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ANONYMOUS MANUSCRIPT reportedly from Staffordshire. circa1820

Transcribed into ABC Music Notation for The Village Music Project by Tim Willets

Go to ABC file

Go to PDF of transcription

Village Music Project Code ST

41 tunes in the file, other tunes variously illegible or not photocopied.

Probably Early 19th century, because of the absence of Polkas, Quadrilles, though someone with knowledge of the songs may be able to enlarge on this date. Meg Merrilies was the old gipsy woman in Scott’s Guy Mannering, published in 1815, so the MS is later than this.
My opinion would place it at c1820.

Our Photocopy of this MS came from Paul Roberts, who was given it in about 1980 by Vic Ellis. He thinks Vic Ellis may be the owner of the MS.
14 of the 41 pieces are parlour song airs, giving a slightly unfamiliar feel to the MS, nevertheless the remaining 27 pieces are normal dance tunes of the early 19th C., most of which are well enough known.
We do not know what was in the rest of the MS or how large it was/is.

The handwriting is neat and legible (in the original), and the music notation is competent as copying but sometimes wrong when authoring.
Given the complexity of some of the airs it is evident that perhaps the majority of the tunes have been copied from print.
Top D is reached in 2 tunes and Top C in another 2 tunes, and not just in the song airs. This might be taken as an indication that the instrument implied was not a fiddle, or it might mean the writer couldn’t play all the tunes properly!

Chris Partington.

Tim Willets coded the MS into abc for the Village Music Project, and here is what he writes:

The source for these tunes is a photocopy of part of the original manuscript. Either the ms. or the photocopy (maybe both!) are incomplete and some of what there is, is not legible.

Many of the tunes are Parlour Song airs or “art” pieces, and the usual dance music formula of four or eight bar repeated sections is noticeably absent, as is the usual repertoire of the 18th and early 19th centuries to be found in many manuscripts. Many of the titles appear unique to this ms.

It is possible that the ms. was not for the most part a collection of tunes used for dancing, and/or the writer of the ms. knew what he/she intended and noted the tunes in a way that was perfectly clear to them if not to those trying to decipher the MS almost two centuries after it was written. It is also possible that the musician only noted down tunes they wanted to learn/found it difficult to remember and that the vast bulk of their repertoire was not represented in their ms.

The MS contains a large number of bars of lengths that are at odds with the time signatures indicated and some accidentals that are musically “surprising”. I have not “corrected” any of these “errors” as to do so requires significant editorial decisions to be made. The material is therefore presented “as is”, to the extent that the abc system allows. Many of the tunes have Italian “classical” tempo and other indications and a great deal of slurring, staccato, accents and grace notes are indicated. This perhaps suggests that at least those tunes were copied from a printed source.

Note regarding transcription.
The ABC was transcribed in accordance with the 1.6 ABC standard and checked for compatibility with abc2ps (under Linux) and abc2win2.1.
Some of the markings defined within the ABC standard (e.g. staccato) are supported by abc2ps but not abc2win2.1. As abc2win handles the coding it does not recognise by simply ignoring it I have left the coding in the abc for the benefit of those with alternatives to abc2win available.

Tim Willets

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