Morpeth Rant is one of those tunes that I have heard a number of times, but never had tried to play it until a couple of days ago when I was playing through Cole’s 1000 fiddle tunes, and recognizing the title (Morpeth’s Hornpipe), I gave it a go, and it was fun so I learned it. Tonight, when I was preparing, I looked for other recordings of it, and it seems that the common key for it today is D rather than Bb, and the B part is slightly different than (and IMHO not quite as cool as) the version I learned. Being a fan of flat keys, and having just been asked by Linda Relph to play some more Flat-Key Hornpipes, I thought it would be a good choice for today.
Morpeth Rant According to the Fiddler’s Companion
MORPETH RANT . AKA- “Morepeth Rant.” AKA and see “Morpeth’s Hornpipe,” Ivy Leaf Hornpipe,” “Jim Clark’s Hornpipe,” “Clark’s Hornpipe ,” “The New Sailor’s Hornpipe,” “Prince of Wales’ Hornpipe,” “Princess of Wales’ Hornpipe,” “Shield’s Hornpipe,” “West’s Hornpipe,” “Wood’s Hornpipe.” English (originally), Scottish, Irish, New England; Reel. England; North‑West and Northumberland. D Major (Barnes, Brody, Hall & Stafford, Karpeles, Kennedy, Miller & Perron, O’Neill, Phillips, Raven, Sweet): G Major (Knowles): B Flat Major (Phillips/1995). Standard tuning. ABB’ (Hardie): AABB (most versions): AA’BB’ (Phillips/1994). The composition is often attributed to William Shields (1748-1829), a popular 18th century musician and composer originally from Swalwell, near Gateshead, Northumberland. However, as Barry Callaghan (2007) and others have pointed out, Shields often appropriated traditional or folk melodies, and “Morpeth Rant” may not be original to him. The town of Morpeth is in Northumberland, a market center on the River Wansbeck serving the surrounding rural areas and the villages of the Northumbrian coalfield (Graham Dixon). It evolved around a Norman fortress called Morpeth Castle, one of several guarding the east coast routes to Scotland. A special dance specifically to this tune has been performed for over almost two centuries, and the dance itself is called the Morpeth Rant. Like many such dances numerous tunes could be used as the vehicle for the steps. One version is also used as a morris dance tune. The title appears in Henry Robson’s list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes (“The Northern Minstrel’s Budget”), which he published c. 1800. “Older versions of the tune are generally in B Flat, sometimes G, and have a wider range in the ‘B’ part than the version usually played nowadays” (Seattle)—see note for “Morpeth Rant ” for more on these. Callaghan notes that the Kerr publication (c. 1880’s) of the tune (generically titled “Hornpipe”) includes the ‘new’ version of the ‘B’ part, and it is perhaps from this source that the version most often heard today came from. This version, explains Callaghan, was picked up in the EFDSS’s Community Dance Manual No. 1 in 1949, and cemented with subsequent recordings, such as the by Jack Armstrong in 1950.