John Moore's Music Book
Scottish Dance Tunes from the Isle of Man, 1804
by Fenella Crowe Bazin
University of Liverpool Research Report 13. ISBN: 978-1-899338-14-6
Pub. 2009, Centre for Manx Studies, 6 Kingswood Grove, Douglas, IoM IMI 3LX
The Isle of Man is a self-governing island, located in the Irish Sea, surrounded by England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Despite its tiny population1 being dwarfed by its neighbours2, it has contrived to maintain a remarkable degree of independence, politically, culturally, linguistically until quite recently, and elements of its diverse history persist still.
Interest in the historical music of the IoM began to revive in the C19th, and continues to the present, so an addition to the corpus should expect to be welcomed. I regret to say that in my view this book adds nothing of rigour to the study of Manx music. The title of the book is explicit enough, but in fact all of its three elements ('Scottish' 'Dance tunes' and 'from the IoM') are highly problematic. I will address these in reverse order.
A Manx Manuscript?
We are told at the start of this book that: 'In 2002 the Manx National Heritage Library was given a copy of a music manuscript that is, so far, the earliest documentary evidence of music making in the Isle of Man.' Elsewhere the author thanks Martin Moore for 'access to valuable original material' - perhaps this MS? There follows a description of the manuscript size, number of tunes and whether multi-voiced or not, neatness and probable standard of musical literacy of John Moore, and the inscription 'John Moore, 1804'. We are not told of any other inscriptions.
Here is the first, perhaps the least, of many problems, as the author, Dr Fenella Bazin, Honorary Research Fellow at The Centre for Manx Studies, herself admits that she does not know who this John Moore was, other than to say that Moore is a common name in the IoM The only other link with the IoM is that the owner of the MS also has an MS book of Carvals once belonging to another J Moore, but we are not told if they were related in any way, or even together when they came into the owner's possession, nor whence they came. No handwriting or other evidence at all is offered to link the two MSs. Even though we may admit the strong possibilty of a Manx origin, Dr Bazin might have noted the fact that Moore is an exceptionally common surname throughout the English speaking world.3
There are 97 musical items, of which in the original, 27 were melody lines only. Bazin has provided Secundo and Bass parts of her own devising to these latter, and of the rest: 'In most cases considerable re-writing of the two lower parts was required to make this a performance edition.' Some changes have also been made to the top line, as in Robinson Crusoe, of which we are given a facsimile for comparison. Certainly major change has been done to the accompaniment. All that is her prerogative, though it's a pity we are not given the MS without such a heavy editorial hand, if it's as singular as the author claims it to be.
The great majority of the tunes (seventy four by my count) are marches unsuitable for dancing, song airs, toasts and classical pieces, e.g. Handel's Clarionet4, none of which can lay any claim to being Scottish. This leaves (at a generous count, though a little subjective given the nature of these manuscripts) twenty three dance tunes.
Overall, the sources that Dr Bazin gives in the annotations to the tunes, and in the bibliography, are almost all Scottish. However, most refer to Aird5, which we observe is 'A Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs', so cannot on its own be claimed as an indication of a tune's Scottishness. A number of others similarly refer to Bremner6 who, as well as his Scottish shop, had his biggest success as a leading London publisher of music for the English market. Again, the source for Dibdin's Fancy is given as 'A Selection of the Most Approved Highland Strathspeys, ... Country Dances, English and French Dances, Anderson, 1791, Perth' with the note that Dibdin ' ... toured Scotland on many occasions' which is irrelevant, except perhaps to reinforce the impression of Scottishness.
It is very important, bearing in mind the title of the book, that we look at the 23 dance tunes a little closer than Dr Bazin seems to have done, and furthermore to look at them in the light of her own sources, as well as other sources.
Here then are all the dance tunes, and I give them in full since this list is central to my argument. Some of the tunes are repeated, which accounts for the discrepancy in the tally. My notes are in brackets, but some need no comment.
 Dr Bazin says this 6/8 tune is the same tune as the Turk's March in the H S J Jackson MS, but that is a completely different tune, and in common time. It seems only the titles were compared, without bothering to look at the tune.
