THE SNOWY HILL
© 2018 SNAPPIN' BUG RECORDS
Selections from the Samuel Bayard Collections performed by:
Richard Withers ~ Flutes, 5 string Banjo, Vocals
Kathy Fallon ~ Guitar
Mark Tamsula ~ Guitar
Bruce Molyneaux ~ Mandolin, Plectrum Banjo
Oliver Browne ~ Fiddle
Kenan Foley ~ Snare Drum
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~ABOUT THE RECORDING~
THE DUBLIN JIG/THE FAIR 4:10
Southwestern Pennsylvania Fife Tunes
and Other Music on the Wooden Flute
The Snowy Hill is our fourth recording from the collections of Samuel Preston Bayard, who traveled throughoutSouthwestern Pennsylvania between 1928 and 1963, visiting fiddlers, fifers and singers, and writing out over a thousand of their tunes and songs. Their music was a keystone of the region's culture, originating with tunes and songs of British Isles and German forebears and re-crafted over generations to fit community life in this northern corner of Appalachia. While we've focused previously on Bayard's dance music with fiddle and banjo, The Snowy Hill features the flute representing the region's fife tradition.
Fife and fiddle traditions of our region were not categorically distinct, however. Repertoires of fifers and fiddlers overlapped and several of Bayard's sources played both instruments. The tunes were functional and versatile, characterized on any given occasion not by whose repertoire they came from but by the purpose they were put to - the kind of movement they accompanied and marshaled, be it dancing or marching.
The fife tradition is relatively obscure nowadays. Fife and drum corps once moved troops efficiently around the country during the wars Pennsylvanians took part in and their tunes were passed down by families of veterans. The fife also had a peaceful, celebratory role in community life, however, and fifers also got together to enjoy and swap tunes in casual home gatherings.
Formerly, just as Pennsylvania was thronged with fiddlers, so likewise she abounded in local fife-and-drum ensembles. … Once in great demand, the fifers and drummers played on every conceivable occasion of local interest (Bayard, 1983, p. 4).
Apparently (see The Belling Tune note), such occasions could even include a couple's wedding night.
Bayard notes that highly individualized fifing styles and tune settings were traditional. When asked how they kept the melody together while marching with all that variation, Greene County fifer Marion Yoders explained, "Well, Sam, when they was all a-blowin' their innards out, and the drums backin' 'em up, it wouldn't have made that much difference." (Bayard, 1983, p. 4.)
The Snowy Hill may seem more evocative of the British Isles than our previous recordings, particularly Northern Ireland. A few tunes are still recognized among Irish musicians and others would slip easily into Irish sessions without comment. At the same time, however, these tunes are very much at home in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and most have been established for centuries as part of the local repertoire. There is nothing to suggest that Bayard's sources thought of themselves as playing British Isles music, or considered their playing style as anything other than homegrown. Accordingly, I'm making no conscious effort here to play in a particularly Irish flute style.
I've slipped in a few of my own compositions, and our arrangement of My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight, from Pittsburgh's famous native son, Stephen Foster. I hope these additions won't detract from the primary intent here to represent traditional music of our region.
Richard Withers, Forest Hills, PA, 2018
Bayard, S. P., Ed. (1982). Dance to the Fiddler, March to the Fife: Instrumental Folk Tunes in Pennsylvania. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
Bayard, S. P. (1944). Hill Country Tunes: Instrumental Folk Music of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
1 The flutes on this recording are simple-system, 6-holed wooden flutes, very similar to the much shriller fife, but pitched lower. The marching flute in the key of F comes closest to the sound of the fife.
2 With the possible exception of Simmon's Reels, collected from a fiddler raised on Prince Edward Island.
Flutes, 5 string Banjo, Vocals: Richard Withers
Guitar: Kathy Fallon, Mark Tamsula
Mandolin, Plectrum Banjo: Bruce Molyneaux
Fiddle: Oliver Browne
Snare Drum: Kenan Foley
Recorded at Richard's home in Forest Hills, PA., and Community of Christ Church, Bethel Park, Pa
Mixing and editing by Mark Tamsula and Richard Withers.
Layout: Richard Withers and Mark Tamsula
Cover art: Kathy Borland
Back cover photo: Ellie Withers
CD Replication by Oasis Disc Manufacturing: http://www.oasiscd.com
All tunes arranged and produced by Richard Withers and Mark Tamsula.
© 2018 SNAPPIN' BUG RECORDS