Notes on the Tunes

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4. Lady Hamilton

Marcus Martin learned this from J. D. Harris, who regularly fiddled for political rallies in the late 1800s. Martin’s setting uses G modal fingering, but his fiddle is tuned a step low, sounding as if played in F. Noteworthy is that the Library of Congress setting includes a fifth part with C fingering that seems “disconnected.” Other area fiddlers played it, so it may have been a regular part of the tune.(Blech) But neither  Kentucky fiddler Manco Snead nor Marcus Martin includes this part in the 1963 Peter Hoover recordings. So perhaps it was “optional” and I have chosen not to include it.

So who was the lady in question? An unrelated Scottish reel by this name composed in 1795 may hold the answer. It commemorates Emma Hart (1765-1815), who married Sir William Hamilton. She was beautiful, charming, and “entertained guests with her ‘attitudes,’ a kind of Romantic aesthetic posturing achieved with the aid of shawls and classical draperies.”(Kuntz) Featured in no less than 20 paintings, she was mistress to Lord Horatio Nelson until his death at the Battle of Trafalger. So with Lady Hamilton’s international fame, who else could our tune be about, even if it isn’t the same tune?

Chris’ Strad FCGD (GDAE)