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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. 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 here).
The Morpeth Rant The melody was composed by William Shield, a Northumbrian musician of the 18th century. The dance associated with this tune, which shares the same name, has been performed for two centuries. The title appears in Henry Robson’s list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes (“The Northern Minstrel’s Budget”), which he published c. 1800. See http://www.folknortheast.com/learn/core-tunes/morpeth-rant notes by Charles Menteith