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What are the musical traditions of East Anglia?

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'Before the Night Was Out ...'

 

'If I heard a good tune, I'd have it before the night was out!'

 

Through the twentieth century, music has been recorded from traditional musicians in Suffolk and Norfolk, and now many of the most important and unusual of these lively dance tunes are available in a printed collection.

 

Tune books from various regions in England have been published in recent years. To present something from East Anglia, a region renowned for its traditional music throughout the twentieth century, has proved something of a conundrum: how to portray in written form what is essentially an oral tradition? Before the Night Was Out aims to shed light on the way in which traditional music in Suffolk and Norfolk has thrived and mutated during the twentieth century, as well as providing a resource for practising musicians.

 

It is therefore a rather different kind of tune book…

For a number of tunes, comparative versions from different players are given, and an example is given below. This tune has become an icon of the East Anglian tradition, and was played by many, many musicians in the area through the twentieth century.

 

The two musicians were melodeon players Oscar Woods and George Craske: a brief biography and appreciation of Oscar Woods may be found on this website in the Personal Portraits section, and fuller details are in the book itself, which may be ordered from our online shop.

 

Click here to view updates to the book.

 

Oh Joe, the Boat is Going Over

 

 

 

 

George Craske's playing of this tune illustrates his style of decoration, employing triplets using the button above the note (i.e. the note a third above, as indicated by the mordent markings) as well as the note immediately above or below.

 

This is a song tune, which seems to have been played by nearly every musician in Norfolk and Suffolk, often with the music for the chorus played first, as above. The choice was then open, according to context, whether to finish at the end of a 32-bar phrase, on a B music, or to finish with a chorus for people to sing along with. There are two different sets of words for the song (although they both have the same chorus), the most well known now being those by John Read, from 1881, as sung by Essex singer Harry Green in 1967. There were at least two other songs about Joe: Oh, Joe, I Want to Go to the Picture Show and Oh, Joe, With Your Fiddle and Bow, and also Not for Joe.

 

The versions above were noted from recordings of Oscar Woods on the now deleted LP record 'English Country Music from East Anglia' (he may also be heard playing this tune on 'Pigeon on the Gate'  - Veteran VTVS05/06) and George Craske on 'Pigeon on the Gate'.

 

The tune was also recorded in East Anglia from Reg Reader (dulcimer), Percy Brown, Walter Pardon, Fred List, Fred Pearce, Font Whatling, George Woolnough, Bert Mayes, Cecil Pearl, Geoff Ling, Dolly Curtis, Reg Bacon and John Mitchell (melodeon) and Herbert Smith (fiddle).

 

With thanks to Steve Dumpleton and Jeannie Harris.

 

For a further discussion of this tune and song and the lyrics, written by the song collector Mike Yates and originally published on the Kyloe Records website (now inoperative), click here.

 


Home      News      Diary of events    About EATMT     Friends of EATMT     

What are the musical traditions of East Anglia?

Traditional Music Day     Melodeons & More      Workshops, classes & schools      Community Projects       

          Profiles of traditional musicians        Research         Jig Dolls        Dulcimers     Stepdancing

Resources      Shop        Links      Press Room