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Child Ballads survived in oral trad.

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Jim Carroll 09 Sep 10 - 03:18 PM
Paul Davenport 09 Sep 10 - 02:38 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Sep 10 - 01:41 PM
Paul Davenport 09 Sep 10 - 01:08 PM
Valmai Goodyear 09 Sep 10 - 03:57 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Sep 10 - 02:43 AM
MGM·Lion 08 Sep 10 - 11:00 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Sep 10 - 07:31 PM
GUEST,Brian Peters 08 Sep 10 - 04:32 PM
GUEST 08 Sep 10 - 04:23 PM
Roberto 05 Sep 10 - 11:26 AM
Steve Gardham 03 Sep 10 - 07:04 PM
Brian Peters 03 Sep 10 - 06:35 AM
Brian Peters 03 Sep 10 - 06:28 AM
Roberto 03 Sep 10 - 04:17 AM
Matthew Edwards 03 Sep 10 - 04:01 AM
Roberto 03 Sep 10 - 03:25 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 03 Sep 10 - 03:13 AM
Jim Carroll 03 Sep 10 - 03:03 AM
Haruo 03 Sep 10 - 02:50 AM
Roberto 03 Sep 10 - 01:37 AM
Roberto 03 Sep 10 - 01:04 AM
Stilly River Sage 03 Sep 10 - 12:32 AM
GUEST,julia L 02 Sep 10 - 11:29 PM
Kent Davis 02 Sep 10 - 10:53 PM
dick greenhaus 02 Sep 10 - 08:17 PM
Steve Gardham 02 Sep 10 - 05:00 PM
Jim Carroll 02 Sep 10 - 04:37 PM
Steve Gardham 02 Sep 10 - 04:26 PM
Brian Peters 02 Sep 10 - 11:08 AM
Roberto 02 Sep 10 - 09:40 AM
Brian Peters 02 Sep 10 - 09:27 AM
The Sandman 02 Sep 10 - 08:15 AM
Liberty Boy 02 Sep 10 - 07:15 AM
Dave MacKenzie 02 Sep 10 - 06:39 AM
Les in Chorlton 02 Sep 10 - 05:45 AM
Susan of DT 02 Sep 10 - 05:31 AM
Jim Carroll 01 Sep 10 - 03:50 PM
The Sandman 01 Sep 10 - 01:00 PM
Jim Carroll 01 Sep 10 - 12:55 PM
Paul Burke 01 Sep 10 - 12:54 PM
Roberto 01 Sep 10 - 12:26 PM
Roberto 01 Sep 10 - 12:21 PM
Brian Peters 01 Sep 10 - 12:02 PM
Roberto 01 Sep 10 - 11:59 AM
pavane 01 Sep 10 - 11:54 AM
GUEST 01 Sep 10 - 11:18 AM
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MGM·Lion 01 Sep 10 - 10:34 AM
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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 03:18 PM

It has always intrigued me that the last communities to preserve the ballads as an integral part of their culture were the Irish and Scottish Travellers, both non-literate, but both possessing a large and important body of the longest and most subtle examples to be found in the genre.
Just listen to the dignified delicacy of Martin McDonagh's Lady Margaret (Young Hunting), the best piece of ballad singing I have ever heard; or the passion of Sheila McGregor's Tiftie's Annie (not to say that Sheila can't read - I know she can) which never fails to raise the bristles on the back of my neck, though I have been listening to it for nearly fifty years.
Blind singer, Mary Delaney, had a large number of ballads and narrative songs, which she always referred to as 'heavy', and quite often choked up on. It took us about five goes to get her 'Buried In Kilkenny' (Lord Randall).
With Walter Pardon you got a quiet compassion itermingled with an instinctivly deep understanding of the 'bigness' of his ballads.
John Reilly, an impoverished Traveller who died of malnutrition in a derelict house shortly after being discovered by Collector Tom Munnelly, sang The Well Below the Valley (Maid and the Palmer), missing from the tradition for nearly two centuries. He described it as 'a forbidden song' because of its religious connections and its theme of incest.
Kerry Traveller Mikeen McCarthy could barely read or write, but when we asked him what he thought the oldest song he sang was, he unhesiatingly told us 'The Blind Beggar' which was entered in the Stationers Register some time in the 17th century.
Our problem with understanding the songs and ballads has always been that they have been treated as collectable artefacts rather than as parts of the lives of the people who gave them to us.
Personally, it's why I put such an importance on distinguishing between the traditional singer and the revivalist - not because one is more important that the other, but because we are coming to the songs from different directions with different outlooks and backgrounds.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 02:38 PM

