I heard some bad news this week; Bob van Gaalen – Northumberland piper extraordinaire, stalwart of the Beech sessions and a really nice man – has died after a heart attack. My thoughts are with Sue and his family.
It was from Bob that I first heard what’s now one of my favourite tunes, Sir John Fenwick’s. He used to make it sound beautifully ornate and impossibly fluid at the same time. It’s not really a very difficult tune, but I felt enormously proud when I first learned to play it – and again when I got the hang of it on the concertina.
When I came to record “I live not where I love” – inspired by Dave Bishop’s rendition of it at the Beech – it occurred to me that it might go quite well with Sir John Fenwick’s. Here’s what I came up with:
For the second song of this fortnight, here’s something completely different: an unaccompanied song which I learned from Bob’s wife Sue (which also gave me a sense of achievement). I love this song and hope you like it, but you really ought to hear Sue’s version.
When a man’s in love and I live not where I love are from 52 Folk Songs – Green.
And here’s another song/tune pairing, “Poor old horse” with “The man in the moon”.
Poor old horse is from 52 Folk Songs – white.
(All old recordings this time round; I’ll see about some re-recordings for next time.)
This is a song I already knew (courtesy of Dave Bishop), but fell in love all over again on hearing Jo Freya’s Traditional Songs of England.
I don’t know the history of this song, beyond the obvious point that it post-dates the Battle of Quebec. There are some oddities in the lyrics – particularly the time-shift in the first verse – which made me want to find an earlier version, but I didn’t have much luck; I managed to trace it back as far as the Watersons (which isn’t very far) but couldn’t find any broadside copies.
The accompaniment is mostly concertina – with a bit of recorder – although the chords eluded me, so I went for drones instead.
I’ve never heard a recorded version of this song. Like When a man’s in love, it’s a song I learned after hearing it sung at my local singaround, in this case by the estimable Dave Bishop.
This is more or less the version sung by Jean Redpath, from which most post-revival versions of this song derive. A seventeenth-century original has been identified, but in most respects it isn’t worth going back to – it’s rather wordy and ornate, and generally looks like a song in need of folk-processing. I liked a few bits of it, though, so I used half of one verse and a few verse-endings.
The tune is a very old pipe tune called (among other things) Sir John Fenwick’s. The accompaniment is melodica, recorder and zither; that includes the weird noisy bits (the nature of which will be clarified if you listen right to the end). The idea was to mark a transition between sections with a bit of musical noise, essentially.