A Night at the Opera


(“Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand,

water is water! And east is east and west is west

and if you take cranberries and stew them like

applesauce they taste much more like prunes

than rhubarb does. Now, uh…Now you tell me

what you know.”  Groucho Marx 1890-1977)



            Classical music composers have long found inspiration in traditional and popular music in both general and specific ways. Consider the jazz-influenced American in Paris (1928) or Rhapsody in Blue (1924) of George Gershwin (1898-1937), the many English folk music influenced compositions of Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958), the gypsy influenced Hungarian Rhapsodies of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), and the Norwegian folk tunes and dances of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907).  Apart from a general influence on or flavoring of classical music, traditional melodies themselves have been showcased in classical music. Ludvig Van Beethoven took many genuine British folk songs and arranged them for voice and keyboard, and Tchaikovsky wrote 59 Russian Folk Songs for solo piano. Brahms composed 19 Hungarian Dances, Borodin his Polovtsian Dances, Davork wrote 16 Slavonic Dances and Granados 12 Spanish Dances, all using genuine folk melodies. Aaron Copeland’s use of  “Bonaparte’s Retreat” for a main theme of his orchestral suite Hoedown is derived from the playing of rural fiddler William H. Stepp (of Leakeville, Magoffin County, Kentucky), via the transcription of the melody by Ruth Crawford Seegar that appeared in John and Alan Lomax’s volume Our Singing Country (1941). Australian born composer Percy Granger (1882-1961) devised an extended orchestral arrangement of the morris dance melody “Shepherd’s Hey” and converted the English anthem “Country Gardens” into a piano solo. These are but a few prominent examples of the myriad ways that folk music has influenced classical music for centuries.


          In the course of working with copies of fiddler’s manuscript from the 18th and 19th centuries (one of my favorite pastimes!) I sometimes come across tunes that are examples of a reverse of this direction. In other words, classical music—art music—that has  influenced traditional music in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For example, recent manuscripts I have been working with contain names such as “March from Saul,” “Air from Tekely,” “Dance in Paul and Virginia” and so on, titles which obviously derive from composed works for the concert hall or the art stage.


Derivatives from art music in traditional repertoire need to be placed in context however. Regarding the broad scope of music since the Renaissance, the boundaries between classical, popular and traditional music were much more permeable prior to the 20th century, at which time widening gaps between the genres became chasms. Earlier there was much less distinction between what was considered art music and what was popular or even traditional, especially during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Consider German-born composer Georg Freidrich Handel (1685-1759), a contemporary of Bach who excelled in producing concerti Grossi, oratorios and operas.  At the beginning of the 18th century Handel (whose reputation was already firmly established) was Kapellmeister (music director) for Elector George of Hanover, a German state. Handel visited London in 1710, found employment with Queen Anne and discovered an English public with a taste for Italian-style opera, one of his fortes. He permanently settled there in 1712. Presently Queen Anne died, and Elector George was invited to the throne, becoming King George I. After an awkward reconciliation with his former employer (whom he had so cavalierly turned his back on), Handel continued to compose for the Hanoverian court of Great Britain, but also became interested in music he heard in the British street. Melodic and thematic material indigenous to the island began to color his works, and, as Britain took to the adopted composer, his music in turn influenced popular culture. One of Handel’s coronation anthems, Zadok the Priest, written for the crowning of George II, has been played at every British coronation since. In 1726 his opera Scipio was performed for the first time, a march from which struck a chord and was adopted as a military march by the British army. In fact, it remains the regimental slow march of the British Grenadier Guards to this day. It is probably as a stage composer, however, that he had the broadest influence on English traditional music. Handel was a partner in the management of the King’s Theatre from 1729-1734, and had a long association with the Opera House at Covent Garden.  Unfortunately, the composer was eventually bankrupted in his theatre ventures, curiously by competition from John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, a pastiche of hastily improvised works, a wisp of a story, old ballad tunes and dance music recast as airs, and even some of Handel’s own melodies.  The British ‘ballad opera’, as it was called, took London by storm and Beggar’s Opera and its numerous imitators eclipsed the taste for Italian opera, and Handel ended up owing more than £75,000, an astonishing sum for the times.


