Post Reel)

The first reel in this medley and, I feel, a most fitting beginning to the album, is from the playing of Jean Carignan, master French-Canadian fiddler. It's believed that Carignan was inspired by the famous Joseph Allard, who was born near Montreal in 1873, but lived in the U. S. for some twenty years, establishing himself as a fiddle champion throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Long popular among "Down East" fiddlers, this reel, often attributed to Ned Landry, is published in Don Messer's Way Down East (1948) and even in Bob Christeson's collection from Missouri, The Old Time Fiddler's Repertory . It's interesting that many Canadian tunes such as this one found their way into the repertoires of midwestern and western fiddlers, most likely through the radio broadcasts of groups such as George Wade and his Cornhuskers (a group which at one point included Jean Carignan) and Don Messer and his Islanders.

The late Louis Beaudoin became a great contributor to Northeast fiddling while residing in Burlington, Vermont. This reel comes from his rich and rhythmic playing.

This can be found in Allan's Irish Fiddler (1920-1930) and is similar to a three-part tune in O'Neill's Music of Ireland (1903) called "Over the Moor to Maggie," as well as to another in the Robbins Collection (1933) referred to simply as "An Old Reel."


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