Review: Bal Folk Tune Book

As always, any questions, comments, or corrections are welcome.
Update Above

Bal Folk puts many of the classic Massif
Central Tunes back in print.

In 1998, when I bought my Hohner Corso from the Button Box, I also picked up two books that changed my life easily as much as the Corso itself. Actually, I only bought one, the pink one, volume one of Mel Stevens The Massif Central Tune Book. It was one of those bizarre fits of frugality. I was spending hundreds on the accordion, but another fifteen dollars to get volume two of the set? Such frugality could not stand. That night I tossed and turned. Was I really going to leave Amherst without that book? The next day I went back and got volume two, the blue one, and headed home. In such a feeble manner I acquired the bedrock texts of my musical life.

I don’t have all the details regarding the history of these books, but here is what I’ve pieced together.  Stevens’ books, published by Dragonfly Music in 1987, contained 240 traditional dance tunes from Central France. This is the repertoire. Unfortunately, both the pink and the blue volumes have been out of print since the early 2000s. For a number of years you could get them directly from Stevens, but the idea that these were basically unavailable seemed pretty outrageous.

Enter Dave Mallinson, a British publisher of traditional music tutorials, tune books, etc. Mallinson bought the rights to all of Dragonfly’s stuff. It took a while for the material to come out, but in 2010 Bal Folk: Traditional Dance Music from Central France were released and the music of the pink book and the blue book became available again.

Well, some of it.

First of all, let me just state clearly that Bal Folk is a fantastic set and will serve any musician well in acquiring the right tune-age. But there are differences between this one book collection and the pink and blue set. For one thing, it’s clearly labeled that Bal Folk contains a “selection” of tunes from the Dragonfly books. The Dragonfly set had 240 tunes, Bal Folk has 214. The tunes that seem to be missing are those that were contemporary, some written by members of La ChavannéeFrédéric Paris, Patrick Bouffard, Maxou Heintzen etc., all have credits in the pink and blue books. Presumably, Mallinson was unable to include those for reasonable copyright reasons. He did decide to include around twenty original tunes by two English musicians, Trevor Upham and Chris Shaw. I had not encountered either of those gentlemen before, but they are perfectly delightful tunes. I would be curious to know how Mallinson made the decisions he did.

Regardless, I’ll continue playing tunes from this book and recommend you do the same. It’s a great collection, no doubt, and for anyone encountering it for the first time it can be the same sort of gold mine that the pink and blue books were for me.

6 thoughts on “Review: Bal Folk Tune Book

  1. Interestingly, two of Frédéric Paris's pieces (Le Canal en Octobre and Ganivelle) appear in Nick Barber's English Choice, also published by Dave Mallinson.
    I would be very interested to hear of other collections containing Paris's music.


  2. The two most obvious would be the “Cahier de Repertoire” books put out by the AMTA … one of Paris' tunes from his two accordion CDs (“Carnet de Bal” and “Rue de l'Oiseau)” and the other of original tunes by AMTA artists.


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