'There is a mystique surrounding the ballads, most visible when the academic attempts to separate them from their common origins and elevate it to a 'higher level.' Spot on Jim, that's the point I was trying to make, 'perhaps that they don't warrant' was maybe a tad clumsy.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 01:41 PM

"Living tradition?....."
Not unless you change the definition with which these ballads and songs have been documented and generally understood for over a century .
"a status which perhaps they don't warrant?"
The fact that they have served for centuries and have ingrained themselves deep into our culture, even to the extent of stirring childrens' imaginations to the extent of re-making them, gives them some sort of status, surely? The popularity you have described here only underlines that status.
There is a mystique surrounding the ballads, most visible when the academic attempts to separate them from their common origins and elevate it to a 'higher'level.

"Popular tradition, however, does not mean popular origin. In the case of our ballad, the underlying folklore is Irish de facto, but not dejure: the ballad is of Oriental and literary origin, and has sunk to the level of the folk which has the keeping of folklore. To put it in a single phrase, memory not invention is the function of the folk."
Phillips Barry's note to 'The Lake of Col Finn' in 'The New Green Mountain Songster.'
He goes on to attempt to turn one of our finest ballads of domestic tragedy into a fairy tale with magical islands raising from the depths and mermaids.

I've even heard the suggestion on occasion that the folk didn't make the folks songs but left it to the professionals!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 01:08 PM

Having run Ballad sessions for various festivals over the years I decided to find out what was sung and how often. Over a week of Ballad sessions at Whitby Folk week in 2009 there were an average of 20 songs per day. The longest, despite the perception of this material, was Cuthbert Noble's version of 'Tam Lin' at 9'20". The average length of song was around 4'50". The strangest thing to me at any rate was that Child 200, 'The Gypsy Laddie', never saw the light of day either that year nor the previous year. Two versions of 'The Bitter Withy' were identical but for the inclusion, or the lack of, the verse with the line, 'I'll make you believe in your latter day, I'm an angel above you all'. The choice of making the Christ child culpable in the death of the lords' sons left to the singers.
I learned Child 200 (admittedly a bit dubious on the tune front) from my father. I've collected 'Lord Randall' from a twelve year old girl at work and 'The Lovers Tasks' is so common in East Yorkshire as to be unremarkable. Maybe that's the point, some of these songs are just childhood ditties which we, folkies or academic folkies, choose to elevate to a status which perhaps they don't warrant? Living tradition? course it is, unless you want to muddy the water with 'folk revival' baggage.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 03:57 AM

May I respectfully draw people's attention to Chris Coe's all-day ballad forum in Lewes on Sunday 10th. October? Full details are on this thread.

We also have all-day forums booked next year with The Claque, Brian Peters, and Paul & Liz Davenport.

Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 02:43 AM

"Barbara Allen, Lord Lovell, George Collins, Demon Lover, Lord Randall, etc. and other broadside ballads as well."
Assuming that these are all 'broadside ballads' - of course. While they have all appeared on broadsides, there is no evidence whatever that they originated there.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 11:00 PM

Nobody above seems to have specifed the, what seem to me, three distinct strains of 'Cruel Mother' (Child #20) variants still [or, at any event, v recently] current among children in Irish Republic, US & UK: viz ~ i 'Weelah Walya'; ii 'All Alone & Aloney-o...Down By the Greenwood Sidey-o'; iii 'Old Mother Lee'. I collected a variant of this last in September 1958 (my first week of teaching, & prior to publication of the Opies' "Lore & Language of Schoolchildren"), from 11-year-old Derek Hastings, a Met policeman's son, at Peckham Manor School, London SE15; & subsequently published it in Notes & Queries (Oxford Univ Press) for March 1966 under title "Murder With A Penknife: a children's song", speculating that the designation "the Fordie police" therein might also suggest some influence of Child #14 "Babylon; or The Banks Of Fordie".

