“It was on the fifth of August, the weather clear and mild…” What else?
This is an odd, fragmentary song, which for me inspires very mixed emotions. It’s pure English traditional – it’s one of those beautiful sets of words, with one of those beautiful tunes, making you feel for a moment as if it’s midsummer in the heart of England and time has just stopped. At the same time, the song itself is a bit of a fake – Joseph Taylor, from whom it was collected in 1905, could only remember the first two verses, so Percy Grainger added a couple more from Low Down in the Broom and a fifth from a song called A Merry King of Old England. Anyone singing Percy Grainger’s version now is singing something that never was sung as a folk song.
This recording – made on the fifth of August – expresses some of this ambivalence with a backing track which is thoroughly modern, and – as you’ll hear – thoroughly artificial. The singing and the playing are real, though.
4 responses to “FS48: Brigg Fair”
Puzzled! I’ve heard Joseph Taylor singing it on a reel-to-reel copy of the original cylinders and he sings it all!
That is puzzling. My information comes from Reinhard. When did you get to hear the tape recorded from the cylinders?
Hi, Phil. I have, somewhere in my archive a copy of some of Grainger’s cylinders, made for the Library of Congress which are slightly cleaned up as far as I remember, and another set of recordings of the cylinders which are “raw” and almost unintelligible. I was given them about 40 years ago and think they were copied from BBC originals as research for a radio programme.
It occurs to me that the song is spread over a few cylinders as each only lasted about a minute and your source may only have heard the first then assumed that that was all there was!