Princess Reel | Bowing Down Home

About this tune

The Princess Reel is one of the most widely played tunes on Prince Edward Island. It is one of those tunes where differences among the Island’s various regional styles come out most saliently.

Individual versions or twists of this tune tend to be highly variable. For example, the two dozen or so examples here makes it seem that there are as many ways of playing the “cadential” (final) phrase of each turn as there are fiddlers.

For all its popularity, Princess Reel is a relatively tricky tune to play. The low turn’s signature phrase requires performing precisely timed sawstrokes while rocking back and forth between neighboring strings. And in the noting hand, for this phrase the first finger must be planted firmly on B (second string), while a slightly flattened third finger periodically reaches up to stop both the 3rd and 2nd strings simultaneously at G and D, respectively.

Oral tradition has it that the Princess Reel first appeared on the Island in the 1920s or 30s, having probably originated in New Brunswick. Attwood O’Connor informs us that when he first encountered it the tune was known as Charlie’s Reel; he adds that it was later changed to Silver Wedding Reel and finally to its current appellation. Teresa MacPhee Wilson (b. 1928) describes how the tune first came into her family:

I remember yet the first time my father played the Princess Reel. A cousin of mine came here and he played it on the organ. Well, I'm telling you, after he left, we all hammered at that tune until we got it down pat. Then my father learned to play it on fiddle, and he made a good job of it, too. [Question: “How did you all `hammer at it?’”] I'd remember one little bit. And they'd go over it and they'd say, “No I think it's like this.” And we played it on the organ and we tuned [sang] it, and we did every thing until finally we had got it down pat.

Notation for a version of Princess Reel by Attwood O’Connor – and for an alternative high turn by Eddy Arsenault - are in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.

 

Tune Selections

Albert, Joe - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ivan Albert, gtr
West Prince
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Arsenault, Delphine - Princess Reel Accompanied by: unaccompanied
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Delphine - Princess Reel (pump organ solo) Accompanied by: unaccompanied
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Eddy - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Baglole, Sidney - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
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Banks, Reg - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Harry Buell, gtr
Central Kings
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Biggar, Jackie - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Chaisson, Peter - 'Young' - Lassie with the Yellow Coatie / Donald Cameron's Reel / Farmer's Reel / Princess Reel / Flowers of Edingburgh / Turkey in the Straw / Stack of Barley Accompanied by: Kevin Chaisson, gtr
Northeast Kings
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Conway, Joe - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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Crane, Robert - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ward MacDonald, pno
Central Kings
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Gallant, Jaddus - Silver Wedding Reel (Princess Reel) Accompanied by: Béatrice Gallant pump organ
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Gotell, Wilfred - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Kevin Gotell, pno
Central Kings
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Jones, Andrew - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
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Kearney, Joe - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Gerard Murphy, gtr
South Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Farmer's Reel / Princess Reel Accompanied by: unacc
Northeast Kings
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MacDonald, Francis - Ottawa Valley Reel / Princess Reel / Farmer's Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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McDonald, Leonard - Farmer's Reel / Princess Reel Accompanied by: Margaret Ross MacKinnon, pno; Claire McDonald, gtr
Western Queens
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McPhee, Angus - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Cynthia Jay Crane, pno
Central Kings
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Morrison, Rita MacDonald (pno) - Princess Reel (pno solo) Accompanied by: unacc
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O'Connor, Attwood - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
South Kings
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O'Connor, Attwood - Princess Reel / Lord MacDonald's Reel Accompanied by: Stanley Bruce, gtr; Mac MacKinnon, mand
South Kings
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Pitre, Dennis - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Vincent Doucette, gtr
West Prince
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Richard, Fred - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman,bjo
West Prince
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Sigsworth, Cosmas - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Dot MacCauley, gtr
Central Kings
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Smith, Tony - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Alfred Gallant, gtr
Western Queens
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Stewart, Archie - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Chester MacSwain, gtr
South Kings
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Toole, Stephen - Princess Reel / Ottawa Valley Reel / Paddy on the Turnpike Accompanied by: Margaret Ross MacKinnon, pno; Ken Perlman, bjo
Western Queens
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Wight, Elliott - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Judy Lowe, pno; Ed Drover, gtr
Eastern Queens
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