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Bob Phillips and “Old Colony Times”


Bob Phillips (b. 1953) is a pedagogue, composer, teacher trainer, conductor, and renowned innovator in string education. As a graduate of the University of Michigan with both Bachelor and Master Degrees in Music Education, Bob studied with Lawrence Hurst, Elizabeth Green, and Bob Culver. Many of Bob’s students have gone on to become successful string educators as well as professional performers in both classical and alternative styles. He has been elected “Teacher of the Year” nine times by national, state, and regional associations and has been invited to present clinics in more than forty states and eight foreign countries. Recognized as “Citizens of the Year” by the City of Saline for their work in arts education, Bob and Pam were also honored in special ceremonies by both the House and the Senate of the State of Michigan for their work with the Saline Fiddlers. In 2013, Bob was inducted into the University of Michigan School of Music’s Hall of Fame.

Bob brings a wealth of knowledge and a sense of humor to his clinics, drawn from his 27 years as a public school string teacher. He is an expert in large group pedagogy and in the development of alternative styles for strings. He is one of today’s leading educational authors and composers, and his books and pieces are performed by thousands of string students each year. Bob is currently the Director of String Publications for Alfred Music and is Past-President of the American String Teachers Association. Bob and his wife, Pam are also part of the creative team for Barrage 8.

In Saline, Michigan, Bob built a string program with over 700 students that is a national model of excellence in both classical and alternative music. After leaving Saline, Bob began a new string program in Tecumseh, Michigan. Bob’s groups have performed at national and state conferences, including the Midwest Clinic. He founded the nationally renowned folk-fiddling ensemble Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic, which gained an international reputation under his direction and performed more than 75 shows. Bob has served as conductor for a variety of youth symphonies, all-state and honors orchestras, and camps, including the All-State Orchestra at Interlochen, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp Orchestras, Oakland Youth Orchestra, the Georgia All-State Orchestra, the Kentucky All-State Orchestra, and the Queensland Honour Ensemble Program.

Bob has authored over 19 book series that include 130 books for use in the classroom, including the ground breaking series Fiddlers Philharmonic, Fiddlers Philharmonic Encore!, Jazz Philharmonic, Jazz Philharmonic: Second Set , Latin Philharmonic, the String Explorer method, and the revolutionary Sound Innovations method, all published by Alfred Music. He has had over 140 works published for orchestras and bands and is an award winning ASCAP composer. One of his arrangements is “In Good Old Colony Times” for Alfred Music Publishing.  This easy arrangement of the traditional American folk song In Good Old Colony Times harkens back to the early days of our country.  It is an arrangement that allows every section to play the melody.  The tune starts in the cellos and basses, is presented in the second violins and violas and is eventually played by the first violins in a fiddly time setting.

Originally known as “Three Jolly Rogues,” the piece is an English folk song in which miller, a weaver, and a tailor lived in King Arthur’s time. They were thrown out because they could not sing. All three were thieves. They are suitably punished.  The earliest complete text is a broadside in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, England, dated 1804, “The Miller, Weaver and Little Tailor,” and it’s clear the song goes back well before that   It is also known as “In Good King Arthur’s Days.” The song is quoted by Thomas Hardy in “Under the Greenwood Tree”. It is known in the U.S.A. from the early nineteenth century, usually as “In Good Old Colony Days” or “In Good Old Colony Times.”

There does not seem to be any historical basis for the song; it just starts showing up in copies from around the start of the nineteenth century. It certainly has gotten around.   There are plenty of British variants, but it is even more popular in the United States.  At some point after the American Revolution, someone rewrote it for colonial use, and it became popular due to inclusion in a songster. It has been found all over New England, and Brown and Chappell collected it in North Carolina, and Cox in West Virginia, and there are other Appalachian collections.

The following work by Bob Phillips is contained in my collection:

“Old Colony Times” (arr.).

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