Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Liverpool Hornpipe (The Victory Breakdown)

Here is Erskine's setting of the an elegant and fairly well-known book tune, The Liverpool Hornpipe. Printed versions can be found in Cole's 1000 Fiddle Tunes, and R.P. Christeson's and O'Neill's collections. Erskine's high strain is a different melody from the printed version and is in my opinion, a better melody. Its possible that he or his source for this tune took the high strain of another tune and glued it to the low strain, but kept the Liverpool title. 
Hear the Liverpool Hornpipe (The Victory Breakdown)

I feel in Erskine's hands, this tune achieves a greater lift than all the versions I've heard of the standard book setting. As he often does, he gets a bunch of great cross string syncopations and doubles up on notes, both devices creating a slightly jagged texture to this tune which is really exciting. You can also really hear his feet beating out the rhythm on this one. I imagine some people really enjoyed dancing to Erskine fiddling this tune.

Vivian Williams told me that this is in fact a tune Don Messer recorded called the Victory Breakdown. Apparently, the first two parts are similar which may explain Erskine's confusion of the title. Erskine had many of Don Messer's records and learned tunes there. What is interesting is that he always adapted Don's tunes to his own Gaspé style never seeking to imitate Canada's most influential fiddle player.

Even though Erskine had the wrong title for this tune, we will keep it here and put the correct title in parenthesis so people coming back to the blog looking under the Liverpool title may find what they are looking for.

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