            Handel was so singularly popular during the early Hanoverian period that it is no wonder that his music reached a broad audience. It certainly was well-published, and thus widely disseminated, and influenced amateur as well as professional musicians. One of the most popular of Handel’s compositions to appear in traditional musicians’ manuscripts was the famous “Dead March” from his oratorio Saul (1738). There were numerous ‘dead marches’, of course, with every tragic opera and musical stage production having solemn music to accompany a post-expiration scene—there were dead marches in Coriolanus and in Merope, for just two contemporary examples—but Handel’s dirge proved enduringly popular, despite being written in a major key. It became one of the most famous of funeral airs, used on many occasions in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was, for example, played during the progress of the hero Lord Horatio Nelson’s casket from Westminster to St. Paul’s. It was played before military executions in the British army, and was the most frequently used funeral march by American Civil War bands. The tune was also played for other kinds of executions in the 19th century. Captain Boteler of H.M.S. Gloucester witnessed the hanging of twenty Spanish pirates at Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1823:


Early in the morning the Gloucester’s boats, manned and armed with

a guard of marine drums and fifes, went up to Kingston, returning

in a procession towing the launch with the captain and nine pirates,

the drums and fifes giving out the ‘Dead march in Saul’ ‘Adeste

Fideles,’ etc.  The following morning the other ten were also exe-

cuted—a fearful sight. No men could go to their death with less

apparent concern.  Before the captain first went up the ladder he

called upon his men to remember they were before foreigners and

to die like Spaniards.   [Michael Pawson & David Buisseret, Port Royal, Jamaica; Oxford, 1975].


“Dead March in Saul” appears in the 1786 commonplace book of American flute player Henry Beck, in William Morris’s commonplace book of 1776-1777 (he was with the First Regiment at Hunterdon County, New Jersey), and in John Beach’s (Gloucester, MA) musical copybook of 1801-1825. Keyboard player Ann Winnington, of New York, copied a “Dead March from Saul” into her c. 1810 music book, as did Philadelphia, Pa., musician William Patten, around 1800, although Winnington’s was a different tune. In England the march appears in the 1820 music manuscript book of the Rev. Robert Harrision (Brampton, Cumbria).


Handel’s early tenure in England coincides with the publication of the later volumes of The English Dancing Master, famously published in London 1651 by John Playford, then issued in increasingly expanded and revised editions through his lifetime. His son Henry then took over the long-running series. Finally, Dancing Master volumes were published by John Young until the 18th edition, in 1728. Collectively known as the ‘Playford’ volumes, they are the most famous collection of tunes gathered for social dancing of the era. The second volume (first published in 1713, then revised in a subsequent four editions) of the Dancing Master contained  some 360 dances. The Playfords were not the only ones to publish dance collections, of course, for several London publishers competed in the lucrative market: Rutherford, Walsh, Oswald, Johnson, Bremner and Thompson are the most prominent of the 18th century publishers to issue collection after collection of country dances with music and steps to feed the popularity of the ‘dance assemblies’. Often there would be a yearly offering by these various publishers, with titles such as “24 Country Dances for the Year 1746.” With all of this activity, the locally available traditional tune repertoire suitable for dancing was quickly exhausted. City publishers generally had limited access to rural music, nor were they, after all, in the business of collecting—they were publishers. Some were also musicians and fiddler-composers—Bremner and Oswald, to name outstanding examples—but even their output could not keep pace with demand and they had to round out their collections with music obtained from other sources. 


An example of this reaching out to other sources to round out publications may be seen in the tune “Correlli Reviv’d,” a jig printed in John and Andrew Gow’s A Collection of Slow Airs, Strathspeys and Reels (London, c. 1795). Andrew (1760-1803) and younger brother John (1764-1826) established a publishing business in London in 1788 and were the English distributors for the Scottish Gow family’s musical publications. The title is a reference to the Italian Baroque composer and violinist Acrangelo Corelli (1653-1713). Immensely popular and successful in his day as a concert violinist, Corelli also popularized and perfected the Concerto Grosso form in his composing. He was also renowned as a teacher, and among his pupils were Vivaldi and Geminiani. The Gows’ tune incorporates some aspects of baroque style, and presumably is based on a Corelli air. Another Corelli piece, a gavotte from his Trio Sonata op. 2, No. 1 (1685) was printed with country dance directions in Wright’s Compleat Collection (vol. 1, London, c. 1740). “Corelli’s Gavotte” also appears in the music manuscript book of Captain George Bush (1753?-1797), a fiddler and officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Bush had evidently copied it from a tutor for the fife printed in Philadelphia in 1776, thought to be reprinted by George Willig around 1805. The melody appears much earlier in the 1718 music manuscript of Englishman Thomas Bennet, as simply “Gavot.” Modern fretted-instrument player Doc Rossi has made a connection between Corelli’s piece and a variant called “Mr. Cosgill’s Delight.” The latter tune was published in the third volume of the Dancing Master (1728) and in Walsh and Hare’s New Country Dancing Master (3rd Book, 1728), picked up and recorded by Ashley Hutchings and John Kirkpatrick in the early 1970’s.


