Lagniappe Dulcimer club members recently met for a “Theme Nite Jam.” Everyone brought a new waltz tune to share for us to learn and play. Helen brought the “Cinderella Waltz.” This tune is a catchy little tune although it was a bit challenging for us dulcimer players to play. Helen tabbed the tune out in the Key of G — the key in which it us usually played. Of course, I wanted to learn a little more about the tune and discovered that it has an interesting history including that the tune is a well-known Scottish bagpipe tune known as “The Green Hills of Tyrol” which originated from Rossini’s “William Tell” opera. I decided to re-tab the tune using a Ginger dulcimer which has a shorter fretboard, making this tune easier to play. And the Ginger dulcimer is usually tuned to the Key of G. Here’s my McSpadden mahogany Ginger dulcimer.
About William Tell Opera
Gioachini Rossini is an Italian composer who composed the William Tell opera (which is sung in French) based on a play by Friedrich Schiller about the old, Swiss story of William Tell. The original opera was performed in 1829 and was four hours long. Cinderella is part of the chorus in the third act and was sung by a chorus of Swiss soldiers.
In the opera’s plot, William Tell was a respected Swiss patriot who was opposed to Austrian rule. The story takes place in medieval Switzerland when much of the country was controlled by Austria. At one point, the evil governor, Geasler, arrives in the town. To celebrate the 100-year occupation by Austria, all men must place their hat on a pole and pay homage to Gesler. William Tell refuses. The governor states that William Tell, who is an excellent marksman, must shoot an apple off the head of his young son with his bow and arrow or both will die. William Tell succeeds in this task. The Governor asks what the second arrow in William’s quiver is for. Tell responds by saying it is to shoot the governor if he misses and hits his son.
The opera’s plot is much more involved than this one scene, but the memorable part for me was bow and arrow marksman, William Tell, his courage and the apple. In the end of the opera, the Swiss patriots prevail and Switzerland is freed of Austrian rule. The other memorable piece of this opera is “The William Tell Overture” which became the theme music for “The Lone Ranger.” This overture is often associated with galloping horses.
Scottish Bagpipe Tune
There is more to the story than just Rossini’s opera. During the Crimean War which was taking place in Russia, Pipe Major John Macleod of the 93rd regiment (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) heard selections of Rossini’s opera being played by military band of a contingent from Sardinia — modern Italy. MacLeod took this particular tune and transcribed it for Scottish pipes. The song has been played by this Scottish regiment ever since. If fact, it is one of the first tunes that Scottish pipers learn to play and is often played during warm ups at pipe competitions.
In 1961, Scottish singer, Andy Stewart, put words to the tune and named it “A Scottish Soldier.” It reached the top of the pop chards in Canada, Australia and New Zealand and for 36 weeks in the United Kingdom. The lyrics make reference about a dying Scottish soldier, wishing to return to the hills of his homeland rather than die in Tyrol (a historical region in the Alps of northern Italy and western Austria). Hence the name, “The Green Hills of Tyrol.”
There is a wonderful You-Tube Video of the Pipes & Drums of 3SCOTS (The Black Watch), the Royal Regiment of Scotland, (guard to the crown) marching down Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile and playing the “Green Hills of Tyrol” in 2019. Another You Tube video shows the regiment playing the tune and marching in Perth after a Tour of Duty in Iraq 2018. Both are very moving and extremely powerful. You’ll have to Google it yourself.
Tune Arrangement for Dulcimer
Helen arranged “The Cinderella Waltz” for a dulcimer tuned to DAD tuning but played in the Key of G. Helen also made an arrangement for DAD tuning using a capo at fret 3.
I thought that this might be a great tune to play on a Ginger dulcimer. A Ginger dulcimer has a shorter fretboard that standard dulcimers and is pitched higher to the Key of G using a GDG tuning. The frets are closer together and it is easier to play when there are long reaches for your fingers on the fretboard. Not all tunes adapt to this shorter fretboard or have a sound pleasing at this higher pitch, but the “Cinderella Waltz’ fits it nicely. The notes should flow along and not sound choppy, so the shorter fretboard helps with this.
For this tune, strum or pick the notes — your choice. Or play only the melody notes with the other strings sounding as drones as a bagpipe.
You can’t re-tune a standard dulcimer to GDG tuning without popping the strings. You really need a dulcimer with a shorter fretboard or someone who can direct you to the correct gauge of strings.
In the GDG tuning, the differences the string’s pitches (1-5-8 tuning) are the same as a DAD tuning. Thus you use the same tab configurations for both tunings: GDG and DAD. The I-IV-V chords in GDG tuning are G-C-D and the fingerings corresponding to the DAD chords of D-G-A. So, you can play this tab in a DAD tuning — you will be playing it in the key of D. You’ll have to mentally transpose the chords and melody to the Key of D. It’s a mind game; if it is confusing then just enjoy the tune.
This is a great, catchy tune. If you are lucky enough to have a Ginger dulcimer, then try this tune out on your dulcimer. And if you only have a dulcimer tuned to DAD, you can still play the tab. Enjoy either way.
Some of Lagniappe’s members have met several times this spring to share tunes. It has been a wonderful experience to play different types of songs and tunes on the dulcimer brought by the members. Thanks’ Helen for sharing this tune in 3/4 waltz time.
I never learned how this tune was named “Cinderella Waltz.” Rossini did write an opera called “Cinderella.” Perhaps that’s the connection.