Stephen James Baldwin (1873-1955), was born in Hereford, youngest son of Charles Baldwin, some of whose tunes were noted by Cecil Sharp. The family soon moved to Newent, which was his parents’ home town. He spent his working life as a railway plate layer, apart from army service in the 1st World War, from which he was invalided out after the Battle of the Somme. He played for a number of morris sides, as well as in pubs, at country dances and gypsy weddings. He ended his days at Upton Bishop, Herefordshire, where he was recorded twice. One recording was made by Peter Kennedy in 1952, and issued on Folktracks 45-115 “A Nutting we will Go” (nla), reissued on CD as FTX-115, with 10 additional tracks, 31 to 40, which appear to have come from Russell Wortley. Russell Wortley’s recording (22 June 1954) was issued, very slightly shortened, by Leader Records, LED 2068, Stephen Baldwin, English Village Fiddler (nla). The original recording is held in the British Library. Where Mr Baldwin played in D or G for Peter Kennedy, the same tunes appear on Russell Wortley’s recording in C or F. His fiddle was tuned a tone flat, as reported by Rollo Woods. Unless noted otherwise, we have transcribed all the tunes on Russell Wortley’s recording a whole tone higher than they sound. For RW, Mr Baldwin played most tunes through three times with repeats. He often played the tune differently the first time from the subsequent repeats. Our interpretation of this is that, during the first time through, Mr Baldwin was remembering the tune, and that the later versions represent his considered intention. We have therefore generally ignored the first playing, concentrating on the later versions.
Musical Traditions have re-issued both sets of recordings on MT CD 334 “Here’s one you’ll like, I think ”, with extensive information on Charles and Stephen Baldwin (see the Musical Traditions website ).
Soldier’s Joy: Peter Kennedy noted “used for the SIX HAND REEL”.
The tune is often attributed to Joshua Cummings and there is a date of 1778 associated with it (Folkopedia). It is widely known, being played as far afield as Estonia. Robert Burns used it for the first song of his cantata ‘The Jolly Beggars’.
The Three-Handed Reel was performed at Bromsberrow Heath by three pairs of dancers, either with stick clashing or with stepping. (See Russell Wortley’s article in EDS and Lionel Bacon’s book.) Both Stephen Baldwin and Beatrice Hill played tunes for it. Russell Wortley published Jacko Robinson, though without mentioning the name, which Mrs Hill had told him. With some prompting she agreed that A-Nutting we will Go was also used for the dance. Mr Baldwin’s favourite was Cock of the North and he mentioned Flowers of Edinburgh and, to Peter Kennedy, Soldier’s Joy and the Cottage Hornpipe as alternatives.
Lionel Bacon, A Handbook of Morris Dances, The Morris Ring, 1974
Rollo Woods, ‘Stephen Baldwin, English Village Fiddler’, English Dance & Song, Vol. 62, p 13, Spring 2000.
Russell Wortley, ‘The Bromsberrow Heath Morris Dances’, English Dance & Song, Vol. 23, p 94, June 1959.