Have you ever heard a fiddle tune for the first time and said, “Whoa! That’s a fiddle tune?” That was me sitting up quickly as I head Lissa Schneckenburger play The Huntsman’s Chorus on her CD album, Dance.
Before going on with the Huntsman’s Chorus I need to say that I listened to this album a lot! Then, I gave it to another fiddler. It is very well produced with some of the best arranging I’ve ever heard.
I knew the tune from Suzuki Violin Studies Vol. 1. I had been through the piece many times with students. Who knew itwas a fiddle tune? The video below is a segment of the opera that features this chorus. It’s the very thing Suzuki adapted for his violin students.
Originally it comes from an opera by 19th Century composer Carl Maria von Weber. Der Freishutz, (The Free Shooters), is the opera and this piece, whether fiddle tune or Suzuki piece, is adapted from a chorus number.
The Huntsman’s Chorus on Fiddle
Below is a clear video of a fiddle instructor showing how to play the tune. She plays it much like Lissa Schneckenburger.
The Huntsman’s Chorus on Mandolin
is another tutorial video. This time mandolin. And yet so clear I could easily follow it on the violin.
And, finally, just as you would expect, here is the fiddle tab chart for Huntsman’s Chorus.
A couple of bar lines at the end got chopped. Oh well, I’ve put off this project long enough just to get this far. Perfection will have “Take a Cold Tater and Wait.”
And, as always, here is a nifty pdf file for good printing. huntsmans_chorus Don’t hesitate to draw in the two missing bar lines!
Being an election year, and the race for President being more interesting than usual, here is a blast from the past. This tune, President Garfield’s Hornpipe was first published in Sean Ryan’s Mammoth Collection of fiddle tunes, not long after the unfortunate assassination of the man elected by the people of this country.
Later almost the whole collection was republished as 1000 Fiddle Tunes by M.M. Cole. Of the two, Sean Ryan’s has the tunes in a slightly larger format, but not much. Either one is good for tracking down the oldest usable version of a common tune, as well as finding gems that have been left behind.
This hornpipe is in the key of Bb, a good key for fiddle but not found all that often. The second part of the tune is especially melodic. The descending figure over Eb, then Bb is intriguing. Maybe it’s not easy, but then it’s a hornpipe. You don’t have to play at lightning speed.
The bar that follows those two suggests an F7 chord. To me this lick feels just a little awkward. And yet the sound is completely compelling!
About President garfield, the Wikipedia article says, “[He] advocated agricultural technology, an educated electorate, and civil rights for African Americans.
My belief is that he was the last elected President in favor of an educated electorate. If you think about it, a change in our culture to be supportive of an educated electorate would be a revolutionary change.
Also, I’ve read articles online that cast President Garfield into the role of an opposition to the central banking class. That position wins no popularity contests, as you probably know.
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.
Here is the tune played at a moderate tempo.
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!