There’s really nothing in life quite like pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, and fiddle tune a day has been a great way for me to do this. We got today’s tune in just under the wire. It was recorded at 11:46PM with me, Lydia, Terry Ludiker, and Bob Gardner. We pulled it off just under the wire, thanks to Megan Lynch’s amazing video camera work. It was cold and late, so what better way to expand the boundaries of my comfort zone than to play one of the hardest Bb Hornpipe’s that I know. So we played Bee’s Wings Hornpipe, which is a beast, if I do say so myself.
I first heard Bee’s Wings as part of a medley on a Danita Rast (now Gardner) cassette tape. The other tune in the medley was Good for the Tongue. Danita really rocked these tunes, and I am pretty sure that this medley was the beginning of my fascination with Bb hornpipes.
Bee’s Wing according to Fiddler’s Companion
BEE’S WING HORNPIPE. AKA ‑ “The Bee’s Wing.” English (originally), Scottish, Canadian, Irish; Hornpipe or Clog. Canada, Cape Breton. B Flat Major. Standard tuning. AABB (Brody, Cole, Cranford/Holland, McNulty): AABBCCDD’ (Hunter). Composed by the 19th century Gateshead (near Newcastle), northern England, composer James Hill, originally born in Dundonia, Scotland (nicknamed the “Newcastle Paganini”). The “Bee’s Wing” has become in modern times one of the most popular Scottish fiddle hornpipes. It is attributed to Hill in Kohler’s Violin Repository and was named after a famous Newcastle racehorse, a mare. Bee’s Wing was foaled in 1833, sired by Dr. Syntax (1811-1838), a champion in his own right, and was bred by William Orde, a former Member of Parliament who had inherited an estate at Nunnykirk, near Morpeth, Northumberland. Bee’s Wing won the Newcastle Gold Cup six times, the Doncaster Gold Cup four times, and the Ascot Gold Cup in 1842—in her career she started 64 times and won an astounding 51 races. So great was her fame that when she retired in 1842, to be put to pasture as a broodmare at Nunnykirk, Northumberland, the whole town of Morpeth turned out to greet her on her return. A local pub was renamed in her honor (and it is possible the tune was named with the pub in mind, as well as the racehorse). [Ed: for more on Bee’s Wing see http://www.tbheritage.com/Portraits/BeesWing.html]. A note in Ryan’s/Cole’s indicates the tune “can be used as a clog.” “The Bee’s Wing” is one of the tunes sometimes requested of Shetland fiddlers because “anything composed in a flat key is considered to be a real test of a fiddler’s ability” (Cooke, 1986). Irish fiddler Sean Maguire composed a famous set of variations to Hill’s melody. See also O’Neill’s related “Southern Shore.” Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 39. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; pg. 91. Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 55, pg. 23. Hunter (Fiddle Music of Scotland), 1988; No. 337.Kohler’s Violin Repository (Edinburgh), 1881-1885. McNulty (Dance Music of Ireland), 1965; pg. 23. Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1883; pg. 126. Olympic 6151, Arthur Robertson‑ “Scottish Traditional Fiddle Music” (1978). Rounder 7005, Carl Mackenzie‑ “Welcome To Your Feet Again.” Rounder RO 7023, Natalie MacMaster – “No Boundaries” (1996. Learned from Dave MacIsaac). Viva W103, Sean McGuire – “Irish Jigs and Reels” (c. 1960’s, a reissue of “Sean Maguire Plays,” the first recording of McGuire that Josephine Keegan accompanied on piano). Voyager 320‑S, Frank Ferrel‑ “Fiddle Tunes.”