This article originally appeared in: Mandolin Magazine, Spring 2009 issue
Last issue I revisited the work of Scots multi-instrumentalist Brian McNeill. This time I’d like to tip my columnar hat to Dick Gaughan. While Dick is known primarily as a guitarist rather than mando-wielder, he’s toured far and wide with Brian McNeill and their compositions, styles, and approaches blend beautifully. The two combine to create a level of intensity rarely experienced in Celtic or any other traditional music style.
Dick is an impassioned political artist. In his songs he speaks truth to power and makes people uncomfortable while he makes them think. But occasionally he takes a break from singing and expresses his passion instrumentally. One particularly nice moment of instrumental Gaughan passion is Dick’s original composition “Florence in Florence”. I’m sharing this unusual waltz with you this time both because it’s a gas to play on the mando and because I’ve neglected waltzes for far too long.
“Florence in Florence” was first released on Dick’s “Outlaws and Dreamers” CD in 2001. He flat-picks it unaccompanied on guitar in the key of E. I’ve transcribed it here in D, but if you like you can simply capo up to the second fret to play along with the recording. The mando misses a low guitar note or two but the revoiced arpeggios are pretty forgiving.
“Florence” is a highly synchopated waltz, notated here in 3/4 time, but really with a subtle underlying 9/8 feel to it. The “one” beats should be good and forceful. Other off-beat emphatic moments are marked.
One key to maintaining the drive of this note-y and determined waltz is to maintain the down-up right-hand picking pattern, keeping a down stroke on every numbered beat in every measure, with up strokes for the “and” eighth-notes. You’ll find that, like in last issue’s example from Brian McNeill, you can sometimes pick a note that you’re simultaneously pulling off with your left hand. This double-hand-whammy gives the ornamental flourish a little more pop. I’m not sure this is a necessarily “Scottish” style marker within the larger Celtic continuum, but I must say I’ve noticed it more over the years in Scots players than in Irish players.
I’ve tried to notate as many of Dick’s grace notes and ornaments as possible, with hammer-ons and pull-offs marked. Of course as always, all ornaments are optional, but do try to keep your right hand pattern steady so that once you have the shape of the tune, you’ll find the grace notes falling into place naturally.
As to the tune, I found the A part relatively easy to get under my fingers, but I wrestled with the B an C parts for some time before conquering them. Don’t despair. In particular, the quirky way the second half of the B part deviates from the first half makes it quite a satifying passage to master. Dick plays the parts in this order: A—A—B—last 8 bars of A—C, though you may choose to finish off on an A or even a half of an A.
Whether or not you’re familiar with Dick Gaughan’s recorded work, you really should visit his incredibly comprehensive and informative website (www.dickgaughan.co.uk) to learn more and get up to date. And if you’re a Celtophile and don’t own a copy of his 1977 release “Coppers and Brass” you’re missing out on some truly wonderful settings of Celtic tunes. Go buy one. And then sit down with someone you love and listen through “Different Kind of Love Song”. See if it doesn’t change the way you look at the world.