SSS Orchestra 2 Champion Fretless banjo from c.1890 - Rob MacKillop - lots of banjo-related stuff there. I need to spend a lot more time with this instrument, but I'm enjoying getting back into it.

  • Currently 5/5 stars.

Views: 219

Comment by Joel Hooks on April 14, 2019 at 3:04

Much of the titles come from Gilbert and Sullivan or other pop culture references.

“Too Utterly Too” Clog Dance-- Oscar Wilde (and any "Aesthetic" by that time).

Aesthetic Clog Dance-- Wilde and G&S "Patience"

Dick Deadeye Hornpipe-- G&S "HMS Pinafore"

(I would not be reaching to think that most of the sailing references were inspired by this popular operetta or "Pirates of Penzance," including "Twisted Rope" as actors were directed to be splicing and knotting rope on stage).

I am sure that there were relevant popular culture references for the rest that are lost to time.

Many use the "walk around" intro (8th, rest, 8th, rest) this was associated with a minstrel show dance where dancers would walk around the theater and show their moves.  It was rooted in stage performance program as opposed to "folk dance."

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 14, 2019 at 6:08

Thanks for the link, Joel.

Jody, you might be on to something. I'm also fascinated by the melodic leaps and contours of the clog dances, with the dancers trying to be as "light and airy" while somewhat comically wearing heavy wooden shoes. The rhythms in Twisted Rope and similar pieces might also be related to tap dance. Someone with more time and energy could write a doctoral thesis on Baur's book alone. 

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 14, 2019 at 6:16

Joel, I mention in the introduction to my edition of the Baur, that there are four main detectable strands therein: traditional Irish-American music, tunes associated with Gilbert and Sullivan, clog dances, and old minstrel show connections, such as the walk arounds. So I entirely agree with you. Of course, the minstrel shows might well have had all four strands on display.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 14, 2019 at 6:29

On a more technical note, the book is replete with pull offs, yet I haven't seen one single hammer on. Does that mean he didn't use them, or used them so often he didn't feel the need to notate them? 

He also uses the left-hand striking of the open first string a lot, always after playing the second string first fret. In C -system tuning that would be when going from a c to an open g. I've seen it in many 19th-century banjo scores, but I can't recall seeing it in 20th-century scores. Either it was only associated with stroke technique, or just fell out of fashion. 

Comment by carrie horgan on April 14, 2019 at 8:05

Great to see you playing the banjo again, Rob.  Your videos and accompanying book are what first got me into exploring Classic banjo (you are also responsible for me getting into tenor banjo!). Is this your main 'jo at present - I think you sold most of your banjos?  I recall you played a beautiful tubaphone banjo by Eric Stefanelli.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 14, 2019 at 9:25

Hi Carrie. Thanks for the that. So, you are blaming me?! Haha, I'm sure you've now learned to listen to the real greats of the classic banjo, many of whom have recorded on wax cylinders and the like. 

My current armoury: this fretless SSS Champion/Orchestra2 with a 12" pot and 19 "fret positions",  and a Temlett (English c.1900) with an 11" pot and 22 frets. 

However, I have a fretted version of the Orchestra2 on its way from the US. Let's hope it arrives in one piece!

Yes, sadly I sold all my other banjos when I was going through a difficult time, including the great Stefanelli tubaphone, which was bought by Bill Evans. Such a pity, but that's life. That said, my focus now is on the late 19th-century gut-strung banjos for what Converse called "guitar style" playing. 

Oh, I've just remembered a cheap old tenor banjo under the bed...never touch it. 

Comment by carrie horgan on April 14, 2019 at 15:35

Well, the Stefanelli has gone to a good home.  I have never seen a Stefanelli for sale on the used market which says something!  My 'keepers' for classic style are a CE Special 22 fret and a SS Stewart banjeaurine.  Glad to see you back playing the banjo.  

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 14, 2019 at 15:51

Ah, I love the banjeaurine! Have you made any videos with that, Carrie?

Comment by carrie horgan on April 15, 2019 at 11:33

Yes, I have but don't want to hijack your video thread!  Here is a link on youtube:

p.s I am learning El Dorado on tenor banjo from your pdf!

Comment by carrie horgan on April 15, 2019 at 11:35

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Classic-Banjo to add comments!

Join Classic-Banjo

© 2024   Created by thereallyniceman.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service