The point to make here is there are many other American Old Time Musics of the North, which differ substantially in style and historical roots. from Southern OT music and indeed from one another. These are continuously living traditions, with tunes currently being produced (often) in the older styles. As examples (I'm sure I've missed knowing some; and I'm sure they overlap), that I've followed to a greater or lesser degree:
I believe, therefore, that a serious though unintentional disservice is being performed by conflating these all into a single term 'American Old-Timey fiddle music', which is then exemplified by Southern OT Music. One cannot conflate all the English regional styles into one (cf your South-west with Geordie, Yorks or Lancs traditions for example, even as tunes are transported among regions), nor the Scots regional styles one with another. Nor should this be done vis the U.S., by serious compilers and scholars such as yourself.
Given expression(s) of serious interest, I could access my library of books, tunebooks, and recordings, producing bibliographic/discographic lists of key references, for several on my above list of styles. I could refer you to others who know more about other traditions. On my cclist I refer to Vivian Williams (Over-75-class Fiddle Champion of the US and a serious working dance musician) who has spent a scholarly lifetime on the regional tradition of the Northwest as well as a substantial effort on Missouri traditions, as well as Emeline Dehn-Reynolds, a young librarian and archivist at the University of New Hampshire and an excellent fiddler in New England and Franco-American styles. And there are others to whom you could be referred.
All best, good health and a fine Holiday Season
Phil Katz - 9.12.19
I'd like ten more Flamborough Head CDs please (or one or two more or less if it makes better postage sense). Bill me as appropriate.
By the way, I'm greatly enjoying the North Yorkshire collection that Mossy Christian has been involved with. I'm working my way through it a few tracks at time. I knew it was a good buy when The Tailor's Britches struck me as worth the cost of the collection all on its own.
All the best,
Jim Eldon - 22.10.19
As you many know (or not), for some time I have been involved in somewhat contentious arguments on just this question elsewhere and have given the matter a great deal of thought. While I don't wish to spread the contention to this forum, I feel I would like to comment on your editorials on the matter, which I tend to agree with.
During my arguments, the claim that our traditional songs originated on the broadside presses moved from being 90% plus to 'only those collected by Sharp and his colleagues' - a screeching U-turn as the argument frst started when I quoted MacColl's moving statement about our songs being created by 'the people - from the workers at the ploughshares to the hacks' at the end of 'The Song Carriers'. As you know, 'The Song Carriers' covered the whole range of our repertoire, from Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland to an anonymous WW2 lament concerning the death of an Irish worker in Birmingham, killed during a bombing raid. I was accused of being a starry-eyed naivet for accepting such nonsense. After a longish and somewhat acrimonious argument, the 'early 20th century' qualification appeared.
Whatever the truth of this, it is worth remembering that any knowledge we have of the our oral traditions dates back no further than the end of the nineteenth century, so it is virtually impossible to say which came first, oral or print versions, and we are left with only common sense to decide the matter.
There is far more to this discussion, of course, including the fact that Irish rural workers and traveller were making local songs by their thousands to record their experiences and opinions, right into the middle of the 20th century - beyond, in the case of the Travellers. It seems to me that once you accept that; if working people were capable of making songs, then they have to be serious contenders for having made our folk songs.
As I say, I have no wish to introduce any of the unpleasantness I have encountered to your magazine so it is entirely up to you to decide what to do with this message.
Jim Carroll - 16.6.19
When I first became interested in folksongs - over sixty years ago - it was fascinating to be told that a song such as The Bold Fisherman was based on medieval allegorical origins, and it came as something of a shock to later be told that it was simply yet another of the 'returned lover in disguise' songs. According to Steve Roud and Julia Bishop, the 'slightly mysterious words' led early folksong collectors on 'flights of fancy' about the songs origin. Again, according to Steve, the 'earliest extant (broadsides) date from about the 1820s (The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (2012) pages 392 - 93). This may well be true, but it does not necessarily prove that the song is no older than this date. As we all know, it is very hard to prove a negative and I feel sure that many folksongs predate their first known appearance on broadsides.
Although I have specifically mentioned The Bold Fisherman here, I am not trying to say that this is a song which predates the 1820s. I simply wish to point out that our perceptions have changed over the years. Sixty years ago, there were very few academics studying folksongs. Today this has changed, and standards have become far more rigorous. And so, we should not be surprised to find folksong studies going off in new and different directions. Sadly, though, this often means that when today's scholars write about the songs, we often only find lists of dated broadside versions, and little else. Perhaps what we need is a little more in the way of humanity when we consider the old songs.
Mike Yates - 12.4.19
This is from Frank Purslow's book Marrow Bones, as Three Jolly Huntsmen [Gardiner H1130. William Taylor, Peterfield Workhouse, Hampshire, August 1908]
It's of three jolly huntsmen went out to hunt for fox
But where shall we find him amongst the hills and rocks?
