The baroque musicians were able to improvise very difficult variations on a melody or a bass. And this was done in the salons of the palaces or in the taverns. For example, we have the testimony of John Hawkis who in 1776 wrote about the musicians who improvised on “John eat and kiss me”, a song with a rather spicy lyrics (although at the end of the 18th century it was adapted as an ecclesiastical hymn):
“… Fiddlers and others, hired by the master of the house; such as in the night season were wont to parade the city and suburbs under the title of Waits […] Half a dozen fiddlers would scrape “Sellinger’s Round”, or “John, come kiss me” or “Old Simon the King” with divisions, till themselves and their audience were tired…”
This edition includes variations by various baroque composers such as Eccles, Mell, Baltzar, McGibbon and Byrd but this score is just a script. It can be followed or used only as a guide. The performer can add other variations of his own or by other composers, the important thing is to have a good time playing.
In all the parts the part of the bass is included so that the performer can improvise on it.