- La Belle Catherine,
- Brentford Hunt (English jig),
- Tink-A-Tink (Russian melody incorporated by composer John Kelly into his opera 'Bluebeard'),
- Breast Knots (first recorded in Thompson's Compleat Coll. of 200 Fav. Country Dances, vol. 2, London, 1765),
- Del Caro's Hornpipe (by Irish pianist John Field [1782-1837] in 1797),
- Speed the Plough (probably written by Edward Light in 1785),
- Polly Put the Kettle On (Fiddler's Companion - 'probably English'),
- In The Farmer's (not traced anywhere, but a standard English 6/8 tune),
- Moll in the Wad (F.C. - 'probably a late 18thC English Panto tune'),
- Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself (by John Field, ibid.),
- Robinson Crusoe (aka The Green Box, The Mount, common English Jig),
- Nancy's Fancy (F.C. - English Reel),
- Kiss My Lady (F.C. - English Reel),
- The Bugle Horn (English hunting song),
- Duke of York's Cotillion,
- Catches And Glees (first recorded in Thompson's Twenty Four Country Dances , London, 1769),
- Turk's March (not very Scottish sounding title or tune! See note below ),
- Untitled tune#58 (unidentified, but sounds more like a quickstep march than a dance),
- Two unidentified waltzes,
- A tune identified by Bazin as Lady Keith's Minuet,
- New Rigg'd Ship (possibly Scottish but common everywhere in the early 19thC),
- Miss Cunningham's Strathspey (Scottish),
- A March identified by Dr Bazin as Ducks Dang O'er My Daddy but see note below .
 The author says: - 'If (the Clague/Gill MSs) continues to be used as a comparator, then John Moore's MS ... Hardly counts as Manx at all, as only one tune is recognisably Manx ... #41 A March (aka The Ducks Dang O'er My Daddie) unusually in 6/4 ... Is now considered Manx, although it was included in the 'Curious Collection of Scots Tunes' pub. Edinburgh in 1739'
Considered Manx on what basis other than its appearance on the IoM in the late C19th? Actually it appears in Playford 4th Ed 1670, The Buff Coat (Hath No Fellow), and is according to Wm Chappell7 an English soldier's song gaining especial currency in the Civil War of the middle C17th. Later editions of Playford have it in 6/4, as here.
The annotations above are mine. Given that most of the tunes can be found in English sources with greater readiness than the Scottish sources simply by referring to The Fiddler's Companion website that she herself cites in the bibliography8, it is remarkable that no English sources are given in her annotations other than Hornby9 and Ashman10, for the Winder, Jackson and Moore (of Shropshire) MSs; Preston and Werner (both for La Belle Catherine); Rutherford (for the Handel).
You will see that using her own references only one single dance tune (Miss Cunningham's Strathspey) is indisputably Scottish, and there is one other (New Rigg'd Ship) which I agree probably is, but even that is widespread elsewhere. No other tune on the list could reliably be claimed as a Scottish dance tune. If the author had actually looked at the English sources that she cites, it would have been apparent that one/two Scottish tunes out of 97 is actually very low for the period, where Northern English MSs typically hit 10% and southern English MSs 5% Scottish.11
So I would suggest, with tongue only half in cheek, an alteration of the title to 'Scottish Dance Tunes in The Isle Of Man, 1804, Puzzling Lack Of'.
In light of the above, what is said in the 17 page introduction that might need revising?
The Supposed Scottish Connection:
The author repeatedly makes the incorrect claim that a number of the tunes are 'Scottish'. In the context both of the title of the book, and the discussion of the Dukes of Atholl's patronage of the Gows, and references to traditional Scottish dance music such as strathspeys, and many references to David Johnson's excellent book12 this has to mean tunes of Scottish origin, not merely the presence of a tune north of the border despite its origin elsewhere.
- 'Whilst the repertoire could be deemed to be fairly typical of the period ... there does seem to be a liberal scattering of Scottish tunes, and a number of untitled dance tunes that suggest a strong Scottish influence.'
- But this is not true, as has been demonstrated.
- 'Around half of the 97 items can be traced directly to Scottish printed sources published in the fifty years before'.
- To say 'traced directly' strongly suggests that half the tunes are from Scottish sources, but they are merely in them, just as they are in many English sources. The author herself says ' ... Although the part writing for only one piece has been positively identified from a Scottish source.' (New Rigg'd Ship)
- 'Most of these are dance tunes such as strathspeys, jigs, reels, country dances and minuets, though a few are slow airs.'
- One strathspey and one minuet actually, and 'slow airs' when they are just 'airs' or 'songs' implies a Scottishness which simply isn't there.
