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Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused

Stower 27 Aug 09 - 05:26 AM
Jack Campin 27 Aug 09 - 05:47 AM
Leadfingers 27 Aug 09 - 06:04 AM
Jack Campin 27 Aug 09 - 06:56 AM
Stower 27 Aug 09 - 02:15 PM
Jack Campin 27 Aug 09 - 03:31 PM
Stower 28 Aug 09 - 05:07 AM
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Subject: Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused
From: Stower
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 05:26 AM

I play this lovely piece and I always like to say a bit about what I'm playing, but I am confused by the apparent contradictions of various sources on this tune. I would be so happy to have misinformation corrected.

Kathryn Tickell says she learned Da Day Dawn from Tom Anderson, who said it was the oldest Shetland tune he knew, possibly dating back to Norse times (though this cannot possibly be verified, I'd say), and that it was traditionally played on Christmas morning in Shetland. She notes (in her album notes for Ensemble Mystical) that Tom Anderson said it was traditionally played first thing on Yule morning. However, Yule is another name for the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, 21st December. This confusion is repeated often in relation to this tune, some commentators stating it was played on Christmas morning, some on the Winter Solstice. In Shetland, is/was Yule used as another name for Christmas Day rather than the Winter Solstice?

However, Peter Cooke, in his The Fiddle Tradition of the Shetland Isles (Cambridge Studies in Ethnomusicology, 1986), states that it was the custom of certain Shetland fiddlers to play this tune in the house early on New Year's morning. Having stated this, he concludes by remarking that the playing of a melody of this name as part of a *Winter Solstice* ritual in the Shetlands seems to have passed long ago.

Huh? So was this tune traditionally played on the Winter Solstice. on Christmas Day, or New Year's Day?

Is there an extra piece if information that makes sense of this, are commentators repeating misinformation, or is there genuine folkloric confusion? Please help!


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Subject: RE: Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 05:47 AM

According to John Graham's The Shetland Dictionary, "yöl" means "Chrismas and the festive season".

I play the tune far slower than Anderson does on record, but I learnt it from people who learnt it from him. Maybe he played it faster as he got older.


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Subject: RE: Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 06:04 AM

Dont forget that the Early Church 'borrowed' a lot of the Pagan feast times for the Christian celebrations ! So the Winter Solstcie became Christms !


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Subject: RE: Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 06:56 AM

According to the Up-Helly-Aa page

There is some evidence that people in rural Shetland celebrated the 24th day after Christmas as "Antonsmas" or "Up Helly Night", but there is no evidence that their cousins in Lerwick did the same. The emergence of Yuletide and New Year festivities in the town seems to post-date the Napoleonic Wars, when soldiers and sailors came home with rowdy habits and a taste for firearms.

so it doesn't seem to have much to do with pagan feasts.


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Subject: RE: Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused
From: Stower
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 02:15 PM

Leadfingers, "Dont forget that the Early Church 'borrowed' a lot of the Pagan feast times for the Christian celebrations! So the Winter Solstcie became Christms!" Yes they did, but I don't think that helps me here.

I did think the confusion may have arise from a conflict of old and new calendars and a mix-up between old Christmas and old New Year. Christmas Day is now 25th December, but old Christmas Day was 6th January; and New Year's Day is now 1st January (and always was in the Gregorian calendar); but in the Middle Ages most of Europe used the Julian calendar where New Year's Day was 25th March. I thought maybe that some commentators had confused old Christmas with old New Year, stating that this tune was played on old New Year's Day, erroneously stated as 6th January, which was old Christmas. (Mmmm, I *think* I stated that clearly.)

Jack Campin seems to have part of the answer. If "yöl" on Shetland means "Chrismas and the festive season", then it's possible, I think, that a Shetlander might say "yöl" morning, meaning Christmas morning, though to anyone else "Yule" strictly means the Winter Solstice, 21st December. So that would make it a matter of cultural confusion.

But this is guesswork. Are there any Shetlanders or folklorists who could confirm or refute this? But this doesn't resolve Peter Cooke's assertion that it was played by Shetland fiddlers on New Year's morning. Did he just get it wrong?


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Subject: RE: Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 03:31 PM

Just looked this up in a book I hadn't got round to reading: Katherine Campbell, The Fiddle in Scottish Culture, John Donald, 2007. There are two pages on it (62-3). I'm not going to type it all, but Yule definitely meant Christmas (as it always did to me, and I've never been to Shetland). She references accounts from the early 19th century to 1947.

The version of the tune she reproduces looks much more like the march of Anderson's recorded version than the parlando slow air version I learnt from who-knows-who (more or less what's in Haand Me Doon Da Fiddle). She refers to another transcription without reproducing it.

The tune was never played on any other day.


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Subject: RE: Da Day Dawn (Shetland) - I'm confused
From: Stower
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 05:07 AM

That's great, Jack. Thank you so much for looking that up!

My guess is that, in regard to this tune, someone erroneously wrote something they misremembered or misunderstood which others took as authoritative (because, like me, they don't know any different) and it just gets repeated as fact (like oft-repeated 'facts' about the Mediaeval period which are completely wrong but widely circulated - but don't get me started on that one ...)   

Thanks again, Jack.

Stower


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