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 07:31 PM

Brian,
Yes there are intermediate variants and it's possible to trace the one evolving into the other. Obviously at some point some farm hand thought it would be interesting to burlesque it into the Acre of Land form by changing it to the inheritance angle rather than the riddle, but the content is largely present in some evolving variants of Scarborough Fair/Parsley sage.

Of course burlesquing of child ballads is fairly common, such as , Barbara Allen, Lord Lovell, George Collins, Demon Lover, Lord Randall, etc. and other broadside ballads as well.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 04:32 PM

That was me, in London, Ontario.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 04:23 PM

Steve: "I disagree on 'Acre of Land'. There is a relatively scarce progression from versions of 'Cambric Shirt' into 'Acre of Land' although I prefer to think of 'Acre of Land' nowadays as an autonomous song in its widespread form as it is so different in meaning to the riddles."

I don't think we are in disagreement, Steve - I think it's an autonomous song as well. How do mean, a 'scarce' progression - are there any intermediate variants?

Roberto: My tune for 'Young Hunting' does come from Martin McDonagh, but my verses are collated pretty extensively from those earlier versions in ESPB that retained the supernatural crime detection methods.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 05 Sep 10 - 11:26 AM

Brian Peters writes he has just completed a new recording: excellent news, I'm looking forward to listen to it. I've just realized Brian Peters recording of Young Hunting #68 (on Ballads, Traditional Ballads, Fellside FECD 110, and on Brian Peters, Lines) is from an Irish Traveller, Martin McDonagh: beautiful Brain's recording and its source).

Thanks a lot to all that contributed to this thread with many interesting notes.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 07:04 PM

Brian
re broadsides of Cambric Shirt. Depends what you mean by early. Late 18thc 'The Humours of Love' is just the riddle parts. There are others but I suspect the same. I can't put my hand on them at the moment. I can't remember seeing any 17thc ones.
I disagree on 'Acre of Land'. There is a relatively scarce progression from versions of 'Cambric Shirt' into 'Acre of Land' although I prefer to think of 'Acre of Land' nowadays as an autonomous song in its widespread form as it is so different in meaning to the riddles.
I wonder on what grounds 'Shooting of his dear' should be in Child, although some of his humorous ballads are no older and have had a similar transmission history.
'Craigieston' (Long a growing) is my favourite of those he didn't get to include. Bitter Withy perhaps.
Since you mention recasting. Where versions of songs differ widely from each other this is often the result of recasting in some form either by hacks or literary people rather than oral tradition. (IMHO)


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 06:35 AM

Julia wrote: "I certainly would have liked to have heard them from a live person, but that person was not available. Is this better or worse than consulting Child's published printed collection?"

I think you can do a bit of both - listen to plenty of traditional recordings (or living traditional singers) if you get the chance. That way at least you'll get a sense of traditonal style, that might stand you in good stead when you come to learn a ballad from the printed page.

There are plenty of ballads in Child with the most wonderful stories but which seem either to have died out fairly early, or never taken off at all, in oral tradition - maybe because the broadside printers never got hold of them in a big way. That is not, of course, a reason for ignoring them, but it does mean that, for the more obscure ballads, you may have to do a fair bit of work on text and/or tune, to get something singable that tells the story coherently. I do think it's worth remembering, though, that many of the great ballads by the likes of Steeleye Span or Martin Carthy, that got a lot of us excited in the first place, may actually have been very rare in tradition and extensively reworked within the folk revival. Nothing wrong with that - I've done plenty of it myself!


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 06:28 AM

Steve: Thanks for the additonal info. I knew that 'Brake of Briars' (aka Bruton Town) was in the Decameron, but didn't realise that Child wasn't aware of it. It's one of that list that you sometimes see, of Child's notable omissions - along with 'Long A Growing', 'The Bitter Withy', 'The Shooting of his Dear' etc.

Roberto: that summary by Lomax and Kennedy is pretty accurate, but they're wrong about 'The Wife of Usher's Well', which has been collected at least three times in England.