- 'Marches ... considerable proportion ... they use strong dotted rhythms, a feature found consistently in Scottish music of the period. This feature is found less frequently in the English repertoire.'
- In fact they are a common feature in English and Continental marches of the period.
- 'The presence of the Scotch Snap is sometimes obvious, as in Del Caro's Hornpipe'.
- If this is meant: 'Scotch Snap ... is the name given to the reverse of the ordinary dotted note which has a short note after it - in the Snap the short note comes first and is followed by the long one ... '13 then it is entirely absent from Del Caro's Hornpipe (written by an Irishman according to her sources, by the way) and the other two examples given, and the entire collection.
- 'String trios were popular in the Edinburgh Assembly rooms ... Moore's scoring conforms to a type found in Bremner's collection (1761)'
'The arrangements for trio also belong to an Edinburgh tradition'
- Dr Bazin can hardly claim the string trio dance band as a sign of Scottishness - there is plenty of both pictorial and documentary evidence to illustrate this in England and elsewhere too.
- 'Gow's Fairy Reel (she means Largo's Fairy Dance) became popular with fiddle players ... '
- But isn't in this collection.
- 'There are reels and jigs, hornpipes and sonatinas, quicksteps, cotillions, minuets, a waltz, strathspeys, extracts from the classical repertoire and marches'.
- But there is only one strathspey, only one hornpipe, and a quickstep at that time was a march before it was a dance tune.
- 'The presence of a number of minuets ... again reflects the Scottish influence'.
- I can only find one minuet here. And in what way is it peculiarly Scottish?
Her Consequent Musings on Scottish Music:
The rest of the introduction consists of a series of assertions, anecdotes about Scottish music and the Dukes of Atholl, and abstracts from Johnson14, that have no connection to the IoM except to give apparent depth to Dr Bazin's claims of Scottishness for the MS. None of it has any meaning in the light of the actual relative absence of Scottish tunes. Here is a selection:
- The author talks at some length about 'The influence of Scotland on Britain due to the lack of Grand Tours
- 'Perhaps Moore's collection only reflects the widespread impact of Scottish music in the British Isles and further afield'
- 'There is plenty of evidence that the Atholls and the Murrays were enthusiastic supporters of Scottish music' followed by irrelevant discussion of Neil Gow, who's patronage by the Atholls was 'well-documented' (do we deny it?).
- 'Lord James Murray, who had been present at the 'baptism' of Castle Mona in 1804 ... wrote to his mother in 1814 that 'a guest from Russia was anxious to see the Highland Fling'.
- In 1814?! Wrote from where, and what has that to do with the IOM? In 1814 Lord James Murray was in London as Lord of the Bedchamber, and Aide de Camp to the Prince Regent.
- 'Most importantly it has revealed some of the cultural influences of the period, showing how much impact was made as a consequence of the Scots who were resident and active on the island' ... 'It is not surprising that the Scottish connection is so strong'
- No comment.
- 'The collection also demonstrates the strong links that existed between the IOM and the north of England, particularly Cumbria.'
- How? I think we should be told.
Other Factual Inaccuracies:
It is not only the construction of a whole edifice upon a non-existent Scottishness that is annoying. Other spurious claims abound, of which here follows a sample:
Dr Bazin claims that the inconsistent use of repeat marks (which by her own admission was often random at that period) may indicate how the tunes were to be played in sets, the absence or presence indicating continue to the next tune or have a break.
untitled pieces that could be dance tunes such as hornpipes
- No, I couldn't find any even remotely like hornpipes.
- 'Del Caro's Hornpipe tune#37
' (Actually Grano's March tune#37 is meant) '
the use of triplets against a dotted rhythm implies an early C18th usage'
- Which may be true, but from at least the last decade of the C18th, right up to the present day, it has been the standard way to play dotted hornpipes.
- 'Interspersed with .. popular ballad tunes such as Annie Laurie and Blue Bell of Scotland'
- Elsewhere it is said that Annie Laurie has been inserted in a different hand. What other tunes does this apply to? Perhaps Sich a Getting Upstairs, which is generally regarded as a black-faced minstrel piece from the 1850s?
From this entirely speculative suggestion, that I have never heard anywhere else, it is claimed:
- 'If that is the case, there are some interesting conclusions.'
- ... her conclusions being that after The General Toast, Rule Britannia, Here is a Health, there may have been a toast drunk. Well it would indeed be surprising if that were not the case, whatever the repeat marks may indicate. Also cited as possible toasts as a result of this innovative reasoning are Austrian Retreat, which would be an odd toast in 1804, and tune#45 (aka Go To The Devil and Shake Yourself).
