A Century Of Ballads 1810-1910, Their Composers & Singers

With Some Introductory Chapters On Old Ballads And Ballad Makers - online book.

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BALLADS OF SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 29
Leveridge, a bass singer who flourished from 1670 to 1758. He had a magnificent bass voice, and, says Grove, " his voice remained unim­paired so long that in 1730, when 60 years old, he offered, for a wager of 100 guineas, to sing a bass song with any man in England."
The words of the song are often attributed to Leveridge also, but the first two verses are by Fielding, Leveridge afterwards adding the others. The old tune was very largely employed in the early ballad operas, and in modern times the air is often played at banquets as a signal for dinner. Mr. Kidson tells an anecdote of a vegetarian banquet in the North of England, where "a hitch in the programme occurred, and it was gently hinted to a local singer that he might pleasantly fill in the hiatus with a song. Con­scious by his own experience of the failure of vegetarianism, he appropriately and feelingly struck up 'The Roast Beef of Old England'! "
An old commentator, in speaking of this song, says rather quaintly: ''Several attempts have been made to raise eating into the dignity which drinking has so long enjoyed of being a theme for song, but all in vain. 'The Roast Beef of Old England ' is the only exception among a mass of failures." Leveridge also wrote a setting for "Who is Sylvia? " and is known as the com­poser of an older version of " Black Ey'd Susan,"
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