the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

UK terminology

'fidler' means pipe and tabor player

based upon a paper by Micheal Heaney
"Must every fiddler play a fiddle?"

1. `fiddler' may be used generally in reference to any musician, 1816
It seems that the term was used loosely to refer to any musician, especially a musician low on the social scale.

“nothing is so amusing as a drunken fiddler, the whole of the Musicians coming under this title whatever instrument they may play.”

and musicians engaged to play for balls

“are treated worse than . . . servants, and never, or seldom spoken to, but...
generally addressing them, and speaking of them, by the names of fiddlers

Thomas Wilson' Companion to the Ballroom' (1816) pages 215-16

 

2. `fiddler' may be used in reference to a pipe-and-taborer player
1613
John Ayly, an alehouse-keeper in Essex, was presented in the archdeacon's court

"for suffering of a fiddler to play with taber and pipe in his house upon
the 9 of May, being the sabbath day, in time of divine service".
J A Sharpe in `Crime and delinquency in an Essex parish 1600-1640,'in Crime in England 1550-1800, ed J.S. Cockburn (1977)

1636 Henry Burton ‘A divine tragedie lately acted' recounts that

“Also at Battersey neer London, the last year a notable example of God's judgement befell a fiddler, the youth of the town of both sexes, being assembled solemnly to set up a garland upon their May-pole, and having got a tabor and pipe for the purpose, he with
the pipe in his mouth, fell down dead and never spake word" .

Henry Burton (1578 – 1648) Rector of St. Matthew's Church, Friday Street, London, was a famous Puritan in his time. 'A Divine Tragedie lately acted, or a Collection of sundry memorable examples of God's Judgements upon Sabbath Breakers, and other like Libertines in their unlawful Sports, happening within the realme of England, in the compass only of two yeares last past, since the Booke (of Sports) was published, worthy to be knowne and considered of all men, especially such who are guilty of the sinne, or archpatrons thereof.' ‘A divine tragedie lately acted' is a morality tale designed to demonstrate the wages of sin and the range of God's punishment for transgressors. Example 45 (1641edn, p 20)

in 1589

“one H . Parkes, a musician accompanying a group of morris dancers, is referred to as ` the fiddler ' by the Vice of the dancers.”
Canterbury Cathedral Library, JQ 1589 recounted by Peter Clark in ‘The English alehouse' (1979), 129-30. Since the accompaniment for morris dancing at Oxfordshire Whitsun Ales from 18th century onwards was the pipe-and-tabor, there are very strong grounds for believing that this particular fiddler played the pipe-and-tabor.

in 1811

" On Saturday died, at Easton, near this City, aged 94, Mr. John
Bucksey, better known for more than half a century, through the
greatest part of the counties of Hants and Sussex, by the name of
Old Bucksey the Fiddler; his usual instrument, however, was the
pipe and tabor. - Few men, in his humble walk of life, were so well
known to the fashionable and gay world."

The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 14 January 1811, 3

also reported as;

"At Easton, near Winchester, aged 94 years, Mr. John Bucksey, a
well-known pipe and tabor player, who has assisted in promoting
the merry dance to at least three generations of the gay and sprightly"
Jackson's Oxford Journal, 19 January 1811

 

Oxford English Dictionary under morris:

`The Fidler comes in with his Taber and Pipe, and a whole Morice after him with Motley Visards' (Harsnet, Pop. Impost .)

 

3. fiddle to accompany morris dancing
Musicians could be proficient on both instruments.

`Their musician, John Williams, played fiddle and whittle and dub, but all preferred to dance to the latter'

C.J . Sharp, collecting from nineteenth-century dancers, noted from a former dancer of Leafield, Oxfordshire

The fiddle took over from pipe and tabor player in the late 19th century. The pipe-and-tabor had been the traditional accompaniment to the morris dance. In the nineteenth century pipe-and-tabor commentators remarked on the fact, and older dancers complained that, they could not dance to fiddle accompaniment .

`The dancing was very creditably performed, but we cannot approve of the substitution of a squeaking fiddle for the appropriate, and to our mind, orthodox "tabor and pipe" .'
Jackson's Oxford Journal of 29 May 1858, p 8, report on the Whitsun morris dancing at Bampton, Oxfordshire

edit by frances


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