As George Dorris (in his article “Music for the Ballets of John Weaver,” Dance Chronicle, vol. 3, No. 1, 1979) points out, “In order to find enough tunes, the compilers presumably searched widely for suitable music to fill out these books, and theatre music would have offered a convenient source.” The Dancing Master volumes contain numerous references to ‘art’ theatre in the names of tunes and dances representative of stage productions then current. Sometimes these would be the names of the plays, characters from them, or even people performing in them (keeping in mind that many plays of the time could be considered what we can musical theater today, with dancing and singing included). Plays such as The Way of the World, The Beaux Stratagem, Recruiting Officer, Fair Quaker of Deal, and She would if she cou’d, are graced by tunes and dances of the same name in Dancing Master: Vol. the Second (1713). “Two tunes bear the name of popular characters”, finds Dorris, “’Miss Hoyden’ from Sir John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse and ‘Sir Foplin’s Airs’ from Sir George Etherege’s The Man of Mode: or Sir Fopling Flutter, in which the dance mimics foppish behavior; these tunes may well be associated with the characters in the plays as performed in the theatres.” The third volume of the Dancing Master (published between 1726 and 1728) has even more references, showing the taste for Italian opera that Handel rode upon: Giovanni Bonocini’s Griselda and Farnace (“Pharnaces” in the Dancing Master), and Handel’s own Radamisto (“Radamistus,”) Flavio (“Flavius”) and Pastor Fido.  Dorris remarks the plays of John Dryden are also represented by The Indian Emperor, Aurangzebe (“Orangzebe”) and Amphitrion. The tunes “Monsieur Dupre,” “Booth’s Hornpipe,” and “Mrs. Booth’s Minuet” all refer to period performers—Mrs. Booth was Hester Santlow who married actor Barton Booth. Finally, the popular stage pantomimes are represented by “The Hey-Maker’s Dance in Faustus; or Wing’s Maggot,” “Dr. Faustus Tumbler’s,” and “Harlequin a Director.”


It appears there is ample evidence that “art” music was well represented in volumes such as the Dancing Master and other collections meant for social dance consumption by dancing masters and their patrons and audiences.  Is there evidence that they made an impact on traditional (“folk”) music?  If tune titles and melodies in musicians’ copybooks, commonplace books and manuscripts is evidence, then the answer is broadly yes, although these make up a small percentage of tunes in handwritten musicians’ manuscript copybooks. For example, Harlequin titles—which can only have derived from the art stage—appear in the Thomas Hammersley copybook (London, c. 1790), Ebenezer Beven’s commonplace book of music for the fife (Middletown, Conn., c. 1825-1830), Jeremiah Brown’s commonplace book (Seabrook, N.H., 1782), David Young’s manuscript collection of reels (Drummon Castle, Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, 1734), Nancy Shepley’s commonplace book (Pepperell, Mass., c. 1794), and others. Harlequin titles appear no less than 78 times in printed 18th century music and dance collections, scores, and periodicals.


            Handel is represented in fiddler’s manuscripts by other musical selections adopted into general use; his march from Solomon (1749), the march from Rinaldo (1710) and the aforementioned march from Scipio (1728). In addition to its military uses, the latter appears in period tutors for the oboe, bassoon, flute, and fife, as well as country dance collections. The march was used as the vehicle for an air in the ballad operas Polly (1729), Quaker’s Opera (1728), The Country Wedding (1729), Welsh Opera (1731), Grub Street Opera (1731), and Stage Mutineers (1733). It appears also in the music copybooks of musicians John W. Stiles (probably from New England), dated 1807; Silas Dickinson (Amherst, Mass.), around 1800; and violinist John F. Curtiss (Cheshire, Conn.), around 1800. The Rinaldo march was similarly used in ballad operas (including the seminal Beggar’s Opera), instrument tutors, martial and dance collections and periodicals. The march from Solomon was printed by expatriate Scot Robert Bremner in London (A Collection of Airs and Marches, 1761) and in Preston’s Marches, Airs & Minuets (London, 1804).  It was included in the late 18th century manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr., a veteran of the Revolutionary War who lived in Dutchess County, New York. Livingston was an important land-owner in the Hudson Valley and a member of the powerful extended Livingston family, but he was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace. Henry was a musician (probably a flute player) and presumably a dancer of some skill, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly’s dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York. P. Van Schaack (Kinderhook, N.Y.) also had the march from Solomon in his 1820 copybook for the fife and flute.


