Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS' ACCOUNT.                                       19
wards bishop, of St. David's, gave the following description of the peculiar man­ner of singing of the Welsh, and the inhabitants of the North" of England : " The Britons do not sing their tunes in unison, like the inhabitants of other countries, but in different parts. So that when-a company of singers meets to sing, as is usual in this country, as many different parts are heard as there are singers, who all finally unite in consonance and organic melody, under the softness of B flat.* In the Northern parts of Britain, beyond the Humber, and on the borders of Yorkshire, the inhabitants make use of a similar kind of symphonious harmony in singing, but with only two differences or varieties of tone and voice, the one murmuring the .under part, the other singing the upper in a manner equally soft and pleasing. This they do, not so much by art, as by a habit peculiar to them­selves, which long practice has rendered almost natural, and this method of singing has taken such deep root among this people, that hardly any melody is accustomed to be uttered simply, or otherwise than in many parts by the former, and in two parts by the latter. And what is more astonishing, their children, as soon as they begin to sing, adopt the same manner. But as not all the English, but only those of the North sing in this manner, I believe they had this art at first, like their language, from the Danes and Norwegians, who were more frequently accustomed * to occupy, as well as longer to retain, possession of those parts of the island."b Now, allowing a little for the hyperbolic style so common with writers of that age, this may fairly be taken as evidence that part-singing was common in "Wales, or that at least they made descant to their tunes, in the same way that singers did to the plain-song or Canto fermo of the Church at the same period; also that singing in two parts was common in the North of England, and that children tried to imitate it. Burney and Hawkins think that what Giraldus says of the singing of the people of Northumberland, in two parts, is reconcileable to probability, because of the schools established there in the time of Bede, but Burney doubts his account of the Welsh singing in many parts, and makes this " turba canentium" to be of the common people, adding, "we can have no exalted idea of the harmony of an untaught crowd." These, however, are his own inferences; Giraldus does not say that the singers were untaught, or that they were of the common people. As he is describing what was the custom in his own time,
« "Uniting under the softness of B' flat," is not very intelligible, but one thing may be inferred from it, that they sang in the natural scale, such as the fifth mode became fby the use of B flat in the scale of F, and not iu the modes that were peculiar to the church. B flat was only used in the fifth mode and its plagal.
b In musico modulamine non uniformiter ut alibi, Red multipliciter multisque modis et lnodulis cantilenas emittunt, adeo ut in turba canentium, sicut huic genti mos est, quot videas capita tot audias carmina dis-criminaque vocum varia, in unam denique sub B mollis dulcedine blanda consonantiam et organicam convenientia melodiam. In borealibus quoque majoris Britannia? par-tibus trans Humbrum, Eboracique finibus Anglorum populi qui partes illas inhabitant simili canendo sym-phonica utuntur hanuonia : bints tamen solummodo tonorum difierentiis et vocum modulando varietatibus,
una inferius sub murmurante altera vero superne demul-cente pariter et delectante. Nee arte tantum sed usu longsevo et quasi in naturam mora diutina jam converse, ha-c vel ilia sitii gens hanc specialitatem comparavit. Qui aded apud utramque invaluit et altas jam radices posuit, ut nihil hie simpliciter, ubi multipliciter ut apud priores, vel saltern dupliciter ut apud sequentes, mellite proferri consuaverit. Pueris etiam (qu&d magis admi-rardura) et fere infantjbus, (cum primum a fletibus in cantus erumpunt) eandern modulationem observantibus. Angli vero quoniam non generaliter omnes sed boreales solum hujusmodi vocum utuntur modulationibus, credo qu&d a Dacis et Noiwagiensibus qui partes illas insula; frequentius occupare ac diutius obtinere solebant, sicut loquendi aflinitattm, sic canendi proprietatem contrax-erunt.—Cambrias Descriptio, cap. xiti,