Folk or Classical?
The author makes a string of contradictory statements about the nature of the MS which suggest she hasn't really thought through what she wants to say.
'It is unusual among Manx MSs in that it is dedicated to a single genre and style.'
'JM's MS ably demonstrates that the classical and the traditional styles were flourishing alongside each other.'
Annoyingly, there is no index and the tunes section has no pagination.
- 'Like only a very few other contemporary printed and manuscript sources, Moore's collection contains monodic tunes that fit Johnson's definition as well as more sophisticated arrangements for a small group of instrumentalists'
- In fact this is fairly common, demonstrating that the same musicians had more than one role.15
- 'Most music books of the time usually simply gave the melodic line'
- Almost all the dance music collections from the C18th, excepting Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion, provide more than the unaccompanied melodies fiddlers are accustomed to seeing today.'
There are other inaccurate claims, of which I'll give two:
- 'This is a collection that brings together classical forms and folk traditions, with country tunes arranged in the manner of Haydn and Hummel'
- Where are these country tunes? They are all from the standard London repertoire of the day.
- 'The phrase marks are clearly those of someone who is very familiar with the classical idiom'
- But to back that up is bar#1 of tune#71, where, however, the phrasing is absolutely consistent with common English vernacular usage (for example see J Moore Tyneside MS, VMP, where many tunes are marked in this way)
Dr Bazin's complete misinterpretation of the MS in question might have been avoided if greater effort had been made to consult a wider range of sources, including those in her own bibliography. Given the geographical location of the IoM, it is baffling that the author did not take into account possible influences in the J Moore MS from at least England, by far the dominant cultural and political power in the region.
Wm Chappell16, the Journals of the EFDSS17, the introductions to Cecil Sharp's Country Dance Books18, the many contemporary English MSs in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library19, Beamish Museum and elsewhere, the several complete MSs that have been published over the last ten years, the many MSs transcribed for the internet by the Village Music Project20, are all by no means difficult of access, and would have been a proper place to start for a serious piece of scholarship from a university research centre.
As it is, I fear that many people who may in the future have an interest in Manx music, might come away from this book, having taken it at face value, with the impression that it demonstrates an influence from Scotland on the island's music; it does not.
Chris Partington - 15.11.09
1. http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/tq1812/apx_h.htm (11/11/2009) i.e. population of IoM circa thirty five thousand in 1800.
2. http://www.tacitus.nu/historical-atlas/population/british.htm (11/11/2009) i.e. Population of England nearly nine million in 1800.
3. Moore as a surname is 7th most popular in IoM, 8th in USA, 20th in Ireland, 33rd in England, 1st in Leicestershire, 3rd in Norfolk and Shetland Isles. Various sources.
4. Which Dr Bazin thinks is oddly titled, '
the oddly named Handel's Clarionet [sic]'. Why oddly named? Access to a musical dictionary, such as Groves 2nd Ed 1928, tells you this: 'The present name for the single reed instrument (is) clarinet or clarionet
5. James Aird, A Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs adapted to the Fife, Violin, or German-Flute 6vols, 1782 onwards. http://www.campin.me.uk/
6. Robert Bremner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Bremner
7. Wm Chappell, Popular Music of the Olden Time, 1869, 2 vols, still in print.
8. Although the edition she cites, http://www.ceolas.org/tunes/fc/ , was disowned by the site's author as long ago as 2002 and has been replaced by a continually revised version - http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/
9. Hornby, The Winder and Jackson MSs (see the VMP website below).
10. Ashman The Ironbridge Hornpipe, A Shropshire Tune Collection from J.Moore's MS, Dragonfly Music (1991).
11. Ashman (ibid) has 15 Scottish tunes out of a total 117. The Wm Mittell MS, Kent, 1799, has 5 out of 82.
12. David Johnson, Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, 1972,2003 Mercat Press, Edinburgh.
13. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Ed 1928
17. The English Folk Song and Dance Society.
18. Cecil Sharp, The Country Dance Book, 6 vols, 1909 onwards. http://www.srcf.ucam.org/round/dances/cdb
19. Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Cecil Sharp House, Regents park, London.
20. Village Music Project website http://www.village-music-project.org.uk/
Site designed and maintained by Musical Traditions Web Services Updated: 16.11.09