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Jim Krause CD Review: Guardian Angels by MCV (4) CD Review: Guardian Angels by MCV 18 Jan 03

One of the things that I most enjoy about the subject of folk music is the way that study will lead you down paths you least expected. Such is my growing interest in the traditional repertoire of the fife.
        I have long had an interest in American traditional fiddling, especially that of the area around Virginia, West Virginia, and western North Carolina. In studying fiddle music from this area, I of course began to note its roots in the British Isles.   And from there I also found common threads in midwestern fiddling and New England fiddling.
        Some years ago, a friend gave me a book entitled Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife, subtitled Instrumental Folk Tunes in Pennsylvania written by Samuel Bayard (Pennsylvania State University Press 1982). In this volume I began to see not only the British roots of the fiddle music I enjoyed playing, but also the common repertoire shared amongst the fiddlers and fifers of western Pennsylvania. Fiddlers borrowed from fifers, and fifers played fiddle tunes. And why not? Almost any good contra dance tune works well as a march. For this and other reasons, I decided to take up yet another instrument, the fife. And in doing so, discovered a wealth of information on the fife tradition.
        It seems that the fife and drum corps tradition has been alive and well in the Connecticut Valley of New England for over two hundred years, stretching westward into upstate New York, and southward into Pennsylvania. Right in the center of this activity is Middlesex County, MA home of the Middlesex County Volunteers, a fife and drum corps. The musicians that make up MCV range in age and vocation from 16 up, students to aerospace engineers, school teachers to truck drivers.
        While surfing the net, I found their website, clicked on a link and listened enraptured to a sample cut from their Christmas CD. I had to have a recording of theirs. And to my delight, on Christmas Day I found under the tree a copy of Guardian Angels.
        This is a most impressive recording. The arrangements are quite sophisticated, some in four parts, many in three parts. Of special interest is their arrangement of the "Lazarus" variant they call "Guilderoy" that most listeners will recognize as "Star of the County Down."    They perform dance tunes, marches and martial music with equal ability, arrangements often being credited to members of the group. One of my favorite selections is a pair of marches from the 18th century grouped in a medley titled "March Past." It consists of the title cut "Guardian Angels" and "York Fusiliers."
        Not all of the music on Guardian Angels has that harrump-ta-dump martial beat, far from it. Some of the arrangements are as delicate as any baroque chamber music. One example of really nifty arranging is "Martini's Minuet" written by an acquaintance of G. F. Handel's named St. Martini arranged by MCV Drum Instructor James Martin Clark.
        Guardian Angels is available directly from the Middlesex County Volunteers by clicking here. Check out their other recordings, too.


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