Two traditions divided by a common repertoire
An excerpt from a presentation given to the Northumbrian Pipers teaching week at Whitley Bay earlier this year

The theme of this presentation was the comparison of tunes common to both the Northumbrian and Lowland Scots repertoires and the ways in which these tunes evolved. The excerpt described here concerns the tune ‘Sugar Candy’ and its variants. The Willliam Vickers fiddle manuscript contains two tunes which though they are clearly separate in the compiler’s mind, have much in common and may possibly have a common origin.
It is not the intention to analyse in detail here all the various versions discussed at the original presentation; rather, to show the two strands of the material, from each side of the border and to invite further comments on the nature of their relationship, not just in terms of melodic similarities or differences, but also in the way in which choice of mode and harmonic pattern have been exploited to create different results. In-depth comparisons of these provides an interesting exercise in the way such basic repertoire has been constructed and extended (not to mention the morphosis of titles).

Lasses Pisses Brandy - Wm Vickers, c.1770

Sweet as Sugar Candy - Bewick, c.1830 (very similar to Vickers’ tune with this title)

Sheugare Candie - Blaikie, Viola de Gamba MS, c.1692, Aberdeen (?)

(There is a similar version in the Balcarres Lute Book, c.1695)

Lasses Booses Brandy - John Bell, 1812

“Old wives booses gin, The lasses booses brandy; Give the lasses what ye will, But dinna give them brandy” (From Bell’s ‘Rhymes of Northern Bards’) Robertson’s Northern Minstrel’s Budget has ‘The Lasses love Wine and Sugar Candy’

Lasses Drink at Brandy - David Young, MacFarlane MS, c.1740

The full 12 strain setting is printed in ‘Welcome Home My Dearie’. This is surely one of the masterpieces of the repertoire