James S. Kerr

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James Spiers Kerr was a Scottish music publisher.


Kerr's "Merry Melodies" are the most popular collections of Scottish tunes ever published. Almost nothing is known of the publisher. "Kerr's First Collection of Merry Melodies for the Violin" (447 tunes) does not carry a date, but is thought to be from 1870 to 1875. The second collection (445 tunes), the third collection (446 tunes) and the fourth collection (444 tunes) all bear the address "65 Berkely Street, Glasgow". There is a street called Berkeley Street in Glasgow. Either the spelling has changed, or Kerr didn't bother to check the spelling. The fourth collection is often believed to be from 1879 or the early 1880s.

By the time he published "Kerr's Caledonian Collection" the address was changed to "79 Berkeley Street" (this time with the correct spelling), and his audience changed from the violin player to the "piano or piano-accordion" player. This reflects the new popularity of the piano accordion in Scotland in the early twentieth century. Nothing more is known of the company until they published "Cornkisters" in 1950. By this time the original Kerr must have died. In 1952 the company published the most famous song about Aberdeen, "The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen" (as sung by Robert Wilson). This song was composed in 1952 by Mel and Mary Webb[1] who were English and had never visited Aberdeen.[2] The website for Companies House does not list any company of that name, so they must have gone out of business before computerisation in 1980s.

Kerr's tune books have travelled around the world, and are performed by bluegrass groups, Newfoundland fiddlers, and US fiddlers. The books are in standard use by ballet schools for performing national dances of Scotland. Scottish groups such as Silly Wizard, The Battlefield Band and The Boys of the Lough, use the tunes. About half the tunes are traditional, and some are composed by "James S Kerr" - probably the publisher himself. Masterpieces by Neil and Nathaniel Gow are included.


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