            Handel was not the only German composer to have influenced London social music. Later in the century Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) resided in London for two periods: 1791-1792 and 1794-1795, where he concertized to great acclaim. Contemporary music historian Charles Burney (1726-1814) wrote in his memoirs: “Haydn himself presided at the piano-forte; and the sight of that renowned composer so electrified the audience, as to excite an attention and a pleasure superior to any that had ever been caused by instrumental music in England.” Haydn is known to have composed country dances; one, called “The Princess of Wale’s Favorite Dance by Dr. Haydn” was printed by Gow & Shepherd (Edinburgh). Haydn’s other country dances unfortunately are now lost. Haydn and the Gows were all associated with the extravagant Prince of Wales and the King’s Theatre in London during the same period. The “Princess” title of the surviving piece honors Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821), who married George Augustus Frederick, then Prince of Wales and later king George IV, her first cousin, in 1795. Unfortunately, the Prince and Princess appear to have taken a dislike to each other in record time, never living together again after the first few days of their marriage (although one child, Princes Charlotte Augusta, was conceived in that brief time). They maintained separate households, and indeed, each embarked on numerous affairs with other lovers. Scottish fiddler-composer Duncan McIntyre (born c. 1765), then working in London, was impressed with Haydn and wrote a strathspey (“Doctor Haydn”) for him that appeared in his Collection of Slow Airs, Reels, and Strathspeys (1796). [McIntyre reportedly journeyed to India around the year 1806 as master of ceremonies to the governor general’s court, but there his trail ends. His cause and date of death is unknown.] Finally, a slow march called “The Picnic” shows an interesting juxtaposition, with parts of the piece arranged by three prominent composers from three different backgrounds. The first and last parts of the four-part tune were arranged by Nathaniel Gow, a prominent fiddler-composer, bandleader and publisher both in Edinburgh and London. The second part—eight bars—was set by “Mr. Giornovichi”, while the third part was set by Haydn. Reviewing “The Picnic,” Peter Brown (Musical Times, vol. 129, No. 1747, Sept. 1988) notes the music’s similarity to the slow movements of Haydn’s Paris Symphony no. 82 (1786) and the String Quartet op. 64, no. 1.


          English popular musician and dramatist Thomas D’Urfey (1653-1723) was a sometime colleague and collaborator with composer Henry Purcell and friend of King Charles II. He also stuttered terribly and had a reputation for musical carelessness, but saw no reason for more diligence, maintaining that “irregularities disappear when (my) songs are sung.” He paid scant heed to those who criticized his work for its lack of (high) art, dismissing them with the comment (recorded with his speech defect), “The town may da-da-damn me for a poet, but they si-si-sing my songs for all that.” D’Urfey, like Handel, began his career imitating the Italian style. His 1699 play The Rise and Fall of Massaniello was staged with a broadly comic character called Blowzabella, a prostitute, based on a popular 16th century Italian theme. As D’Urfey turned his comedic skills to more English themes the character stayed with him.  She reappeared in his 1719 publication Wit & Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy, in a song entitled “Blowzwbella, my bouncing Doxie” which tells of a bagpiper and his wife, affectionately known as Blowzabella, who is nonetheless employed in the ‘oldest trade’. The couple banter about their respective livelihoods but come to agreement in the end, confirming their marital bliss. It begins:


He. Blowzabella my bouncing Doxie,
Come let's trudge it to Kirkham Fair,
There's stout Liquor enough to Fox me,
And young Cullies to buy thy Ware


She. Mind your Matters ye Sot without medling
How I manage the sale of my Toys,
Get by Piping as I do by Pedling,
You need never want me for supplies.


The air that D’Urfey printed is not the one later associated with the title “Blowzabella” as it appears in dance and country musicians’ manuscripts later in the 18th century. However, “Blowzabella” proved popular, and songs under the title found their way into ballad operas such as Ebenezer Forrest’s Momus Turn’d Fabulist, or Vulcan’s Wedding (London, 1729), Henry Potter’s The Decoy (London, 1733), Robert Drury’s The Mad Captain (London, 1733) and his later The Rival Milliners, or the Humours of Covent Garden (1737), and Matthew Gardiner’s The Sharpers (Dublin, 1740).  It appears that the 6/8 time country dance version of “Blowzabella” derives from the air that Forrest employed in his 1729 stage work. As "Blousy Bella" the melody appears in a c.1708 manuscript in the British Museum by G. B. Buononcini, for unaccompanied flute. Later, the jig appears in the music manuscripts of H.S.J. Jackson (Wyresdale, Lancashire, 1820), William Vickers (Northumberland, 1770) and Thomas Hammersley (London, 1790, as “Blousa Bella”). John Walsh, who published the melody in his Caledonian Country Dance volumes of the mid-18th century (beginning 1735), identified the melody as "Scotch," although there is no reason to believe it is. The jig also appears in print in Daniel Wright’s Compleat Collection of celebrated country Dances (published by Johnson in London, around 1740), Robert Bremner’s Delightful Pocket Companion for the German Flute (London, 1763), and John Simpson’s Compleat Tutor for the Flute (London, 1745). An air called “Blouzibel” also appears in print in Watts’ Musical Miscellany, vol. 4 (London, 1730), set in ¾ time, but this appears to be an unrelated tune. In modern times the jig “Blowzabella” has had a modest revival in English sessions, perhaps spurred by the fact that Blowzabella was taken as a band name by an excellent Northumbrian "revival" musical group of the late 20th century, one of the more successful traditional music touring groups of the era.


