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The music of The Dartmoor Fiddler at the Wren Dartmoor Fiddle Day

The violin used by a 19th century musician who became known as The Dartmoor Fiddler is playing his tunes again – and it’s all set for a star turn at the Wren Dartmoor Fiddle Day.

William Andrew’s fiddle was recently restored after his great granddaughter realised its significance and took it into an Exeter violin shop to be dated and repaired. It will be making a ‘guest appearance’ at the Dartmoor Fiddle Day, which fittingly this year, is entirely in William Andrew’s honour. Organised by Devon-based music and education charity Wren Music, it’s a day of workshops exploring the tunes of William Andrew, with tutors Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll.

In the morning, there are sessions for improvers and more experienced players, while the afternoon includes a ‘Dartmoor Folk Orchestra’ for players of all abilities as well as other acoustic instruments. The day is being held at Fairplace United Church in Okehampton on Saturday 23rd June and ties in with the Dartmoor Resonance Festival taking place at the same time.

William Andrew would play old dance tunes at local inns and special occasions – and in 1892, the famous song collector Sabine Baring-Gould visited him as part of his quest to collect traditional songs of the South West. William played to the visitor for two hours and loaned him one of his manuscript tune books to copy.

Becki Driscoll said: “There aren’t that many collections of tunes from the South West, so it’s nice to give the ones we do have a platform. In fact, it was unusual for Baring-Gould to collect tunes because he usually collected songs. If he hadn’t visited William Andrew that day, we probably wouldn’t know about a lot of these tunes.”

Nick Wyke recorded a selection of hornpipe and dance tunes from William’s repertoire on the restored fiddle at Devon Strings Workshop in Exeter, including Old Adam The Poacher, The Imperial Quickstep, Moll In The Wad and Trip To The Cottage. “We know Trip To The Cottage is one of the tunes also collected by the novelist Thomas Hardy,” said Nick. “Hardy collected loads of traditional tunes, and he lived not very far away in Dorset so the tunes would have been learned and moved on, perhaps by farm workers or travelling musicians.”

Wren Music now hopes to update and re-issue The William Andrew Tune Book, which has the sheet music of 30 of the collected tunes.