All posts by Elan

Tam Lin Returns

The Story of Tam Lin

This retelling of the story of Tam Lin is loosely based on the version in Wikipedia. The story was so dry, I took the liberty of redoing it. The fiddle tune, Tam Lin, you may have already heard. It’s one of those hypnotic D minor tunes. I’m posting the chart just below. And the pdf is Tam Lin pdf chart.

Tam-Lin

Janet was picking flowers out on the meadow next to where she lived in a New Jersey suburb. As she moved along, occasionally taking an excellent wild blossom, she walked into a broad circular patch that had a profusion of varieties of colorful blooms.

She stopped and looked around. A man, or man like being suddenly appeared at the far end of the circle. He started walking briskly towards her.

Half way there he demanded, “Why have you come here without my permission? I am Tam Lin.” Walking closer he accused her, “You have taken what is mine without asking.”

“Oh, no. I haven’t,” said Janet “I gathered these from out there, starting at the well.”

“Hmm,” said Tam Lin, visibly cooling, “then, you may take one flower from my circle.”

Janet walked around  good while and finally selected a pink rose.

“Let me see it,” Tam Lin said reaching for it. Holding it in his hand he looked at it and laughed. “It is yours,” he said, handing it back.

Janet took the rose and walked away. Turning to look back, she saw that Tam Lin was gone.

Back home she put the flowers in a vase so that the rose was prominent. In time all the flowers wilted except the rose. That was about the same time she discovered she was pregnant.

Realizing that her visit to the meadow circle and Tam Lin had something to do with her pregnancy, she resolved to return to the circle and find a counteracting flower.

She was in the circle and about to pluck a black rose when Tam Lin suddenly appeared. Immediately she challenged him. “What’s your story?”

He replied, “Long ago, I don’t know how long in years, I was riding my horse nearby and it threw me into this circle. I was immediately captured by the queen of the fairies. They made me the guardian of this circle. But, tonight they mean to sacrifice me to their dark god. All because I let you take a flower and go.”

“Come away with me,” Janet said.

“Not that easy,” replied Tam Lin. “If you really want to help me, here’s what you must do. They will take me on the Wild Hunt tonight before casting me to the hell hounds. We will pass through this circle. I’ll be on the only white horse. When you see me you must grab me and pull me down.”

“I’m willing to do that,” said Janet.

“”But, it’s not over at that point. I will not be heavy. Pick me up and hold me very tightly. Don’t be frightened as my form changes into one beastly monster after another. Take me away from here. When I change into a burning coal, throw me into that well you passed on the way.  I will come out a man and naked.”

“Yes, I will do all that.”

“One more thing, if you would be so kind,” Tam Lin said, with a quirk to his smile, “bring me a good cloak.”

Pop Goes the Weasel

A Child’s Song, a Jig–Pop Goes the Weasel

Looking over my list of tunes in the Fiddle Tune Directory, I see a shortage of real beginner tunes. Pop Goes the Weasel is a tune requested by my younger students. It’s a jig, it’s a children’s song, but it isn’t easy. And yet, because it is so well known, it can be approachable by beginners.

Pop Goes Weasel

Let me toss in the link to the pdf file. And now continue with a little background for the song.

All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought that it was a joke
Pop! goes the weasel.
A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle—
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Jimmy’s got the whooping cough
And Timmy’s got the measles.
That’s the way the story goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

It goes something like that, right? Unless you are in the United Kingdom. Their version is mostly like the way I first heard the song as sung by Anthony Newley in Stop the World I Want to Get Off.

Half a pound of tupenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel

Every night when I get home
The monkey’s on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Up and down the city road,
In and out the Eagle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

The Wikipedia article tells us that the song was originally a dance tune written in the early 1850’s. It was hugely popular. Words were added later. And the meaning of them has not been totally agreed on.

Just think about the cost of “half a pound of tupenny rice.” A penny, right. Rice going for two cents a pound. Talk about low prices!

Treacle is either molasses or a mixture of molasses and corn syrup. If the rice is cooked and mixed with the treacle, it’s a kind of rice pudding, I suppose.

Further into the song it gets a little more obscure. The “weasel” is part of a thread spinning machine. As the article writes, “The weasel is usually built so that the circumference is six feet, so that 40 revolutions produces 80 yards of yarn, which is a skein. It has wooden gears inside and a cam, designed to cause a popping sound after the 40th revolution, telling the spinner that she has completed the skein.”

We are not told the price of 80 yards of yarn. Do you suppose it’s a penny? Or in barter, you give me 80 yards of yarn, I’ll give you half a pound of rice. Now, those were the good old days.

As to getting up and playing the song as a jig, and why not, that’s what it was originally. The plan in the tab chart includes a left hand pluck on the E string for the “Pop” of the Weasel. I usually use my pinkie.

Crabs in the Skillet–Trad Irish Tune

Crabs in the Skillet in Tab

As someone who has the zodiac sign of Cancer the Crab, I should feel uncomfortable about the title of this tune. But, I don’t.

I didn’t even feel uncomfortable when playing this tune at an old time contest cost me placement in the top five. Too bad. It’s a great tune. You can hear Liz Carroll play it on the Lost in the Loop album.

This tune goes way back. You’ll find it in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland for deep traditional “cred.” Also, check Mel Bay’s Irish Session Tune Book for contemporary validation. It’s all good with this one.

Crabs_in_the_Skillet

As always, I like to include a pdf file for best printing: get your Crabs here

On the Boulevard–a Jig by Liz Carroll

Play a Liz Carroll Fiddle Tune from Tab Notation

When I first heard On the Boulevard from the Liz Carroll album, Lost in the Loop, It seemed repetitious. The similarity between the A part and the B part seemed a little redundant. It was as if the B part was a replay of the A part an octave higher.

Then, I started playing the tune. When I got involved I found that the contrast between the tow parts was subtle but interesting. Now I’ve gotten to like the jig very much and have included it in the 2nd Sunday Session we have in Palm Harbor.

Maybe  you’ve heard the insensitive comment that all these Irish tunes sound alike. (Or, all these old timer tunes sound alike. Or, all these fiddle tunes sound alike. You get the idea.) Let’s not be that person. Let’s be open minded that we may not appreciate a tune when we hear it, but we know that some people may like it alot.

I got this tune from Liz Carroll’s book, Collected. It has 185 of her original tunes. When I play it as tabbed, I include a little tweak in the A part that organizes playing the first phrase four times for me. Otherwise, it is mostly as published in music notation.

On the Boulevard--Liz Carroll

For good results in printing, here is On the Boulevard as a pdf file.

The Earl’s Chair

The Earl’s Chair–an Irish Reel Session Favorite

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.
Fiddle tab of The Earl's Chair

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.

In the Garden

A Gospel Favorite–In the Garden

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.

In-the-Garden

In the Garden will print out best from this pdf chart.

Another great gospel tune on this site is How Great Thou Art