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Welcome to the Traditional Tune Archive
The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish traditional instrumental music with annotation, formerly known as
The Fiddler's Companion.

Featured Tunes

Sir William Sidney Smith (1764-1840), Admiral

Listen to the featured tunes of the weekSIR SIDNEY SMITH'S MARCH. AKA – “Handel’s Gavotte.” English, March. G Major. Standard tuning. AABB. Composed by James Hook (1746-1827), an organist and composer originally from Norwich (see also “Lass of Richmond Hill”). The march is associated with Northumberland musicians, and is often regarded as traditional. Hook was born in Maddermarket, Norwich, England, and had a club foot, as a result of which he was known as ‘The Cripple of Maddermarket’, but he showed prodigious talent at a very early age, writing his first ballad opera at age eight. He was appointed organist at the Vauxhall pleasure gardens, and later (in 1769) organist and composer at the Marylebone Gardens. His music was immensely popular, and he was much admired for his talent, generosity and jovial manner. Unfortunately later in life, after the death of his wife, he went into decline and became withdrawn and depressed, dying in Boulogne, France, in poverty.

Sir William Sidney Smith (1764-1840) was a British admiral and naval hero during the Napoleonic Wars, especially remembered for his defence of Acre against Napoleon in 1799. Smith apparently liked to think of himself as a second (Horatio) Nelson, and in fact he was instrumental along with that more famous admiral in ending Bonaparte’s dreams of eastern conquest. It is unfortunate that while Nelson became a national hero of immense proportions, Smith remains all but forgotten. There was a rivalry between the two, as well as friendship, and Smith hoped to snatch Nelson’s laurels by destroying the combined French and Spanish fleets with newly invented rockets and torpedoes before Nelson fought the enemy decisively at sea off Cape Trafalgar in 1806.

Sir Sidney led a colorful life. An adventurer as was as strategist and naval expert, he had been imprisoned as a spy in Paris, with the threat of execution, until he made a daring escape. He was a diplomat with a flair for the theatrical, and returned to London from the Middle East wearing Arab robes, presaging Lawrence of Arabia a century later. It may be no surprise that Smith lived in Paris, the capital of his former enemy, for the last twenty-five years of his life.

It has been said that this tune had origins in the composer George Friedrich Handel’s music, although this is not confirmed, and certainly Handel incorporated English music he heard and adapted it for his own purposes. The tune does appear in England’s John Clare music manuscript as “Handel’s Gavotte.” Bryan Creer finds the first two bars of “Sir Sydney” in Handel’s “A virtuous wife shall soften fortune’s frown” from Susanna. The tune is also popular in southern English sessions.

SIR SIDNEY SMITH'S MARCH full annotations and Past Featured Tunes

T:Sir Sydney Smith’s March
C: James Hook
B/c/|dd dd|ed cB|d/c/B/c/ Ad/c/|B/c/A/B/ Gd/c/|B/d/B/d/ A/d/A/d/|
G/d/G/d/ G/F/d/c/|G/c/d/e/ d^c|d3:|
|:A/G/|F/D/F/A/ d/A/B/c/|B2 Bd/c/|B/G/B/d/ g/d/e/=f/|(e2 eg/f/|
e/g/e/g/ d/g/d/g/|c/g/c/g/ B/g/B/g/|e/g/e/g/ d/g/d/g/|c/g/c/g/ B/g/B/g/|
ed cB|ed cB|ed cB|BA AB/c/|dd dd|ed cB|d/c/B/c/ Ad/c/|
B/c/A/B/ Gd/c/|B/d/B/d/ A/d/A/d/|G/d/G/d/ F/d/F/d/|E/d/E/d/ F/d/F/d/|
G/d/G/d/ A/d/A/d/|E/d/E/d/ F/d/F/d/|G/d/G/d/ A/d/A/d/|c/e/d/c/ BA|(G2 G):|

Why TTA Who builds the Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.

This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.

Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

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