It’s a rainy day today here in Gaspé so I put a fire on here and decided to listen to a reel of tape that Brian Morris loaned me last spring. It features a dub of a great out-of-print vinyl of acoustic fingerstyle guitar music on side A; then, fifteen minutes into side B (which is otherwise blank), is tucked away half an hour of Brian’s father Erskine Morris (1913-1997; originally from Douglastown) playing about half an hour of unaccompanied fiddle music in his home.
Since our last post featured an original song, I thought it would be nice to follow up with an original fiddle tune. In fact, there are three gorgeous original tunes in this batch from Erskine. But for some reason, today, this one just popped out. It’s a catchy and highly danceable melody that as Erskine tells us at the beginning of the recording is called the “Gaspé Reel.” I’m not sure when Erskine wrote this piece nor when this particular recording was made. However, this tune also appeared on one of the first home recordings of Erskine that I heard back in 2010. That particular tape was made in 1978 so we know the tune was written before then.
For the musician readers, the melody and phrasing are quite intuitive but the string crossings and some of the note orderings make this one just different enough to keep it interesting. I’m sure our fiddle playing readers will have fun with this tune. Something I really appreciate about Erskine’s artistry was how he varied his music’s intensity by context. At parties he could play hard-driving, syncopated fiddling with the full weight of his bow arm. At home, playing solo, he would sometimes play a little sweeter, with a softer touch, weaving through the twisty passages with a surprising gentleness without sacrificing the drive and danceability of the music.
Of course, there are several well-known fiddle melodies that go by this title and here is yet another. Erskine wrote quite a few original tunes throughout his life, often for different relatives and family members. I look forward to sharing a few more of these originals in the year to come.
Here is a picture I received from Albert Patterson last year, from when Erskine won second place at the Wakeham-York Homecoming fiddle contest. On stage handing him the trophy is MaryEllen Drody-Savidant (featured earlier this month), Mrs. Hansen McAuley (mother of Ray McAuley – for whom the trophy was named), and Edgar Coull.
fonds: Brian Morris