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”, reissued on CD as FTX-115, with 10 additional tracks, 31 to 40, which appear to have come from Russell Wortley. 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. It appears likely that Peter Kennedy’s recordings were speeded up to bring them up to the usual pitch. Our mp3’s have been slowed down to compensate.
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 Varsoviana 1: (from Varsovia, the Latin name of Warsaw) was a dance in 3/4 time combining elements of the mazurka, waltz and polka. It became widely popular about 1850. This tune is also known as Silver Lake and Waltz Vienna. In Reilley’s The People’s Ballroom Guide of 1905, James Scott Skinner described the dance thus: “The Varsoviana. The above name is usually shortened to ‘La Va.’ The dance is in 3/4 time, and its characteristic feature is the series of marked pauses that divide up the movements.” Warne’s The Ball-room Guide, 1866 noted: “This dance is seldom danced now, though it formerly had a sort of ephemeral popularity. We always considered it as rather a boisterous Sort of performance, and more suitable for the casino than the private ball-room.” notes by Charles Menteith and Paul Burgess