Kent Davis: Thanks for the Gainer ballad titles. Child 2 lost its Elvish elements not only in West Virginia but pretty much everywhere else as well (as did #4). Child based his 'Elfin Knight' title on a number of Scots examples, from early broadsides and 18C oral tradition, and it was collected by Greig in Aberdeenshire - in this 'Elfin' form - as late as 1908. However the oral history of Child 2 in England, Ireland and North America, is overwhelmingly the 'Cambric Shirt' strain with the 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme / Every Rose Grows merry in Time' type refrains. I believe that this strain is not simply the result of the supernatural elements gradually disappearing, but is a deliberate recasting of the original impossible tasks into a new ballad. The same probably goes, IMO, for the 'Hey Ho Sing Ivy' strain, which has lost not only the Elf Knight but any semblance of a dialogue.

Any opinion on that one, Steve? Do you have early broadside exmples of 'Cambric Shirt?


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 04:17 AM

Thank you, Matthew. Yes, Jeannie Robertson first recites three stanzas, and then she sings four. I didn't know the tune is American.

Jeannie Robertson recites:

A knock come tae the kitchen door
It sounded through a' the room
That Mary Hamilton had a wee wain
To the highest man in the toon

Where is that wain you had last nicht?
Where is that wain, I say? –
I hadna a wain to you last nicht
Nor yet a wain today

But he sairched high, and he sairched low
And he sairched below the bed
And it was there he found his ain dear wain
It was lying in a pool of blood

She sings:

Yestreen there was four Marys
This nicht we'll hae but three
There was Mary Seaton and Mary Beaton
And Mary Carmichael, and me

O, oft-times I hae dressed my queen
And put gowd in her hair
But little I got for my reward
Was the gallis to be my share

O little did my mother ken
The day she cradled me
The land I was to travel in
Or the death I was tae dee

O happy happy is the maid
That is born of beauty free
It was my dimple and rosy cheeks
That was the ruin o' me


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 04:01 AM

Roberto, your mention of Jeannie Robertson's 'Mary Hamilton' neatly illustrates just how complex the chain of transmission can be. Jeannie recalled learning the ballad as a child from old people in Blairgowrie, Perthshire who used to recite it. However the tune she sang when she recorded the song for Alan Lomax in 1953 is clearly an American tune. I think Mike Yates has researched this and Jeannie's source for the tune may have been Jean Ritchie or Sandy Paton, or perhaps Alan Lomax himself.

Anyway there is a fascinating article just published on the Musical Traditions website by Mike Yates about American commercial recordings of Child Ballads in the 1920's and 1930's: When Cecil Left the Mountains.

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 03:25 AM

Haruo, luckily we also have Jeannie Robertson to sing Mary Hamilton.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 03:13 AM

Of the Robin Hood ballads, Child #102 seems the most real to me in terms of its language & narrative. Back around 1990, in the absense of any other melody for it, I set it to that of the Balladelle Bergeronnette Douce Baisselete by Northern French trouvere Adam de la Halle (1237-86) from his Le Jeu de Robin et Marion. I've never heard of a traditional tune for it, though I have hbeard it sung to various tunes. If anyone could have a quick look in Roud for me I'd be most obliged!


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 03:03 AM

"I only know these three recordings from oral sources:"
A quick look in Roud - up to rntry number 100 gives ten sound recordings of Robin Hood ballads - 4 from Nova Scotia, 2 Scotland 2 from US and 2 from England   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Haruo
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 02:50 AM

If my dad learned, say, Mary Hamilton (is that in Child? yup, 173, thank'ee kindly, Wikipedia) from a Joan Baez recording, and then I learned it orally from him, does that count as a Child survival? That is the order of transmission in fact for that one. There are many other songs I learned orally from my dad for which I have no idea what his source or mode of learning was.

Haruo


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 01:37 AM

I've found the text I had in mind when I started this thread, it is by Alan Lomax and Peter Kennedy, 1960 and 1999, on the booklet that goes along the two Caedmon/Topic LPS, now Rounder CDs, dedicated to the Child Ballads:

