Pride of the Ball | Bowing Down Home
About this tune
Pride of the Ball has been in circulation on PEI for generations.
There are two quite similar A-“modal” reels in extensive circulation on Prince Edward Island: Pride of the Ball and Pigeon on the Gatepost. Adding to the musical confusion is a major variability in nomenclature. For one thing, there is no consistent name on PEI for the Pride of the Ball melody. One older name that I encountered a number of times was The Queen’s Marriage. George MacPhee and his aunt Hilda MacPhee MacDonald refer to the tune as Roddy Joe’s Reel, in honor of their grandfather Roddy Joe MacPhee. “Young Peter” Chaisson, on the other hand, lives perhaps a few miles away from the MacPhees and calls it Speed the Plough. Chaisson further adds: “From what I can gather it had [first] been played in Bear River, in our community, in 1912 by a Mi’kmaq Indian.”
Further complicating matters is that some some eastern PEI fiddlers refer to the Pride of the Ball melody as Pigeon on the Gatepost, and some western PEI fiddlers refer to it as Twin Sisters (a name usually accorded to the Pigeon on the Gatepost melody). Finally, there are some variants in circulation that are in effect hybrids of these two tunes (one example here is the Wilfred Gotell version).
Separating the two tunes with confidence requires some technical criteria. In the opening phrase of the low turn, Pride of the Ball starts with two descending A-major arpeggios (E-C#-A), whereas the opening of Pigeon on the Gatepost describes an ascending section of the pentatonic scale that omits the third note of the A-scale entirely (A-B-D-E). Then in the high-turn, the second phrase of Pride of the Ball outlines a G-major arpeggio on strings 3 and 2 (essentially repeating the second phrase of the low turn). In Pigeon on the Gatepost, on the other hand, the second phrase of the high turn stays up on the first string of the fiddle and is essentially a continuation of the first phrase.
Versions of Pride of the Ball appear in print under this title in Kerr’s Merry Melodies (1875) and in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, aka 1000 Fiddle Tunes (1882). Ryan’s Mammoth Collection also contains a second close variant: ironically with the title Pigeon on the Gate. Other extremely close variants entitled respectively The Swallow’s Tail and The Swallow’s Tail Reel appear in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) and Allan’s Irish Fiddler (c. 1920).
Notation for Pride of the Ball as played by “Young Peter” Chaisson is in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.