When I play The Earl’s Chair, sometimes I think: The Duke of Earl’s Chair. That would be a slightly Americanized version of this great Irish fiddle reel.
I first tuned in to The Earl’s Chair when I heard the Liz Carroll album, Lost in the Loop. It’s preceded by an incendiary Silver Spear, and followed by a lively Musical Priest. There’s a cool riff she does that I imitate to some extent in this tab chart.
Originally I made a music notation version of what I was teaching. That went out to the Second Sunday Session that will be meeting tomorrow.
Since then I’ve tweaked it a bit. What appears below is close to how I play it now.
Here is what The Earl’s Chair sounds like.
This is a moderately difficult tune even at the intermediate pace of the sound file. Below is a YouTube video I made right after recording the above.
At the Second Sunday Session we play the Earl’s Chair after Silver Spear, just like Liz Carroll. Well, our Chair is more of a Lazy Boy Recliner by comparison.
This is what the fiddle tab chart for In the Garden sounds like when played on the violin.
Over the years that I’ve been publishing fiddle tabs online, many fiddlers have requested a gospel song. Or just gospel songs in general. There are a few on this site.
The song In the Garden was a favorite way back in the days I attended a Spiritualist church in Tampa. I’m glad to get this one online, too.
You’ll notice that it’s in the key of Bb. That’s a good key for singing. It’s also friendly to the fiddle with the availability of the open A, D, and G strings. The relative minor key of G minor has a bunch of great tunes. From Bill Monroes’s Cheyenne to the Beatrice Reel, or Crabs in the Skillet, Bb and G minor have a lot to offer.
My favorite spot in this tune, In the Garden is where the chorus goes from an F to the Eb, a minor seventh. The interval has that yearning quality that is so satisfying in a gospel song.
A few years ago, I went to the Clearwater Library to sit in on a concert presented by the Bay Area Fiddlers. I had been out of the group for a few years. So it was that I met Anson and Pat Young for the first time.
I learned before long that they were very active in promoting the group and making sure things happened that needed to happen.
I know most of the tunes we played that day. One was new to me: Lannigan’s Ball, a sprightly jig in E minor. I faked along as well as I could and resolved to really learn the tune, because I liked it.
Now I teach it to my students, using this tab chart.
For printing, and sharing with others, here is a pdf chart. Now that I look at it again, as I put it online, I wish I had put in a grace note from the 3rd finger to the first finger in the second bar, and the fifth bar which has the same figure of notes. Feel free to add that ornament to Lannigan’s Ball and have fun at the ball!
This audio file features me playing Lannigan’s Ball as you see in the chart, then a second time with a little more ornamentation.
Gospel songs go best in the key someone can easily sing. For How Great Thou Art that key is Bb, in my opinion. This is a good key on violin, too. You can easily use the open strings, except for E. The third note of the scale is D, and that tunes in to the D string, helping your intonation.
If you haven’t played much in the key of Bb, review the scale. Start with the low first finger on the A string. Work your way through the steps of the scale, listening carefully.
You will ned to use your fourth finger for the Eb note on the A string and the Bb note on the E.
Then, start with the second finger in the low position on the G string. From there, you can use the open D and A strings in the scale.
One evening at a place called Ka Tiki on Sunset Beach, I was performing with the redoubtable Pete Gallagher. A man in the audience called out for Shady Grove.
It’s a short, simple tune, but that’s what he really wanted to hear so we played it as an instrumental. We didn’t know the words. It is satisfying to play: mostly pentatonic, a little bluesy, what’s not to like?
I believe we played in the key of E minor, which is easy for guitar players, and no problem for fiddlers, either. The version here is in B minor, a key that is easier, arguably, for beginners.
When I was up at the Florida Folk Festival last Memorial Day weekend, I heard a band do it in B minor. If you can sing it in that key your voice is either a little higher than average or lower. The middle range is better in E minor.
The fingers go where they normally would on an A scale. The notes equal the pentatonic A scale. As a minor key it would be Dorian mode. Folk fiddle tunes use that frequently for minor keys.
Pardon me if you have heard this from me before: I like hornpipes to have a swing rhythm. Many fiddlers play some hornpipes with a swing feel, and others they play like a reel or hoedown.
Consider Sailor’s Hornpipe. I hear no one playing it as a swing rhythm hornpipe. Same with Fisher’s Hornpipe. Most fiddlers just blast it out as a fast reel. Well, I’m not comfortable with that.
The hornpipe you find here is usually played with a swing feel to it. In other words, it’s treated as a fiddle hornpipe. I often include it in a medley with Drunken Sailor. Now that I put these words to print, I’m thinking of including Sailor’s in the same line up. Let’s just keep it very nautical!