Charlton Memorial Tunebook

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Charlton Memorial Tunebook

Postby Barry Say » Sat Sep 24, 2011 9:41 pm

This is an NPS publication which is often overlooked. The Charlton in question is George Victor Bellasis Charlton of Hesleyside, who was the first President of the NPS when it was formed, in 1928 until his death in 1943. Although he was a dedicated 'Northumbrian' he was also very much a champion of the Half-Longs and we suspect that he may not fully have appreciated the musical contribution of the Clough Family who were the foremost exponents of the smallpipe tradition at that time. The resulting friction can easily be imagined, pitting the County against the industrial heartland of our county, and the landed gentry against the working classes.

I do not know to what extent the tunebook was actually intended as a memorial to the first President or if this was simply used an excuse. It could rightly have been referred to as the Second NPS tunebook. at the time of its publication in 1956, the First tunebook was still a 36 page publication which was extremely limited by modern standards. The publication of this book placed a great strain on the Society finances.

The book contains 112 tunes of which 88 came from the manuscript of John Armstrong of Carrick - a farmstead near Elsdon, Northumberland. Sadly this manuscript is now lost, but even so, I can easily identify 12 of the tunes which were probably added to the manuscript contents, and I would suggest that if those who were familiar with the tradition were to put their heads together, the gap could be narrowed and we could come fairly close to identifying the 88 tunes which were in the manuscript.

In former times, a musicians manuscript book was his notebook. They copied tunes from the manuscripts of others. When visiting, they would offer to write out a tune or two in their hosts book. Every writing involved effort, not as now when we can download a hundred tunes from the internet in an instant. The breadth of their musical experience was far more limited than ours, but they produced a musical genre which we seek to recapture.

By the way, there are some cracking tunes in it.

  • Bellingham Boat - a classic but difficult to render on pipes
  • Mr Sharp's Quadrille
  • Newcastle Station
  • Queen of Sluts
  • Erin go Bragh - I haven't got my head around this one but there is a local fiddler who does a fine rendition and makes me want to look further.
  • Andrew Carey - No variations, Sorry.
  • Catterthun
  • Captain Ross - A great introductory reel. It gets better as the player gets better.
  • Remember Me - A classic hornpipe attributed to Whinham.
  • 6 or more good hornpipes including Millicent's Favourite
  • Rowley Burn - A Forster Charlton tune - This was probably not in the Armstrong manuscript

Does anyone else have favourites from this book? If we are interested in tradition, some of us should surely be trawling through the old publications for forgotten gems

Barry Say
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Re: Charlton Memorial Tunebook

Postby John Gibbons » Sat Sep 24, 2011 10:07 pm

The Charlton Memorial Book is indeed a wonderful one - and unjustly overlooked,
perhaps because it wasn't called the 2nd tunebook.
It's a much fuller picture of the breadth of the tradition than the first tunebook gave at the time,
though subsequent editions of the 1st book are a lot richer than the slimline 1st edition.

The variation sets in CMB, especially a big version of Wylam Away (all but one strain of Clough's set), and Corn Rigs,
are reason enough for getting the book, but the short tunes are great too.
Lots of 4-bar reels, which I can't get enough of.
Until 'Remember Me' was published, CMB must have been the best published source of Whinham tunes.
But these - mostly hornpipes - are in with lots of other hornpipes that are well worth playing too.

John Gibbons
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Re: Charlton Memorial Tunebook

Postby Julia Say » Sun Sep 25, 2011 9:43 am

A draft already exists of the next edition of this, but it will not be released until stocks are lower. The feeling from others when I first got involved in sales was that the cover is a major "put-off" for non-member sales of this one. The NPS gets a slow but steady stream of general retail sales.

Other factors: the index is not at the back: there is confusion over "Charlton" - people today think it refers to Forster, not GVB. These matters will all be addressed in due course.

When I did the draft I too did the calculation, removing from the list those tunes which had a known source (eg. Rowley Burn, as Barry points out). I reached the conclusion that everything without such a source might be reasonably supposed to have come from the Armstrong family collections. The new intro also addresses this issue: that the CMTB is equally the "Armstrong of Carrick" tunebook.

Julia Say
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Re: Charlton Memorial Tunebook

Postby pipemakermike » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Julia said "there is confusion over "Charlton" - people today think it refers to Forster, not GVB"

I always thought it was Bobby<G>
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Full Name: Mike Nelson

Re: Charlton Memorial Tunebook

Postby adrian » Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:23 pm

Coquetdale hp-one of the nicer and harder to play tunes.
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