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Save the Hornpipe!

by Vose ~ October 29th, 2008

“Save the Hornpipe!”  That is the cry and motto of the N.H.P.S – the National Hornpipe Preservation Society.  Hornpipes are lovely tunes generally written in 2/4 or 4/4 time nowadays, that have a jaunty “dotted rhythm” characterized by a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note.  They are also an “Endangered Species” as hornpipes are being “Reelized” at an alarming rate!
One reason for this “Reelization” seems to be the desire to play them at a faster, reel tempo – hence obliterating the poor dotted notes.  Generally, contra dance fiddlers are the most serious offenders here.  Another contributing factor is the habit of writing out the tune as a reel to save writing all those dotted and flagged notes.  When done this way, it is only good form to at least remember to put the word “hornpipe” in the notes.  One should NEVER delete the word hornpipe if it appears in the title.  Ex.:  Harvest Home rather than Harvest Home Hornpipe.
How many wonderful hornpipes have been lost?  One can only guess.  One of the hallmarks of a hornpipe are the last 3 notes of the A and/or B parts of the tune that go:  bump, bump, bump –  Look through your music – YOU may discover a long lost hornpipe!
Fortunately there are now nearly 50 members of the N.H.P.S. nation wide – some are also SRSNH members! These brave souls have sworn to do their part to save the hornpipe by playing hornpipes, sharing the story of the hornpipe, and by (gently) correcting a musician who plays a hornpipe as a reel.  This last bit of heroism should be undertaken cautiously as currently the Society does not have any insurance to cover medical claims that may result.
The Fall Membership Campaign is in full swing at this time!  Persons interested in becoming lifetime members of the N.H.P.S. should see Sandy Lafleur or contact her at  Membership is $2 and includes a “Save the Hornpipe” button.   There are no other dues or meetings.  No, there is not as yet a Web site – this is a “Society” NOT an “Organization” . . . .
My prediction is that many years from now musicologists will look back on this grass roots movement, which started in southern NH, as an important event in musical history!  You can be part of that!

–Sandy Lafleur
Chief Cook and Bottlewasher, N.H.P.S.

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