Tekeli (1806) was a work for the theatre by English organist and composer Theodore Hook. Born in 1746, Hook was a (club-footed) child prodigy who composed a ballad opera at age eight, but was handicapped through life with a club-foot. He was a popular composer of songs, operas, overtures, concertos and one oratorio, and was much in demand for performances, where he played harpsichord and pianoforte (of which he was an early proponent). Hook was also much sought as a church organist. Tekeli was composed fairly late in his career with words by his son, Theodore, in a free translation from a French melodrama, and was produced at the Drury Lane theatre. Tekeli featured an impressive grand cavalcade across mountains, which included model figures and animals that grew larger at each successive appearance—a primitive ‘special effect’. Boys were hired for the cast to preserve the perspective. It was revived at Covent Garden in 1811, when 16 white performing horses were led on stage, “to thunders of applause.” Lord Byron, thinking about the elaborate escape in Tekeli remarked in verse (English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers, 1809):


Gods! O’er those boards shall Folly rear her head,

Where Garrick trod, and Siddons loves to tread

On those shall Farce display Buffoon’ry’s mask,

And Hook conceal his heroes in a cask


Pieces from the opera began to appear in musicians’ manuscripts and published collections almost immediately, on both sides of the Atlantic. Spellings in musician’s manuscripts vary, but marches and airs from the melodrama appear in more than a dozen 19th century musicians’ copybooks in America, and a similar number in England. Jamie Knowles remarks that Hook’s march melody survived as a merry-go-round tune at Southport Fairground until Victorian days.


          Blue Beard, based on the fairy tale of a famous nobleman and his over-curious wife, contained a march that achieved great popularity. The original story was written by Charles Perrault and first published in 1698, and it was turned into an opera by Grétry called Barbe Bleue. Michael Kelly saw a production in Paris in 1790 and paid Colman to make a libretto out of it in which the villain became Turkish rather than French. When Blue Beard, or Female Curiosity was staged in 1801 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, reviews were mixed but it proved popular with audiences. Kelly himself acted in the play and told this amusing story:


At the end of the piece, when Blue Beard is slain by Selim, a most ludicrous scene

took place. Where Blue Beard sinks under the stage, a skeleton rises, which when

seen by the audience was to sink down again; but not one inch would the said

skeleton move. I, who had just been killing Blue Beard, totally forgetting where I

was, ran up with my drawn sabre, and pummelled the poor skeleton’s head with

all my might, vociferating, until he disappeared, loud enough to be heard by the

whole house, “(Damn) you, why don’t you go down?” The audience were in roars

of laughter at this ridiculous scene, but good-naturedly appeared to enter into the

feelings of an infuriated composer.  (quoted in the New York Times Sept., 23, 1877)


The “March from Blue Beard” was immensely popular from the beginning of the 19th century, for it appears in a number of musicians’ copybooks and manuscripts, including those of James Haslingden (from the south or Midlands of England), dated 1827, papermaker and musician Joshua Gibbons (1778-1871, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire), William Winter (Somerset), and an anonymous Staffordshire musician’s manuscript, dated 1820. In America, it appears in the music manuscript copybooks of Morris Woodruff (1803, Litchfield, Conn., as “The Blue Bards March, or Female Curiosity”), John Beach (1801-1825, Gloucester, Mass.), Daniel Henry Huntington (Onondaga, N.Y., 1817), Henry Livingston (Dutchess County, N.Y.), George White (Cherry Valley, N.Y., c. 1790-1830), Joel Allen (1800-1817, Southington, Ct.), and the Bellamy Band (Hamden, Ct., 1799-1804). In print it can be found in Edward Riley’s Flute Melodies (New York, 1814-1816), P.H. Munson’s Figures of the Newest and Most Fashionable Country Dances (Hudson, N.Y., 1808) and in the various editions of Alvan Robinson’s Massachusetts Collection of Martial Musick (1818-1826), to name just a few. One of the oddest instances of the tune is on the barrel organ from the polar expedition of Admiral Parry of 1810. In place of a ship’s fiddler (a common addition to a crew in those days), Parry introduced a mechanical barrel organ on board ship to provide entertainment and a vehicle by which the men could exercise (i.e. by dancing). “March in Bluebeard” was one of eight tunes on barrel no. 4.


