2021-01 Tune of the Month - Ash Grove

  1. HonketyHank
    The Tune of the Month for January 2021 is "Ash Grove". Here is a link to the Song A Week thread.

    "Ash Grove" is the English translation of the title of the Welsh folk tune "Llwyn Onn" or "Llewellyn". It first appeared in print in 1802; probable predecessors were known to exist around a hundred years before that. One such, "Beauty In Tears", was attributed to O'Carolan by Francis O'Neill, but this attribution is disputed.

    With such a simple yet "catchy" melody, one can expect to find many variants and alternative lyrics. "Ash Grove" is proof. I found three Christian hymns set to the tune. Also a Thanksgiving seasonal song. A Christmas song, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", sounds very similar to "Ash Grove", at least to me. And numerous bawdy, humorous, raucous, obscene, or bizarre versions exist. One set of verses, said to be sung by certain rugby fans to insult the opposing team's players, can be described as "All of the above". If I quoted any of those verses, I would be banned from Mandolin Cafe for life.

    There is an old piano score for the tune and variations in the Wikipedia article on "Ash Grove". I thought it might be interesting to see how it goes. The first (and huge) stumbling block was the key signature - six flats. Six. I had to dig out my circle of fifths to figure out what key that is (G-flat). Which is equivalent to the key of F-sharp, if that helps you any. Come onnnn! Couldn't the arranger of that score have bumped it up a half step so mere mortals could read it?

    Oh well. For playable versions, check out thesession.org and mandozine.com.

    The melody seems to beg for ornamentation but I tend to like it played simply and not so fast. The (original) words are, after all, quite wistful. But it is always interesting to hear various interpretations. If you can imagine this tune as bluegrass, OldSausage (David Mold) has an interesting take on it in the SAW thread.

    Here are a few I harvested from YouTube:

    K Jackson on mandolin with several variations:

    Hey, if you have a smartphone, you too can make videos.

    David Hansen (playing the "Beauty In Tears" version) on octave mandolin:

    David's videos are always a treat.

    Sue Richards and Maggie Sansone playing Celtic harp and hammer dulcimer:

    This tune seems to be made for harp or hammer dulcimer. Or both.
  2. Swimbob
    Wow Hank! That first video has some incredible cross picking in it. Absolutely above my skill level but a beautiful melody. This one may take me more than a month to learn.
  3. phb256

    I tried the simplest version I could find, and it still gave me trouble. Working on it though.
  4. HonketyHank
    Good job, phb. And that mandocello sounds nice - deep and vibrant. We don't have prizes but you definitely beat everyone to the punch.
  5. Dick Dery
    Dick Dery
  6. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Nice job on that full grown long neck mandolin, phb256.

    Here's my version, played very slowly. I tuned the 4th course to D for this one.

  7. HonketyHank
    Sounds nice, Mark. Did you post this sometime back in our history? I think I remember it, but half of what I remember didn't really happen and the other half is worthy of skepticism.
  8. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    I have no idea Henry. What? Who, me?

    I know for certain I posted it in SAW thread for Beauty In Tears but no idea whether I posted it here. Until this thread I had no idea it was so similar to Ash Grove
  9. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Good work, gentlemen. It's a pretty tune, isn't it.
  10. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    Nice work Pbh; great sound from that instrument. And Mark's Beauty In Tears has a ringing tone to it. Why did you alter your tuning for this one?

    My version is from Dan Fox's book Mandolin Gold in the key of F. Mr Fox also provides the proper lyrics which I have included as they are quite pretty.
  11. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    The vocals are a great addition, maudlin mandolin.

    Here's my version, as short and plain as can be.

  12. HonketyHank
    Nice pickin' and singin' maudlin -- and an interesting variation.

    Louise, that was smooooooth. Including that high E. My pinkie doesn't do smooth like that.
  13. bbcee
    Nice job, everyone!! Quite a variety of approaches.

    I really wanted to give that crosspicking version posted at the top a go, but just didn't have the time to invest this month.
  14. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Yes very cool to hear the vocals, Maudlin. Great job there, and Louise NM I echo Henry's comments, so smoothly and expertly rendered with great cadence and feeling. Love it!

    "Mark's Beauty In Tears has a ringing tone to it. Why did you alter your tuning for this one?"
    Only thing I did was to tune the G string down to D ... so I could play the last note each time (a D note) in four octaves. I liked the sound of playing the last note in octaves, by playing the D string along with D notes on the A & E strings. Then, since the G string was not used at all in my playing of this tune, I decided to lower it so I could let all four strings ring D note octaves at that place. Also, the version I filmed was the second take, but I had done fairly well on the first take and had it recorded in my DAW on a second track, so I decided to add the first take back in on the second repeat which seemed to add some "chorus" effect to the performance.
  15. HonketyHank
    Here is my Ash Grove. Key of D.

  16. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Pretty, Hank. Sweet and simple, which is what this tune seems to want. I like how your eighth notes just kind of roll down the hill.
  17. Swimbob
    Wow! Everyone seems to have nailed this one. I learned it in D, G, and A from watching different videos of it on YouTube but my favorite by far is D. It turned out that it wasn't as hard as at first I thought it would be.

    I wish I could post it but I don't have the time to figure out the technology.

    Everyone did a great job this month.
  18. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Very, very nice, Henry, both the sound of the Weber and your playing of it.
  19. HonketyHank
    Thanks guys. FWIW that is a Kimble. I am very fortunate to have been chosen by fate to take care of two wonderful two-pointers -- this Kimble and a Weber Yellowstone.

    Also FWIW, I am getting a bit tired of the autofocus feature of my webcam. By and large I do like the Logitech C920 that I have been using, especially the software that comes with it. But if it detects movement in its field of view, the autofocus kicks in and does a bit of "in and out" to get the sharpest overall image. Usually this is not very noticeable, but sometimes it is and often what you really want to be sharp is not. So in this video, my shirt is in good focus but the mandolin is not.

    I have been looking at Amazon for the options for a webcam with manual focus. They are a bit cheaper than autofocus but prices are pretty high for all webcams due to high demand from remote learning during the epidemic. But I am not in a hurry, I have lots of free time, and so I don't mind scouring what is out there. And like I said, the C920 has been and still is a good webcam. And the epidemic demand for webcams has to be pretty much filled by now, so prices may get better.
  20. phb256
    Nice sounds, Hank. i especially like the red bear watching in rapt attention.
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