Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tunes from Mrs Edgar's Kitchen - Brian and Glenn

Hello readers,

Today I'm sharing some tunes that Brian and I recorded this past August in Douglastown in the house where his father Erskine grew up. Erskine's parents were Edgar and Beatrice (or Mrs. Edgar, nee Fortin) and built this house where they raised their ten children. The house was eventually passed to their son Watson Morris, Erskine's brother, who lived in it until his death.

I'm currently living in the summer kitchen of the house, a portion which was separated from the main living space and moved further up the property where it now serves as a camp. It is a quiet and beautiful location far from the main road (the 132) and I enjoy amazing views of the Bay of Gaspé and the Forillon Coast every time I look out the window. I moved here last July to do fieldwork for my PhD dissertation (hence, why posts have been so slow). The current owner of the property has done a wonderful job preserving the best aspects of the work that Edgar and Watson Morris put into this place.

A lot of music was made in this space—both Erskine's fiddling and his mother's lilting as well as numerous house parties—and it was a special experience for Brian and I to make this recording where the music began so to speak. After a wonderfully hectic Irish Week, it was nice to escape and focus on the music, free from distraction for an afternoon in Mrs. Edgar's summer kitchen.

These recordings feature more diversity than many of the recordings we have made and include the guitar duets that Brian and I often do (I was a guitarist long before I picked up the fiddle, although I'm a little rusty these days) with a bit of bluegrass repertoire thrown in. The most inspiring moments for me were when Brian picked up the mandolin. He's never owned a mandolin but somehow, his father's tunes just came pouring out of his fingers on the first take, even at breakneck tempos. It's a real treat to get to hear this surprising and latent side of Brian's  musicianship, something both of us think is embedded in his intuition for music, having hearing so much of his father's playing growing up.

A special thanks to Brian Morris who EQ'd and mastered the recordings.

Here are the tunes:

Some notes on the tunes:
  • "Anthony Drody's Tune" is an old tune that lots of older fiddlers used to play. Erskine, Joe and Charlie Drody, and a local fiddler named Kingsley Marion (whose music I've recently encountered) all played this tune. Anthony Drody showed it to me at about 2 a.m. one night during the 2013 Pembroke Fiddle and Stepdance week.

  • "Donna Reel" is one of Erskine's original compositions. Erskine composed several tunes which we have on different recordings. He usually named them for people in his family, this one for his daughter Donna who lives in Cambridge.

  • "The Irish Jig" is another old local classic played by people like Erskine, Joe and Charlie Drody, and Bill Lucas of Haldimand. It's not a jig in the Irish sense (in 6/8 time) but instead, a short reel good for stepdancing (i.e. dancing a "jig").

  • "Uncle Peter's Tune" comes from the playing of both Erskine (who supplied no title) and Kingsley "King" Marion. I'm trying to find out more info about King. He was a very good fiddler from the area with an interesting older repertoire. Not many people today seem to know much about him. I'm not sure who Uncle Peter was, but we got the name from a tape Willie Methot put together of recordings of older local fiddlers from the Barachois - Malbay - Belle Anse areas; the person announcing the tunes called it "Uncle Peter's Tune."