(…) Many of the 300-odd narrative pieces canonized by Professor Child (called familiarly today the "Child ballads") have long since passed out of oral circulation. One hundred and forty, in full or fragmentary form, have been discovered in North America, whence they were brought by British emigrants. Our research, done during the past decade, has unearthed fifty still in circulation in Great Britain, most of which we reproduce in these two recordings. (…)
A few (ballads), among them "Young Hunting," "Fair Margaret," "The Wife Wrapped in the Wether's Skin," "The Wife of Usher's Well", that are quite common in America have not yet turned up in Britain. "The House Carpenter" and "The Farmer's Curst Wife" were found very frequently in America and much less so in Great Britain, versions of "The Gypsy Laddie" and "The Trooper and the Maid" being far better known. Certain ballads seem to be better remembered in Britain than in the United States, among them: "The False Knight Upon the Road," "Broomfield Wager," "The Baffled Knight," "The Braes o' Yarrow," "The Jolly Beggar," "Andrew Lammie," and "The Laird o'Drum." Until we started our work no version of "The False Knight" had been collected in Britain, but like "Edward," versions turned up among the tinkers and Gypsies.
By far our best sources have been the tinker singers of northeast Scotland, who have given us full versions of certain ballads that rarely occur elsewhere, since they are of local interest or of special relevance to their lives. In fact, it appears that tinkers, Travelers, and Gypsies have recently played the principal role in the transmission of the Child ballads in the British Isles. Around their campfires the ballads are sung and ancient Gaelic legends are told today as they were centuries ago. The stamp of tinker interest shows up in the popularity of such songs as "The Jolly Beggar," "The Trooper and the Maid," and "The Gypsy Laddie." (…)

The contributions to this thread have added many more knowledge, for example on the significance of the Irish recordings of these ballads. I'd be interested in knowing your opinion on the notes by Lomax and Kennedy. Thanks again. R


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 01:04 AM

Of course many of the ballads (Robin Hood ones for instance) have no evidence of oral tradition:

I only know these three recordings from oral sources:
Robin Hood and Little John (#125) sung by John Strachan, as Robin Hood
The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood (#132) sung by Wiggy Smith, as Robin Hood and the Pedlar, and by Geordie Robertson, as The Bold Pedlar


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 12:32 AM

And don't forget Appalachia and the Ozarks - lots of hidey holes for some of these songs.

I learned many of the Child Ballads from my father (John Dwyer) who learned them from books and records and other singers. I don't sing, but I do love to read threads like this. And I have tons of recordings and a several shelves of folksong books that my reference-librarian father collected over the years.

I think the important aspect of all of this is keeping these songs in play. They may reach a plateau when they are found in a print or recorded version, but they invariably change a little when they become your own through repeated performances. Don't worry if you learned them from a durable source - just keep them in play. :)

Maggie Dwyer (Stilly River Sage)


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: GUEST,julia L
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 11:29 PM

In 20th century New England, collectors like Phillips Barry, Fanny Hardy Eckstorm,and Helen Hartness Flanders found living versions of just about all the Child ballads. And don't forget Helen Creighton and Edith Fowkes in the Canadian Maritime provinces.
Wonderful to see the rich breadth of versions as well as the commonalities from one region to another.

Then there are the descendants of the ballads- several cowboy songs come to mind, as well as some that made the hit parade like the Gypsy Davy and the Butcher Boy

Questions- how does learning from a recording versus differ from learning from a live person? I learn songs from archive recordings made by collectors of people who heard the songs from their elders. Does this mean I am not a traditional singer? I certainly would have liked to have heard them from a live person, but that person was not available. Is this better or worse than consulting Child's published printed collection?(Shall I duck and run?)

Singing and grinning

Julia L


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Kent Davis
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 10:53 PM

The late Patrick Gainer collected about 50 Child ballads from oral tradition in West Virginia. These ballads were published in FOLK SONGS FROM THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS ( 1975). I say "about 50 Child ballads" because Dr. Gainer considered it questionable whether or not "The Riddle Song" (I Gave my Love a Cherry") was a version of Child #46, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship", and also considered questionable his identification of a song called "Pretty Sarah" with Child # 295, "The Brown Girl". Another ballad, "The Braes o Yarrow", #214, was only found in fragmentary form.

Of the remaining 47 ballads, some had never previously been collected in West Virginia. These include:
1 ("The Devil's Questions"/"Riddles Wisely Expounded"),
17 ("In Scotland Town Where I Was Born"/"Hind Horn"), and
87 ("Harry Saunders"/"Prince Robert").

