Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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V. BACCHANALIAN AND SOCIAL              439
publication was issued as early as 1780. An edition, and perhaps not the earliest, of 'Cuimmmg's Strathspeys containing the tune is dated Edinburgh 1780, which settles the priority so far as Shield is concerned. Why Thomson misled the public and did not acknowledge his obligation to the editor of the Museum has been already told. He regarded Johnson's collection as mean and inferior, and always spoke contemptuously of it. In the published corres­pondence of Burns he never once names it, although Burns repeatedly refers Thomson to the work in his letters. This appears to me to be the reason why Thomson made a far-off and unnecessary allusion to the Rosina music, which, compared with that in the Museum, varies considerably from his copy both as regards notes and accents. He apparently consulted Burns as to the tune. In the poet's letter to him speaking of the old tune as mediocre he accurately describes the air which was selected as ' the other tune you may hear as a common Scots country dance.' It is quite certain that Burns knew it well, for he contributed the verses ' I fee'd a man at Martinmas' for the tune, and for a variant of it ' Comin thro' the rye,' which in the Gray MS. he instructs to be set to 'Tune—Millers Wedding, a Strathspey.' Thus the melodies oiAuld lang syne, 0 can you labor lea, Comin thro' the rye and others in Scottish song books are all variants of the same air arid derived from a Strathspey, originally published in Bremner's Heels, 1759- No tune was better known or more popular in Scotland during the last half of the eighteenth century, and it was published in numerous collections under many titles. It is not difficult to explain why a Scots country dance should be in Shield's opera. The English opera belongs to a class, the songs of which are not set to music expressly composed for them, but are written for existing tunes, principally those of old ballads and songs. The overtures are generally pot-pourris of popular melodies such as are performed by the orchestra of a modern pantomime. The Beggars' Opera is the first and best of the class, and was the most successful of its kind. It had no original music. all the songs are written for particular airs, many of which are Scottish. The overture was subsequently composed by Dr. Pepusch. The title page of Rosina announces that it is composed and selected by W. Shield. The overture is a mixture of portions of The British grenadiers, Singleton s Slip, some bars of See the conquering hero comes, an English country dance and other old airs strung together with a few bars of original music, the last movement being a variation and an adaptation of the Scots country dance, with orchestral accompaniment to imitate the music of the bagpipe. At least one-third of the airs in Rosina are selected from English, French, and Scottish songs. The opening song See the rosy morn appearing is the composition of John Garth, an organist of Durham and the English editor of ' Marcello's psalms.' Such is a sketch of Rosina, an English opera, after a cursory examination of the work. For his time William Shield was a good composer with a gift of melody. He was a native of Swalwell, a village in Durham on the borders of Northumberland, and was familiar with Scottish melodies from his youth. -He harmonized the music of Napier's Scots Songs, 1792, arid I believe that he selected and edited the tunes for Ritson's Scotish Songs in 1794. He was intimate with Robert Bremner, the leading publisher of Scottish music in London, and frequently visited his shop. The leading phrase of the first part of Auld lang syne is the first movement of The Duke of Buccleugh's Tune in Apollo's Banquet, 1690. The tune itself was originally published under the title The Miller's Wedding; in Bremner's Scots Reels, 17.59, 41 ffSd also in Cumming's Strathspeys, 1780.17 ; with the title of '/he Miller s~Daughter in M0Glashan's Strathspey Reels, 1780,/; as The lasses of the ferry in Stewart's Reels, i'l&i, Jy\\n\S^~Cveriure to Rosina, 1783; as Sir Alex. Don in Gow's Strathspey Reels, 1784 ; as Roger s farewell in Aird's Airs, 1788, I'll. No. J28; as 0 can ye labor lea in Johnson's Museum, 1792, No. 394 ; as Coniinthro'_the rye in the.same collection of the year 1796, No. 418; and finally as Auld tang syne in Scotish Airs, as in the text. None