The transformation of the villain in Blue Beard into the more exotic character of a Turk was in keeping with the period fascination with things oriental and Eastern. Various “Turk’s Marches” or “Turkish Marches” appear in operas and other art music works of the time. Scottish publisher James Aird (Selections, vol. 1, 1782) prints two “Turks March” tunes, the first being the same as the “Turk’s March” that can be found in the music manuscripts of English fiddler John Clare. David Murray, in his excellent book Music of the Scottish Regiments (Edinburgh, 1994), explains that the music of the Ottoman empire began to influence Europe and the western military band in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly through Austria, whose troops associated the “often intimidating sound of the Turkish martial music” with the Corps of Janissaries, composed of Christian boys, captured and brought up as Muslims and rigorously trained as elite troops. Particularly of note in this music was the use of percussion, with drums of various sizes and timbres, cymbals and triangles. Murray says that these Janissary bands were at times presented wholesale to various European heads of state, and, as time wore on, when members died they were replaced by local musicians, “and the Turkish reed and brass instruments were discarded in favor of oboes, horns, trumpets and bassoons,” although the percussion section was retained. In fact, writes Murray, “there is evidence that it was a standard element in Prussian military bands by about 1777…British military bands were not behindhand in acquiring the elements of the Turkish or Janissary percussion. Another Continental fashion taken up with enthusiasm by the British in the 18th century, was the enlistment of black youths to play these exotic Turkish percussion instruments, rather than fresh-faced lads from the plough tail or the slums, which were even then beginning to proliferate in the wake of the industrial revolution” (pg. 86). There was a surplus of ‘black lads’ due to the British emancipation of slaves, and the consequent turning out of servants so as to not have to pay them wages, and many enlisted. Murray suggests that certain military affectations (such as the twirling of the bass drum sticks, and the wearing of tiger and leopard skins) stemmed from the practice of encouraging costumes and capering by these musicians. “But at least one (musician) turned out to be a proper soldier,” writes Murray, “Drummer Charles Bogle was a ‘man of colour’, a fact sedulously concealed by the Victorian chroniclers of his regiment. He died at the Siege of Burgos in 1812, fighting most gallantly, wielding his drummer’s broadsword in single combat with a French soldier, who died equally gallantly. Their bodies were recovered, the Frenchman run through with Charlie’s sword, his bayonet through Charlie’s body.” A ‘Turkish’ march was played by the American forces under General Benjamin Lincoln at their surrender at Charleston on May 12, 1780. The choice was "no doubt Lincoln's attempt to avoid the complete humiliation inherent in performing an American march under these circumstances" (Camus, 1976, pg. 154). A "Turkish March" appears in G. Goulding's New and Complete Instructions for the Fife (1787-1799, pg. 8) published in London, England, and appears under the title "Turkish March in the Battle of Prague" in several other manuscripts.  Longman, Lukey & Co. printed it in their Compleat Instructions for the Fife (London, 1770), and Thompson & Son included it in Compleat Tutor for the Fife (London), editions of 1760, 1770 and 1786. David Rutherford printed it in his Compleat Tutor for the Fife (London, 1756). Fiddler and poet John Clare (Helpston, Northants) included two versions in his c. 1820 music manuscript; one as “Turk’s March,” and another as “Quickstep in the Battle of Prague,” and Ensign Thomas Molyneaux (6th Regmt.) noted it in his copybook in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, in 1788, with the alternate title “or, The Church Call”. American musicians also played the “Turk’s March,” for it appears in the music manuscript copybooks of Silas Dickinson (Amherst, Mass., c. 1800) and John Turner (Norwich, Conn., 1788).