Dr. Gainer collected some of the ballads from members of his own family. These include:
4 ("The Six Kings' Daughters"/"Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight"),
7 ("The Seven Sons"/"Earl Brand"),
14 ("Fair Flowers in the Valley"/"Babylon"),
26 ("The Two Crows"/"The Three Ravens"),
54 ("The Cherry Tree"/"The Cherry Tree Carol"),
56 ("Diverus and Lazarus"/"Dives and Lazarus"),
73 ("Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender"/"Lord Thomas and Fair Annet"),
84 ("Barbara Allen"/"Bonny Barbara Allen"),
93 ("Bolakin"/"Lamkin"),
243 ("The House Carpenter's Wife"/ "The Demon Lover", but the lover, in the West
          Virginia version, is only an adulterer, not a demon)),
278 ("The Farmer's Wife and the Devil"/"The Farmer's Curst Wife", which he learned
          from his grandmother. This past June I heard his granddaughter and great-
          granddaughter sing it at the West Virginia Folk Festival), and
283 ("The Wise Farmer"/"The Crafty Farmer")

The other ballads he collected were numbers 2 ("The Elfin Knight" but, in the West Virginia tradition, the Elvish nature has been lost, as also happened with numbers 1 and 4), 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 20, 49, 53, 68, 74, 75, 76, 79, 81, 85, 95, 105, 155 ("The Duke's Daughter", rather than the "The Jew's Daughter" in WV, the anti-Semitism having been lost), 173, 200, 201, 209, 240, 250, 272, 274, 275, 277, 286, 289, and 299.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 08:17 PM

Bronson also published a single-volume collection The Singing Tradition of the Child Ballads which contains only the versions which he knew were in the oral tradition. Also available from CAMSCO($50 hardcover/$40 softcover)


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 05:00 PM

I didn't say all of the RH ballads, Jim. Child gives 40-odd different ones, most of which only existed in the various 17th/18thc RH Garland.
Without checking, the 10 or so still found in oral tradition in the 20thc can be traced back to shortened 19thc broadside versions. I'm sure Ruaridh's grandmother did have a fragment. The recording is actually on the internet somewhere along with her other songs.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 04:37 PM

"Robin Hood ones for instance"
Robin Hood ballads have been collected from oral tradition, notably the one Greig ignored from an illiterate Travelling man he knew (probably because he was a Traveller). Luckily the singer turned up at the School of Scottish Studies some decades later and recorded it - now to be heard on the album, The Muckle Songs.
I think I am right in saying the Rory Greig's grandmother, Jessie Kidd (??) also sang a Robin Hood ballad.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 04:26 PM

Hi Brian,
I can't place my hands on the exact figures for the moment, but yes there are several categories of songs that are suspect when it comes to counting survivals or ever having been sung in an unsophisticated oral tradition. A considerable number of the ballads were suspect to start with as Child himself points out and even a few of those that were suspect subsequently entered oral tradition. Of course many of the ballads (Robin Hood ones for instance) have no evidence of oral tradition. Child only included them because they showed some evidence of the characteristics of traditional ballads. Also later on in the collection he included many ballads that have no greater claim to fit his criteria than thousands of other broadside ballads. It is after all just one person's collection, albeit only surpassed by Bronson's.

Now Bronson is readily available again at a reasonable price, I strongly recommend it, even above any edition of Child. The only extra Child will give you is lots of nerdy info on the ballads' equivalents in other countries and versions from the old collectors which haven't got the tunes with them. Please don't get me wrong, Child is still the deity I worship.

The 'Brake of Briars' is one of the more popular broadside ballads in oral tradition. Unfortunately the broadside, which it undoubtedly is, hasn't survived. I would give a strong guess that it was issued c1750 on one of those 4 column broadsheets of the type Dicey and Marshall issued. There are some very full early versions from America, and it is of course a refacimento of the first part of the 'Isabella' story from the Decameron. I don't think Child was aware of it. If so it would be wrong to say he rejected it.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 11:08 AM

"Lizzie Higgins sings a version of Alison Gross..."

Indeed - one of the many ballads collected too late for inclusion in Bronson. However, I don't think Steeleye Span based their version on Lizzie's.

It's also a shame that Child and Bronson's volumes include so little from Ireland. Presumably there were no Irish collections analagous to Percy's and Scott's for Child to trawl through, and much of the Irish material collected in the 20th C was too late for Bronson. However, as Jim said, the ballads that we do have from Ireland show that the tradition there must have been very rich. We should always bear in mind how patchy, geographically and temporally, the ballad collections are - depending as they did on the enthusaism and whims of particular collectors in particular places.

