Ballads & Songs of Southern Michigan-songbook

A Collection of 200+ traditional songs & variations with commentaries including Lyrics & Sheet music

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Introduction
9
memory. Although seventy years of age and blind, Mrs. McClellan, while busying her fingers with such tasks as shelling peas, paring potatoes, hulling strawberries, and knitting, which do not require eyesight, had the habit of amusing herself by singing old songs which she had learned in her childhood in Ontario, Canada. One afternoon in the fall of 1935, having heard that she was one of the good Scotch singers in Huron County, I drove to the farm, the land of which Mrs. McClellan's father had cleared more than sixty years earlier and on which she was living with two unmarried sons and a housekeeper. In response to my knock on the kitchen door she called to me to come in and from her chair by the kitchen stove greeted me with great cordiality. When I told her that I had been directed to her because she sang lovely old songs, she replied with­out the slightest hesitation: "Yes, I do. Would you care to hear some of them? I wonder what you like." To help her get started, I asked her whether she knew any songs about kings, queens, lords, ladies, love, or murder. She laughed and said: "I know songs about all of those things, but I don't like the bloody ones; they make me shudder. How will it be if I sing samples of what I know? Then when I come to anything you like you can tell me, and I will sing the whole song slowly so that you can copy it if you want to. It is easy to remember the tunes from once hearing them, but not the words." In two afternoons she enabled us to transcribe from her singing both the words and the melodies of sixteen songs. Upon being asked to repeat a phrase, she inquired whether we were writing the music. When we answered that we were, she said: "I have never seen any written music, but if you will stay with me I can sing for you two weeks running without repeating a song." We did not have time to put her to the test, but from the many fragments which she offered for our approval we had no doubt that she possessed an ex­tensive repertoire. When we told her that "The Old Oak Tree," which she sang for us, had been recorded in Newfoundland, she re­plied, to our astonishment: "I am not surprised, for I learned the song when I was a little girl of twelve in Ontario. I heard it sung at a party by a young fellow traveling through the country who said that he was from Nova Scotia."
Another willing singer was Mr. John Laidlaw, a native of Aber­deenshire, the county of Scotland which furnished Professor Child with the A or prime text of ninety-one of his three hundred and five ballads and which was the place where the famous Mrs. Brown of Falkland learned most of her ballads before she was twelve years of age. Mr. Laidlaw, who loved a Scotch song as passionately as he loved nature and his native land, I did not know as a singer until







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