Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grandmother's Reel

Here's a lovely, rolling G tune played in the old Douglastown Gaspé style. The tune comes from a great tape Brian recently digitized that was given to him by his aunt Phyllis. Phyllis' husband Manny (Erskine's brother) really loved to hear Erskine play and there were many a night in Manny's kitchen where Erskine would be in the corner playing the fiddle for a house party or family reunion. Manny would always encourage Erskine to make recordings of the old Douglastown tunes that he learned as a boy growing up in the 1920's and 1930's.

Hear the Grandmother's Reel

Here is another recording of this tune from the same session

I'm not sure where this tune comes from and I couldn't find any references to this tune on the Internet or under a French translation, "Reel de Grand-mère". Based on the contours of this tune, its melodic content, and duration, my best guess is that this tune is local to the Douglastown area. Perhaps this is a tune that Erskine learned from his Grandmother. Erskine's mother was Beatrice Fortin and Brian tells me a lot of Erskine's music comes from this side of the family. The Fortins were one of Douglastown's few early French families, though at some point they were assimilated into the large English-speaking culture of Douglastown's Irish families. Erskine composed several tunes and another possibility Brian suggested is that this could be one of Erskine's original compositions.

This tune really exemplifies a lot of the characteristics of the old Gaspesian style like the rolling bow, doubling up on notes, and cross-string syncopations. This tune is another "half tune" as we described in other posts where each part only consists of two phrases and so is half as long as a conventional reel. These little tunes where great for step dancing on account of their repetition and cute rhythms.

For the fiddle players out there, this tune is a great tune for beginner-intermediate players who would like to pick up some of the characteristics of the Gaspé style. Here is a link to a folder of me breaking this tune apart for anyone who would like to learn it.

Here's a link to the folder


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