Thanks Susan for giving us exact figures re Child / Bronson.

Roberto: I have just completed a new recording, however it includes just the one Child Ballad - The Banks of Airdrie (Child 14) - plus a couple that he rejected: the well-known Brake of Briars and the less well-known Devil's Courtship.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 09:40 AM

Lizzie Higgins sings a version of Alison Gross...


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 09:27 AM

Well, I just did a survey of the popularity of nos. 1 - 100, based on the number of examples in Bronson (who, as I said, doesn't have all the info but does give us a representative sample).

Top of the Pops is, of course, Barbara Allen (a whopping 198 examples), followed by Lord Thomas & Fair Ellender (147), Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight ( = Outlandish Knight: 141), Young Beichan ( = Lord Bateman: 112), Lord Randal (103).

In the next category (50+ examples) come The Elfin Knight ( = Cambric Shirt), Two Sisters, Cruel Mother, Fair Margaret and Sweet William, Lord Lovel, Wife of Usher's Well, Little Musgrave, and Maid Freed from the Gallows ( = Prickly Bush).

Many of the above owe their popularity to North America; some - like Young Hunting - had pretty well died out in Britain by the end of the 19th century, but flourished over there well into the 20th. Whether that's because isolated mountain and maritime communities hung on to their traditions more tenaciously, or because of other factors like broadsides etc., would be an interesting matter to study. Apparently the popularity in the Appalachians of Child 243 (The Demon Lover) in its 'House Carpenter' variant owes a lot to a New York-printed broadside.

The 10 - 50 bracket includes False Knight on the Road, Earl Brand, Edward, Hind Horn, Sir Lionel ( = Bangum), Bonnie Annie ( = Banks of Green Willow), Three Ravens, Broomfield Hill, Two Magicians (but only if you count in 'Hares on the Mountain'), King John and the Bishop, Captain Wedderburn, The Two Borthers (not the same ballad as 'Edward'), Cherry Tree Carol, Dives & Lazarus, Sir Patrick Spens, Lady Maisry, Young Hunting, Lass of Roch Royal, Sweet William's Ghost, Unquiet Grave, George Collins, Lowlands of Holland, Lamkin, Johnny Scot and Willie O' Winesbury.

There's a good handful with just one or two examples collected with tunes (usually older Scots versions), and the ones with no singing tradition that Bronson could find were Erlinton, Leesome Brand, The Maid and the Palmer (but see John Reilly's version), Judas, Burd Ellen & Young Tamlane, The Boy and the Mantle, King Arthur and the Duke of Cornwall, Alison Gross, Laily Worm, Young Andrew, The Bonny Hind, Sir Aldingar, King Estmere, Willie & Lady Maisry, The Bent Sae Brown, Old Robin of Portingale, The Bonny Birdy, Price Robert and Fair Mary of Wallington. You wan't have heard too many of those in the folk revival, and those which you have heard will have been sung to made-up or borrowed tunes.

And those of us who have thrilled to the magic spells of 'Willie's Lady' and the ghost-busting heroics of 'King Henry' need to keep in mind that these ballads rest essentially on a single source - the 18th Century professor's daughter Anna Brown of Falkland, Aberdeenshire, who took delight in magical ballads and had a remarkable memory for rare ones. The fact is that ballad performers in the folk revival have often made their choices on the basis of a good (and preferably wild and woolly) storyline, rather than popularity in oral tradition.

Finally, I'm not surprised that Dave MacKenzie learned #274 from his father - that ballad has gone into all sorts of places, including the repertoire of blues and cajun musicians, and has kept turning up in (usually very rude) rugby-song type versions until quite recently.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 08:15 AM

yes ,jim, the two brothers or Edward as it is sometimes known


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Liberty Boy
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 07:15 AM

An I learned a version of #20 as a child on the street in Dublin, Weelia Weelia Waulia.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 06:39 AM

I learnt #274 orally from my Father.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 05:45 AM

So, after a grumpy start information and scholarship flow forth

L in C#
With clearly nothing better to do than make smart- *rsed remarks


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Susan of DT
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 05:31 AM

