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JOHN OFFORD - Bonny Cumberland: Music From The Manuscripts Of Fiddlers In The Lake District c1750-1880 

JOHN OFFORD - Bonny Cumberland: Music From The Manuscripts Of Fiddlers In The Lake District c1750-1880 
Green Man Music ISBN: 9780955632426 

This is the third collection of tunes issued by the indefatigable John Offord, whose previous publications include the groundbreaking and hugely influential John Of The Green: The Cheshire Way. Here are no less than 480 tunes from the Lake District area - the book could just as easily have been called Bonny Westmorland - and they cover a range of types and styles.

All the music contained here is already available on the internet, mostly due to the fantastic work of the team behind the Village Music Project, but as anyone who has consulted this will know, it is not particularly easy to work with if you are a time-strapped performer. Amongst the gems there is lots of duplication, some very poor and uninteresting material and various oddities of transcription (the original manuscripts that is, not the VMP versions!). So it’s wonderful to have Offord’s sure hand guide us to a selection based on “quality and because many seem to have been locally composed” and they live up to this claim, being well worth considering adding to your repertoire. There are notes on the tunes and the way they have been presented and an introduction pointing up the similarities in material between northern England, Scotland and Ireland. I should have liked the introduction to be longer, but this is purely selfish as I find what he has to say about both the material and playing styles so interesting. There are a few typesetting errors which could easily have been fixed, but this will not affect your enjoyment of what is a particularly fine and useful tunebook. There are riches here.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.