Old Man & the Old Woman, The | Bowing Down Home

About this tune

The Old Man & the Old Woman is a standard part of the repertoire for most Prince Edward Island fiddlers, but it is far less favored in Northeast Kings County than in other regions.

At least some fiddlers report having learned the tune back in the 1930s via broadcasts of Québecois fiddling emanating from CHNC radio in New Carlisle, Québec. Alternative titles such as Québec Reel and Let’s Go, Rustico! are no doubt attributable to this acquisition path (Rustico is an area of major Acadian French concentration). Don Messer and His Islanders also recorded the tune.

On the other hand, there is at least some evidence which suggests that tune’s presence on the Island predates the media age. For one thing, newspaper accounts of the Great Fiddle Contest of 1926 indicate that some of the competitors played a tune called Old Man and Old Woman (to be fair, the reference might have been to Growling Old Man and Woman; in addition, it's not clear that at this early date the tune was even associated with the title, “Old Man and Woman”). Second, nearly all Island fiddlers play the tune in G, but D has been the standard key for almost all recorded versions. Finally, some fiddlers claimed that the tune had been in local circulation for generations; they also knew it by different names. Here are two examples.

We always call that Christmas Rum. That's what my father called it, and all the old people around. It was an old Island tune for years. Some [other] people here calls it The Old Man And The Old Woman.  (Stephen Toole)

We call it The Bottom of the Punchboard. In the stores years ago, they had this punchboard. There were all little holes in it and a key. You paid ten cents for so many punches. Then you punched it, put the key through the hole and a slip of paper come out. Then there was a chart up on the wall with the lucky numbers. When it dropped down so low, somebody come in and they bought the board. They'd look to see how many prizes was up, and they figured the prizes was worth more than what was still on the board. They bought the board. and that'd be the bottom of the punch board. (Archie Stewart)

There is a tendency for the playing on Old Man and Old Woman to get a little quicker and more syncopated as one goes from east to west on the Island. By and large, however, the treatment of this tune is remarkably consistent among fiddlers, regardless of region or ethnic background.

Of special interest: Stanley Bruce and Zélie-Anne Arsenault Poirier offer vocal renditions of this tune, an activity known variously on the Island as jigging, tuning, or turluter.

Notation for this tune as played by Stephen Toole is in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.

Tune Selections

Arsenault, Delphine - Old Man & Old Woman, The Accompanied by Zélie-Anne Arsenault Poirier pump organ
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Eddy - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Amand Arsenault, gtr
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Doucette, Joseph - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Vincent Doucette, gtr
West Prince
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Kearney, Joe - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Gerard Murphy, gtr; Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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McDonald, Leonard - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Margaret Ross MacKinnon, pno; Paul Mark McDonald, gtr
Western Queens
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Morrissey, Johnny - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Margaret Ross MacKinnon, pno
Eastern Queens
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Poirier, Zelie-Anne Arsenault - Old Man, The and the Old Woman Accompanied by: Jacques Arsenault, gtr
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Poirier, Zelie-Anne Arsenault - Old Man, The and the Old Woman (vocal) Accompanied by: Jacques Arsenault, gtr
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Stewart, Archie - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Chester MacSwain, gtr
South Kings
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Toole, Stephen - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Margaret Ross MacKinnon, pno
Western Queens
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