Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections

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David Johnson has written eloquently about Scottish musicians in England and foreign musicians in Scotland, whilst Fiske’s Scotland in Music: a European Enthusiasm bears witness to the zeal with which those outside Scotland embraced the Scottish theme. However, in terms of traditional Scottish music in 18th century England, we still tend to think of big names like James Oswald, or Allan Ramsay’s poems in the Tea Table Miscellany, set to music first by William Thomson in 1725 and then by the Edinburgh Alexander Stuart in 1726.
The present paper looks at three intriguing but less famous English collections containing Scottish fiddle tunes. Daniel Wright’s unaccompanied Aria di Camera: being a Choice Collection of Scotch, Irish and Welsh Airs for the Violin and German Flute is roughly contemporary with Thomson and Stuart’s song collections, and includes a doubly pirated flute tutor. His neighbouring rival John Walsh published the Lady’s Banquet in six volumes and varying editions between 1704 and the early 1730s, for the instruction of harpsichordists; the second edition of his fourth volume includes a generous helping of Scottish tunes. Kidson decisively linked Wright to an untitled volume of this book in the Wighton collection, but recent research disproves this. As a Walsh publication, its history is interesting nonetheless.
Lastly, we examine Samuel, Ann and Peter Thompson’s Caledonian Muse from c.1789. Like Wright’s and Walsh’s collections, it has its own tale to tell, this time in the not entirely original preface that precedes the dance tunes. All three collections share one theme: the unashamed repurposing of material from earlier publications.

Bibliographic note

Accepted for publication in online journal


Original languageEnglish
JournalScottish Music Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015
EventMusica Scotica - St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Apr 201526 Apr 2015

Author keywords

  • Scottish fiddle tunes, Scottish songs, 18th century, London