A march called the "Huntsman's Chorus" (Was glecht wohl auf Erden) opens the third act of Carl Maria von Weber's (1796-1826) opera Der Freicshutz, first performed in Berlin in 1821. The opera is considered the first important German Romantic opera, and features themes and tunes inspired by German folk music. The march was quickly picked up in publications in the 1820’s and 1830’s for use for dancing—it made a fine cotillion—and in instrumental tutors (including a bugle preceptor!). The popularity of the piece, as well as folk music pieces from the Tyrolean Alps, in England in the 1820’s may have been a result of the recently-concluded conflict with Napoleon, a victory in part due to an alliance with German and Austrian states. “Huntsman’s Chorus” (or “Hunter’s Chorus” as it was also called) was employed for a variety of uses. As a quickmarch, it was long played in England by the band of the Rifle Brigade (95th Regiment) as a regimental march, and in the United States the melody was collected by Prof. Samuel Bayard from the playing of fife bands under the titles “Harrison City,” “A Drag,” and “Bunker Hill.” It was published by Elias Howe in Boston in his Diamond School for the Violin (1861). The melody was used as a vehicle for either a polka or single step morris dance in the North‑West (England) tradition. A multipart version appears in the 1823-26 music manuscript book of Joshua Gibbons (Tealby, Lincolnshire Wolds) under the title “Election Tune, June 1826,” attributed to one L. Hanson. It also appears in the c. 1837 music manuscript of Shropshire musician John Moore, and was collected in the 20th century still in tradition in Yorkshire. In modern times “Huntsman’s Chorus” was used as a contra-dance vehicle, popularized by Dudley Laufman’s Canterbury Dance Orchestra and Fennig’s All-Stars, and I myself remember dancing to it in the early 1970’s at contra-dances in Philadelphia, although I had no idea of its origins. A second melody from Der Freischutz, the “Villager’s Waltz,” appears in the mid-19th century dance music manuscript copybook of William Winter (1774-1861), a shoemaker and fiddler from Somerset, England.


I recall a piece that was occasionally played at contra dances in the 1970’s called “Schwanda Polka,” picked up from fiddler and caller Dudley Laufman of Canterbury, New Hampshire. Dudley writes that he absorbed the tune from his mother who “used to dance around the house by herself to this music, played on an old wind-up victrola. I doubt very much if anyone else has used this music for dancing.” The melody comes from an opera in two acts composed in 1927 by Jaromír Weinberger (1896-1967) called Švanda dudák (Schwanda the Bagpiper), which premiered in Prague. The opera had some considerable success but disappointingly does not employ any bagpipe music whatsoever—although this can hardly be the reason the opera has fallen from the repertory in modern times. The polka and paired fugue have survived in concert performances for both orchestra and band.


          Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is remembered in traditional music in “Michael Turner’s Waltz,” which has gained some currency in modern English sessions. The untitled waltz was contained in the music manuscript collection of Michael Turner (1796-1885) who adapted the melody from a portion of the great composer’s 1788 suite KV 536 No. 2 (the second, or trio part) in G Major. Turner was for fifty years a Parish Clerk, Sexton and choir leader of a church in Warnham, Sussex. His gravestone reads:


His duty done, beneath this stone

Old Michael lies at rest

His rustic rig, his song, his jig

Were ever of the best.

With nodding head the choir he led

That none should start too soon,

The second he sang full true

His viol played the tune

And when at last his age had passed

One hundred—less eleven,

With faithful cling to fiddle string

He sang himself to heaven.


Dave Shepherd, fiddle player for the modern Scottish group Blowzabella, came up with a setting of “Michael Turner’s Waltz” in 5/4 time (!).


          Two other long-forgotten works should be mentioned due to the popularity of musical selections from them, and the number of appearances of musical themes from them in period publications and musicians’ manuscripts. The Battle of Prague (mentioned above) is a sonata first published in Dublin around the year 1788 by Frantisek Kotzwara (1730-1791), a Czech expatriate who lived in London and made his living as a virtuoso double-bass player working at the King’s Theatre. The descriptive piece, which commemorates the Prussian victory over the Austrians at Prague in 1757, is the only work of his to survive. Portions of it were immensely popular on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18th/early 19th century. As if being a “virtuoso double-bass player” (how many have there been?) was not enough claim to fame, he is also infamously remembered for his personal proclivities and untimely demise. Writer Mark Twain mentions the Battle of Prague in his book A Tramp Abroad, when he complained of a salon organist who “turned on all the horrors of ‘The Battle of Prague,’ that venerable shivaree, and waded in the blood of the slain.” Similar objections of excess were voiced to the martial “Downfall of Paris” (from which the fiddle tune “Mississippi Sawyer” derives), and it’s interminable ‘drone, drone, drone’ at the hands of legions of amateur pianists in the decades following the defeat of Napoleon. Selections from The Battle of Prague were printed widely. The “March in the Battle of Prague” was published in America by J.G.C. Schetky in Philadelphia in 1793. The same melody appears in numerous 19th century British musicians’ manuscripts, including those of Joshua Gibbons (1823, Lincolnshire), John Clare (c. 1818), and John Moore (see below), and Rev. Robert Harrison (1820, Brampton, Cumbria), James Winder (1835, Wyresdale, Lancashire), William Clarke (1858, Feltwell, Norfolk), John Fife (c. 1780 Perth, Scotland), James Haslingden (1827, Midlands or southern England), William Hall Lister (mid-19th century, East Boldon, near Newcastle) and the Tiller manuscript. Penn State Professor Samuel Bayard collected a version of the march from Battle of Prague from south western Pennsylvania fifers in the 1930’s. The melody’s original name had long been forgotten and was only known as one of the “Dow Everly” tunes, after the regionally influential fifer who played it.


