Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lord MacDonald's Reel

Happy New Year readers!

I wanted to say thanks to all the kind people who helped Brian and I out with the project in 2010 by sharing info, music, comments, stories, and their great company. We're really pleased with the response we have been getting from people from Gaspe to the U.S. and even Italy. The word is getting out about the beautiful music and culture of the old-time Gaspesians and people around the world are starting to notice. 2011 should see a lot of great stuff here. There is no shortage of material in the pipe-line.

Here is Erskine's wonderful setting of this old warhorse of a tune. This is originally a Scottish tune and can be found in Neil Gow's tune book from 1792. From Scotland this tune is found all over the New World and its rare to find an old-time fiddler on this continent who doesn't know a setting of Lord MacDonald's Reel. In the U.S. they generally call this tune Leather Britches and there are many fine versions of it from various regions down there.

This tune is originally in G and is almost always played in that key. Erskine also played it in the key of G, but on this recording he has devised a setting in the key of D with the fiddle tuned with the bass string raised to A. Again, this was common practice for the old-time Gaspesian players when playing in the key of D.

Hear Erskine play Lord MacDonald's Reel (ADAE)

I really love this recording because Erskine just gets so much emotion in his playing. Its performances like this that really show the beauty and emotional depths of the art of old-time fiddling.

One of the things that I really respect about Erskine's playing is that he really thought about his tunes and how he could improve them. He was always working out different bowings, melodic hooks, and would even try out different keys and tunings as is the case here. It is really the mark of someone absolutely devoted to their craft.

In the key of D with the fiddle tuned ADAE, Lord MacDonald's Reel has so much resonance and is really hypnotic. I especially like the way the low part really rumbles in this key. As usual, Erskine gets great syncopation especially in the middle part of the tune. In the 3rd and highest part of the tune, Erskine gets a lot of drive by repeating the same note consecutively, a technique we've discussed previously.

This comes from a tape Erskine made in Cambridge in the early 1980's. The playing on this tape is really nice, Erskine plays at a more relaxed tempo and really gets a lot of expression in his playing.

All the best in 2011!


  1. Hi
    I really like the mp3 of this tune, do you have the sheet music for it or could you post a slow session mp3 in order for me to learn this reel. Thanks, Francois form the Saguenay

  2. Hi François,
    Malheureusement, j'ai pas le partition pour ce morceau mais Isidore Soucy à enregistré pas mal la même toune sous la titre "Reel à ti-zoune". Peut-être un partition existe? Bonne chance!

  3. Merci Glenn,bravo pour ton beau travail!! J,attends tes autres Learning tunes, tu joues vraiment bien !

  4. J'ai trouvé la partition de la gigue à Tizoune, c'est juste la première partie que Erskine joue qui me manque ( sur la corde de sol accordé en la) pourrait tu m'envoyer le mp3 pour que je puisse l'écouter plus lentement pour apprendre cette première partie de Erskine qui est vraiment un bel ajout à la toune. merci

  5. Francois,

    Envoie-moi un courriel a le lien à droit (cliquer sur mon nom "Glenn" pour trouver le lien à mon adresse).