Cranford Publications

Stubbert Book Review

Brenda Stubbert's Collection of Fiddle Tunes

131 traditional and original melodies

edited by Paul Stewart Cranford
Cranford Publications.




Review by Kate Dunlay
Mississauga, Ontario

This beautifully produced book is the second in The Cape Breton Musical Heritage Series, which editor Paul Cranford introduced in 1992 with Jerry Holland's Collection of Fiddle Tunes (Revised Edition). These collections focus on contemporary performers and the continuing musical tradition in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. They contain both traditional and newly composed tunes from Cape Breton, Scottish, Irish, and other sources, as played by the featured performer. A significant number of the melodies are compositions by Jerry Holland and Brenda Stubbert, as both are prolific composers of tunes that are being learned and played by others in the tradition.

Cranford is no newcomer to the field, having previously published several facsimile reproductions and new editions of old Scottish music collections. While these are useful, especially to the researcher, it is with his most recent projects that Cranford makes his greatest contribution. His new, personal approach is effective because it gives the reader a meaningful cross section of a tradition, rather than reams of dry notation. Because the pieces are selected and filtered by one performer's taste, a style is conveyed. Pictures and biographical information further flesh out the music. One even gets a sense of the editor's own personality through his editorial commentary, which is written in first person. The informal, yet highly informative footnotes provide some history and context for the music, and draw the reader into the fiddler's circle. Even more of these brief notes would have been welcome.

The tunes are organized with the convenience of the user in mind. In Brenda Stubbert's Collection, jigs are in one section while slow airs, marches, strathspeys, reels, and hornpipes are in the other; Cape Breton fiddlers normally play jigs in separate medleys from the other tunes, which are grouped together according to custom. The melodies in the book are also organized alphabetically by tonic note, as Cape Breton fiddlers usually base each medley on one tonic note (although they may switch back and forth between modes).

The music setting in the book is attractive. Conventions used are appropriately those familiar to "folk" fiddlers. It would have been helpful for classically trained musicians had Cranford included the paragraph explaining ornamentation in Brenda Stubbert's Collection that he printed in Jerry Holland's Collection. However, those who are unfamiliar with how the symbols are being used can always purchase and listen to Stubbert's recordings.

Even an E-flat accidental which appears in "Beautiful Point Aconi," written in the key of E (four sharps) can be excused on the basis that it does communicate clearly. Classical musicians may have to look twice because the note ought to be a D-sharp (already indicated by the key signature), but "folk" fiddlers don't see a D-sharp played on the D string very often; presumably the E-flat is less confusing.

Publishers of tune books always struggle to find a binding that is flexible, yet can stand up to heavy use. The stapled, single-signature format of Brenda Stubbert's Collection allows the book to lie flat for sight-reading ease. 'This type of binding also is easily repaired, if ever torn, and the cover seems sturdy.

At the end of this volume, there is an index of tunes compiled from selected books available from Cranford Publications. This is useful for researchers or anyone looking for a particular tune. Until someone compiles a huge computer data base to find tunes by name, it at least eliminates looking through six separate indexes!

This reviewer will reserve space on her bookshelf, in hopes that Cranford continues to expand his Cape Breton Musical Heritage Series. Brenda Stubbert's Collection of Fiddle Tunes is certainly an excellent product.

review by Kate Dunlay, 1995



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last upddate 21/10/98