A great topic of debate in the field of English folk song has been the
famous Copper family of Rottingdean, Sussex.
Most of the experts say that English folk music is never harmonized, yet not only do the Copper family
sing in harmony, but they have kept meticulous records which show that the family has been singing
this way for at least 200 years.
It occurred to me that the source of their style may be in the "west gallery" music that was
sung in English churches in the approximate period 1650-1750. This style of music, which
seems somewhat related to shape note singing in the U.S., was mostly replaced by barrel organs,
as described in Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree.
A very interesting page describes the
revival of west gallery music
Is Danny Boy really an Irish song? And, if not, where did it
come from, and why do we think it is Irish? Maybe you saw that show that
was on my local PBS station lately, Danny Boy: In Sunshine or in
Shadow, that featured such exciting clips as Eric Clapton discussing
De Dannan's version of the song. (Now I'm waiting to hear Martin Hayes
giving his opinions about B. B. King and Son House!)
Unfortunately, the format and marketing requirements of television required
the omission of most of the interesting stuff (as usual).
Here you can get the real story, an amazing
100 year long detective mystery!
Just after St. Patrick's Day, 1999, I received a message from Julian Lloyd,
the producer of In Sunshine or in Shadow. My favourite
version of the song was done by pianist Bill Evans (not in the least Irish, though),
and I was pleased to find out that he agreed with my opinion.
Your Danny Boy info is really great and I was thrilled to find it. I have
long had a fascination for this air and song, although admittedly less
scholarly than your own. I have over 100 different recordings.
You may have seen a TV documentary - 'In Sunshine or in Shadow' - on
the song which I wrote and put together about three years ago. It was
shown on ITV here and also on PBS in The States. Sadly, owing to the cost
of licensing footage, the US version could not contain a really epic
version by Jackie Wilson. Have you ever been in touch with Brian Audley, a
musicologist from the North of Ireland, who has done a lot of research
into the history of the air?
I once had an interesting correspondent from
Dublin who had served as a UN soldier in Korea. "One freezing night in
January we were about 20 yards from the enemy trenches when I heard the
tune drifting over, played on pipes. We took their position in the morning
and though I searched for the piper or the pipes, I found nothing. I asked
a fellow soldier if he had heard anything and he confirmed my experience."
I have heard it said that the tune has much in common with Eastern music
and it is certainly still one of the favourite mainstays of Japanese
Karaoke juke boxes.
As you may know, the tune to which Auld Lang Syne is now sung is
not the original tune used by Robert Burns. And according to Tony Doyle, the modern
tune was composed by an Englishman! Check out his
William Shield page
for more on this controversial topic.
Also known as Ten Green Bottles, a
new discovery suggests
that this song may have annoyed parents taking their children on pilgrimage to
Canterbury during Chaucer's time (between cries of "Beest wee there yette?").
Roots of Folk
is a very comprehensive collection of old English, Scots, and Irish songs and tunes.
Highly recommended for the serious researcher.
the first ever collection of Irish Language song texts on the Internet.
(originally called the Gaelic Song Archive) first went up in early 1995.
"The archive originally contained Scots Gaelic and Manx Gaelic songs as well, but I decided fairly early on to
concentrate on Irish, and the Scots Gaelic and Manx songs were removed in 1996."
In addition to texts, many of the songs also have their basic tune notated in ABC format.
Go to the Standing Stones Site Map
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