There are 92 Child ballads for which Bronson found no traditional tunes.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 03:50 PM

"i bet barbara allen was one, and lord gregory, our gudeman., seven drunken nights, and lord randall, two brothers "
Two brothers, no (unless you mean Edward) - the rest - give that man a cigar.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 01:00 PM

i bet barbara allen was one, and lord gregory, our gudeman., seven drunken nights, and lord randall, two brothers


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:55 PM

Roberto, It could be a labourious task, but plodding through the Roud index seems to be your safest bet. Steve has confined his index to traditional sources.
For you information, 51 Child ballads survived and were recorded in Ireland from the mid-1960s onward - would be happy to let you have a list of which ones they were, but couldn't help with a full list of the singers.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Paul Burke
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:54 PM

Depends what you mean by survive. At least some of the Child ballads continued to be sung, in attenuated form, by, well, children. An example that springs to mind is the Cruel Mother, which "descended" from an Awful Warning About Hell Fire to a caution about playing with sharp knives, at least in the version my mother sang.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:26 PM

Thank you very much, Brian Peters (and please, make more recordings of these ballads like the very good ones you've made). Yes, that's what I was getting at, and not stopping at B. H. Bronson, because many important recordings have been made until recently.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:21 PM

Maybe it is more difficult to find the definition than to decide practically what to consider oral tradition and what not. Lena Bourne Fish had a sort of family songbook, some of her sources where printed, no doubt, but I'd put her in the oral tradition group. Me, I live in Abruzzo, Italy. If a drifting collector would catch me humming The Outlandish Knight, the version in Frank Kidson, Traditional Tunes, 1891, noted from the singing of Charles Lolley in Leeds, I wouldn't say that Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight is stil alive and well in the oral tradition ... in Abruzzo. Of some of the Child Ballads we've had recordings in the XXth century from seamen, farmers, Travellers, chainmakers, etc. Of other ballads, no. Some where thought to be estinguished in the oral tradition, such as Child #3, until the recordings of Nellie MacGregor,Bella Higgins and Duncan McPhee. I agree that "oral tradition" is a concept to handle with care, but it means something and is useful.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Brian Peters
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 12:02 PM

Presumably what Roberto is getting at is that a good number of the 305 were never collected beyond the end of the 19th century - bearing in mind that Child himself died before the work of Sharp, Greig, Gardiner, the Hammonds et al had begun. There is scant eveidence for certain Child ballads ever having possessed a sung tradition: Nos. 29, 30 and 31, for instance, are based on the 17thC Percy Folio MS alone. Bronson in the introduction to 'Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads' states that Child himself deliberately erred on the side of inclusiveness, and casts doubts on the authenticity of around sixty of Child's canon (including several of the Robin Hood ballads).

Bronson (whose volumes cover mostly 20th century sources and are a good, though not definitive, guide to ballad survival in that century) estimated that there was a known musical tradition for about two thirds of the collection. However, one or two examples previously not collected with tunes have turned up since Bronson went to press, notably #21 'The Maid and the Palmer' (from John Reilly) and #264 'The White Fisher' (in the Carpenter collection). It would be a relatively simple, if time-consuming, matter to leaf through Bronson and check how many Child numbers he found tunes for. I know it was 43 out of Child's first 53.

Steve Gardham might know more!


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 11:59 AM

Oral tradition: I mean how many of the 305 ballads have been, during the XXth century, noted or recorded from singers, not from ballad scholars, who learned them directly from other singers.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: pavane
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 11:54 AM

Most of what was collected from the 'oral tradition' had previously been printed - maybe by a previous collector ....


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 11:18 AM

No matter how many there are, you need to define what you mean by 'the oral tradition' before anyone can give a meaningful response.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: Roberto
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 11:07 AM

305, yes, you're right, of course. I always refer to Trooper and Maid (#299) as the last in gthe collection because the six ballads that follow are not at all familiar to me.


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 10:36 AM

ballads among the 299 in Child's collection

305 in Child's collection, I think?

An impossible question to answer. How on earth could you decide whether a singer had heard a ballad orally or second/third/forth hand from a printed scource?


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Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 10:34 AM

Interests of accuracy ~~ 305 ballads in Child.

~M~


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