With my hip, hip, hip and my holloa
And away went the merry, merry band.
With my ran tan tan and my chivvy, chivvy chan
All over the merry, merry strand.
With my ugle, ugle, ugle, went the bugle horn,
Fal le ral, fal le ral, fal le ral le dee.
Through the woods we'll go, brave boys,
And through the woods we'll go.
The first we met was a fair maid a-combing out her locks,
She swore she saw bold Reynolds amongst the farmer's ducks.
The next we met was a farmer a-ploughing of his land,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds amongst the ewes and lambs.
And the next we met was a miller a-working of his mill,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds run over yonder hill.
And the next we met was a blind man, as blind as blind could be,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds run up a hollow tree.
And the next we met was a parson, and he was dressed in black,
He swore he saw bold Reynolds upon the huntsman's back.
Reinhard Zierke (of Mainly Norfolk) - 19.3.18
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Music Division - Recording Laboratory. FOLK MUSIC OF THE UNITED STATES Issued from the Collections of the Archive of Folk Song Long-Playing Record L55. FOLK MUSIC FROM WISCONSIN Edited by Helene Stratman-Thomas. The notes on that song were as follows:
How Happy is the Sportsman
[Sung by J, L, Peters at Beloit, 1946. Recorded by Aubrey Snyder and Phyllis Pinkerton]
This ballad was brought to Wisconsin from England by the Cornish who settled in the lead-mining area of southwestern Wisconsin in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Mr. Peters learned the song, when a small boy in Mineral Point, from hearing his father and grandfather sing it. Baring-Gould, who collected the song in England, refers to it as a very old ballad which dates back at least to the early seventeenth century. Around 1888 he obtained the song from an old quarryman at Merrivale Bridge in Devon, near the border of Cornwall. The Baring-Gould version begins "There were three jovial Welshmen" and refers to the fox as Reynard. In Mr. Peters' song the fox is called Bovena. The verses of the two versions are similar, but the melodies have little in common.
The first he saw was a farmer, a-hoeing in his corn,
He said he saw Bowena across the waters lorn,
Come hic, come hic, come high-low, along the merry stream,
With a ra-ta-ta, ti-pa-ti-pa-tan,
And with the royal bow-wow-wow,
The bewbine zing, fiddle-diddle-dee and dye-dee,
And through the woods we'll run, brave boys,
And through the woods we'll run.
The next he saw vas a blind man, as blind as he could be,
He said he saw Bowena run up a hollow tree,
Come hic, cone hic, come high-low, along the merry stream,
With a ti-pa-ti-pa-tan,
And with the royal bow-wow-vow,
The bewbine zing, and dye-dee,
And through the woods we'll run, brave boys, And through the woods we'll run.
Vic Smith - 18.3.18
Referring to the song fragment below, there is a variant of it, and much more complete, being sung in the Devon/Cornwall region.
I first came across it some 50 years ago being sung by Ken Penney of Exeter, and I'm pretty sure it was in the repertoire of Tony Rose and Cyril Tawney. My gut feeling is that it's source is probably Exmoor.
Here's the chorus, as I know it:
Vic Legg - 16.3.18
Mike Yates - 15.3.18
If anyone knows where I can find copies of these books, please let me know.
Thanks to various friends, Brad now has access to these three books - Ed.
Brad McEwen - 16.2.18
I had a quick look through your recent Musical Traditions editorials, and wanted to briefly respond to your 'Austerity Bites' piece published last November.
I very much sympathise with your evaluation of the younger end of current folk scene, but wanted to offer myself as an example of how all is perhaps not too glum? I am 'only' (ha!) 35, but am very much committed to real traditional singing. I came to it from a background of studying traditional singers in Bulgaria when I was at university, and a desire to find out whether we had anything similar closer to home. I found out that we most certainly did when I came across the recordings Percy Grainger made of Joseph Taylor.
Since then its been a slow process of following leads into what has felt like a lost world. I have very little interest in (though nothing against) the contemporary folk scene, though to be honest, I've never really felt inspired to investigate it too much. Instead, I've taken most of my inspiration from the sort of field recordings you have devoted yourself to making publically available, various printed and online resources, and amazing friends from Ireland (and further afield) where, as you say in your article, there is so much more value attached to traditional singing.
I don't sing in public very often. When I do, it is within events that are more part of the art/performance scene than any branch of the music world (where funnily enough, I think people are much more open minded about listening to someone sing a long song with no accompaniment), or those rare occasions when you're at someone's house for dinner, they ask you to sing, and it somehow feels like the right moment. Predominantly though, I just sing at home, in the kitchen!
Please don't lose heart. Your efforts to make rare and indescribably precious singing available to a wider audience really are filtering down through the generations, even if it might not seem like it sometimes.
Phil Owen - 14.2.18
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