Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

Ancient Songs, Ballads, & Dance Tunes, Sheet Music & Lyrics - online book

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AND SUMMARY.                                                791
when their merry tunes have been played; but if these changes are proofs of grief, it is at least a grief of very long standing,—for Giraldus Oambrensis remarked the same peculiarity in the music in the year 1185. While passing the highest enlogium upon the musicians of Ireland, he comments upon these rapid and unexpected changes and modulations in their liveliest airs. The reason now assigned is perhaps rather more poetical than true.
The characteristic airs of England may be broadly divided into four classes,—the first and largest division consisting of airs of a smooth and flowing character—ex­pressive, tender, and sometimes plaintive, but generally cheerful rather than sad. These are the ditties, the real pastorals, which are so often mentioned by our early writers, and in which our poets so constantly expressed their delight.
The second comprises airs which breathe a frank and manly spirit, often expanding into rough jollity. Such were many of the songs of men when not addressed to the fair.
The third consists of the aire to historical and other very long ballads, some of which airs have probably descended to us from the minstrels. They are invariably of simple construction, usually plaintive, and the last three notes often fall gradually to the key-note at the end. One peculiar feature of these airs is the long interval between each phrase, so well calculated for recitation, and for recovering the breath in the lengthy stories to which they were united. They were rarely, if ever, used for dancing; indeed, they were not well suited to the purpose, and therein differed from the carote, and from the ditties, which were usually danced to and sung. Ditties when accelerated in time, to fit them for dancing, would fall under the denomi­nation of carols.
In the fourth class may be comprised the numerous hornpipes, jigs, rounds, and bagpipe-tunes. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when villagers assembled every holiday, and on Sunday evenings after prayers, to dance upon the green, every parish of moderate population had its piper. " The constable ought not to break his staff and forswear the watch for one roaring night," says Ben Jonson, " nor the piper of the parish to put up his pipes for one rainy Sunday." " It was not unusual, I be­lieve," says Mr. Surtees, " to amuse labourers on bounty days with music; a piper generally attended on highway days." He quotes the following entry in the parish registers of Gateshead, under the year 1633 :—" To workmen, for making the streets even, at the King's coming, 18s. id.; and paid the piper for playing to the menders of the highways five several days, 3s. 4d." Milton, in his speech upon unlicensed printing, says, " The villagers also must have their visitors, to enquire what lectures the bagpipe and the rebec reads, even to the ballatry, and the gammuth of every Municipal fiddler, for these are the countryman's Arcadia, and his Monte Mayors."
The bagpipe was not an instrument in favour with the upper classes in England; indeed it was generally spoken of with contempt. When a merry-making was of a mixed character, such distinctions as the following were usually drawn: " Among all the pleasures provided, a noise of minstrels and a Lincolnshire bagpipe was prepared; the minstrels for the great chamber, the bagpipe for the hall, the minstrels to serve up the knights' meat, and the bagpipe for the common dancing." (Nest of Ninnies, 1608.)
Formerly, the bagpipe was in use among the lower classes all over England, although now happily confined to the North. With it many of our bagpipe-tunes







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III