Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eva's Tune - February 3, 1983

Here is a lovely, and slightly mysterious sounding D tune from the Douglastown area

Hear Erskine play Eva's Tune from February 3, 1983

Charlie Drody was a brother of Joe Drody (Sr) who was Erskine's main fiddle tutor growing up. Almost all the Drody males played the fiddle. The title of this tune was told to me by Anthony Drody who is Joe Sr's son and Brigid's brother. He told me that there used to be a title for this tune but as his Unlce Charlie's daughter Eva would always step-dance to this tune, they began calling it Eva's Tune. Anthony could not recall the original title.

In addition to the Drody family, it seems the Devouge family also knew this tune. In fact, this tune came to my knowledge when we were visiting Cyril Devouge last June. We were talking about the unique syncopation that was featured in the older Gaspesian sound and Brian pulled out this tune that I'd never heard before and picked a great version on the guitar. As is Cyril's custom, he showed us a spot where you can get an extra syncopated note at the end of the first phrase in the low strain. When we played this tune again for him on our last visit on Thanksgiving, he immediately recognized it as one of his Dad's old tunes. Brigid also remembered well her father Joe playing it. It is very possible that Erskine learned it from Joe Sr.

The smoothness of the high strain of this tune makes a really interesting contrast with the low strain which is extremely syncopated. In fact, I would venture to say that this is probably the most syncopated playing we have of Erskine on record. The melody of the tune itself is not overly complicated but a mastery of the bow hand is required to capture the precisely-timed syncopated string crossings.

As seems to be the case for most of the old-time Douglastown tunes in the key of D, the fiddle has the bass string raised to an A making the tuning ADAE from bass to treble string.

This recording comes from a cassette tape that Joeseph (Jr) and Anthony Drody made of Erskine on February 3, 1983. Erskine would have been 70 when this was recordied and you can hear Erskine is in fine form and his bowing is as precise as ever. Anthony and Joseph had the amazing foresight to realize that Erskine knew many of the old Douglastown tunes that no one else knew anymore and that they ought to be recorded. Thus, the tunes on this tape represent the older local repertoire that Erskine learned as a kid growing up in Douglastown before 1945.

Now if there had been video cameras back then, I'd love to have seen what Eva did when she step-danced to this charming little tune.

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