            The “Annan Polka” can be found in Kerr’s Merry Melodies, vol. 3, a Scottish publication from the 1880’s. The title refers to a location in Dumfries, Scotland, where a contender for the crown of Scotland, Edward Balliol, was defeated in 1332. Despite the Scottish place name, however, the melody is not indigenous, but rather is derived from Johann Strauss Sr.’s “Beliebte Annen Polka,” composed in 1842. Seattle fiddler Vivian Williams, who discovered the connection, notes that the Straus piece should not be confused with Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Annen Polka,” written in 1852. The melody also appears in the Browne Family music manuscripts, which are actually a collection of different manuscripts in different hands in the possession of the Brown Family (of Troutbeck, Lake District, Cumbria, England) prior to their being secured by the Armitt Library in Ambleside. The particular manuscript that contains the “Annan Polka” probably dates to c. 1850, according to English researcher Chris Partington. The polka was likewise copied into a mid-19th century music manuscript book by fiddler and shoemaker William Winter (Somerset, England), under the title “Amen Polka,” which must have made perfect sense to Winter as he spent some time playing in his local church band.


            Finally, we come to “The Kiss Waltz,” a melody recorded by Texas fiddler Captain McKinney for Okeh Records in 1929. Fiddler Posey Rorer recorded a rather up-tempo version as “Kiss Waltz,” with Charlie Poole, Roy Harvey and the North Carolina Ramblers around the same time as McKinney, although the side was never issued commercially. Credit again to Vivian Williams who finds that the tune was derived from a classical composition, a vocal waltz, called Il Bacio (The Kiss) by the Italian composer Luigi Arditi (1822-1903) in the mid-19th century. Arditi began his musical career as a violinist, but spent much of his mature career in England, where he conducted at Covent Garden and London’s pleasure parks. He composed several popular operas. Bill Monroe recorded a version of the waltz on his “Uncle Pen” album under the title “Kiss Me Waltz.”


[The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge communications with Vivian Williams, Dudley Laufman  and Doc Rossi for information contained in this article, as well as the websites www.colonialdancing.org/Easmes/index.html and www.village-music-project.org.uk/ .]



T:Dead March in Saul, The




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G2G2G3 G/A/|_BBBA G2 zG|GF zE ED zG|GF/E/ FE D4:|

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T:Mr. Cosgill’s Delight




e2g2c’2c2|f>g e>f d2c2|e2g2d2G2|c>d B>c A2G2:|

|:d2 g>f e2 a>g|f>e d>c B>A G>f|e>f g>G A>B c>g|f>g e>f d2c2:|



T:March in Solomon




S:The late 18th century copybook manuscript of Henry Livingston

Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion


|: A>A | e4A4 | F3E D2d2 | edef d2a2 | f3e defg | a2a2a2 gf |

g2g2g2 fe | f2 ed g2f2 | e6 :: e>e | a4f4 | edef e2a2 | g2f2b2a2 |

g4f4 | d4A4 | dcde d2g2 | gefg “tr”e4 | d6 :|



T:Battle of Prague. JC.008




S:John Clare, Poet, Helpston (1793-1864)







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T:Doctor Haydn





C:Duncan McIntyre


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T:Blow Zabella



S:James Aird, Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II (1782)

Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion


d2c BAG | c2A B2G | d2c BAG | A2D G3 :|

|: g2d BGB | cAc BAG | g2d BGB |1 ADF G3 :|2 ADF G2 ||

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|: G/A/ | BAB cBc | d3 d2c | BcB ABA | G3 G2 :|



T:Michael Turner’s Waltz





GA|B2 BD cD|d2d2 gf|e2e2 ge|d2d2 GA|B2 BD cD|

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d2 de cd|B2B2gf|e2e2 ge|d2d2 GA|B2 Bc AB|G2 z2:|

T:Violino I

S:Mozart – Trio from KV536
K:G major



T:Annan Polka




S:Kerr – Merry Melodies, vol. 3, No. 436 (c. 1880’s)

Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion


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Andrew Kuntz

8 Veatch Street

Wappingers Falls, NY 12590