Tune Connections & Origins: London Hornpipe & Reel du Sherbrooke

Having crammed so much fiddle music into my head for the past 50 years, whenever I hear a tune now I’m always listening for origins and links to other tunes. I think R. P. Christeson infected me with this disorder as he was obsessed with knowing from whence the tunes he heard the old-time fiddlers playing were derived.  So this little article will be the first of an on-going brain dump of tune connections I recognize onto these virtual pages.

In case you weren’t aware I’m working on a project that involves posting a new  tune video to YouTube every day in the year 2020 for a total of 366 fiddle tunes. In the course of this endeavor I tried unsuccessfully to capture the London Hornpipe on video with Mike “Wichita” Miller on guitar and Patt Plunkett on keyboard. This led to some “bloopers”, which I compiled to the video below and posted to my Facebook and Instragram feeds.

Now as soon as I posted this a few of my Canadian friends immediately commented that I was trying to play Reel du Sherbrooke, a very popular tune in Quebec played in two part – keys of G & D. Here’s that tune played played by my pals Patti and Alex Kusturok.

And here’s my version of London Hornpipe. I’ll note that London Hornpipe, which appears in Cole’s 1000 Fiddle Tunes, is set in the key of G. I first learned it from Cyril Stinnett and he played in A and it really turns up the burner on this piece.

I hope you can hear that the first of parts of each tune is a dead ringer for the other. Now as to which came first – that’s always a good conversation starter. I’m going to guess London came first and that Sherbrooke borrowed from it. London appears in Cole’s (a.k.a Ryan’s Mammoth Collection) and that puts it back into the mid-1800s. Feel free to take issue by emailing me at missourifiddling@gmail.com.

Want the music to London Hornpipe? Just go to my “Reels” page and download it. I also have a complete lesson for this tune in the following playlist.

Happy Fiddlin’!

Charlie Walden

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