Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Shannon Reel

Here's a really beautiful, hypnotic D tune Erskine played that seems to come from the Gaspé coast. Perhaps it was named after someone with a surname Shannon who either played fiddle or step-danced to this tune. Anyhow, I couldn't find any other tunes out there with this title and melody. Any Gaspesiens out there who have any ideas, feel free to email us or leave a comment and let us know.

Hear the Shannon Reel played on a Reel-to-Reel recording from the 1960's.

Hear the Shannon Reel played in the 1980's at a house session in Cambridge, Ontario with Brian on guitar

For all the fiddlers out there, this tune features one of Erskine's trademark Gaspé-style syncopation devices: the repeated note. Basically, rather than hold a given note for a beat, you just saw back and forth on it a few times to fill out the space. In fact, I have to say that in this tune in particular, Erskine takes this device to its extreme repeating a D note 5 times in a row at the start of the first strain! All in all, I've never heard any fiddler use this device as much as Erskine did and it really creates an amazing and hypnotic rhythm. My guess is that this may have been a very common fiddle technique in the Gaspé where creating a good dance beat for step dancers was so important.

The version from the 1960's is Brian's all time favourite arrangement of his Dad's and I think I feel the same way. He remembers hearing this tune as a kid growing up in the country when he was outside playing with his brother and friends and the melody never left him. In any case, another true masterpiece of Gaspé fiddling.


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