Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

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

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Easter Hymns



Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
796                        CHARACTERISTICS OF ENGLISH NATIONAL AIRS,
upon his countrymen as Scotch. Thomson, in his Orpheus Caledonius, did nearly the same,—he appropriated tunes by Purcell, Daniel Purcell, Farmer, and other English eomposers; also words by Martin Parker, Tom D'Urfey, Ambrose Philips, and others that he must have known not to be Scotch,—and Oswald was even more unscrupulous than either. The Scotch have a large number of beautiful tunes, but their collections require a thorough sifting, if they are to be limited to what is really Scotch.
There are other collections of national music, in the formation of which the intention may have been good, but the industry or knowledge has not been commensurate. Such pre the so-called Songs of Ireland without Words, by J. T. Surenne, of Edinburgh, and the Dance Music of Ireland, by R. M. Levey, of Dublin. Mr. Surenne, being unwilling to give the Irish the benefit of The old Langolee and other airs which are also claimed by the Scotch, has thrown in a few English airs, such as Dibdin's Cobbler of Castlebury (without a particle of Irish character), to make up the balance. Mr. Levey takes English airs, even to the late George Macfarren's popular conntry dance, Off she goes, but evidently without knowing them to be English. Collections of this kind require greater care than has commonly been bestowed upon them.
And now as to the sources from whence national music is derived. Stafford Smith tells us that " all our early melodies, including those of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, are no doubt derived from the minstrels; and that they have sprung from the minstrel practice of descanting, or singing extempore, on the plain-chant or plain-song of the church." Our old fiddlers and pipers certainly took simple grounds or bases, and formed tunes upon them by making what was called division {i.e., variation) upon those bases, but I doubt very much that they were ever derived from the church. There may be accidental resemblances between their plain-song or ground, and the plain-song of the church, but the feelings so naturally revolt against taking sacred music and applying it to secular purposes, that I have been unable to trace a single instance of a popular air derived from such a source. Stafford Smith is peculiarly unfortunate in his proofs, for three of the six airs that he names are not to be traced further back than the end of the seventeenth century. If any of the ancient church hymns should be found to resemble secular music, it is, in all probability, because they were originally secular tunes; for we can trace the clerical practice of writing hymns to airs sung by minstrels in every century, from the time of William the Conqueror to the Reformation,—and the system has continued to the very present time, not only in England, but also abroad. The minstrels were far in advance of church music, and no melody was to be obtained at that source.
National music may perhaps be divided into two classes,—the first to consist of tunes made upon bases, and the second of such as were made without any base at all.
The first class will be most easily discerned in the hornpipes, jigs, rounds, and tunes of that kind. See for instance, Cheshire and Shropshire Rounds, p. 599. The earliest instance is Summer is icumen in, p. 24. The tunes in g or g time (like Old Sir Simon the King and Roger de Coverley) seem to have grown out of the practice of ornamenting airs which were originally in simple triple time. It was a frequent charge against the common pipers and fiddlers, that they " ran too much into division," and the commencement of Hale's Derbyshire Hornpipe, printed at . p. 741, maybe taken as an example of this "running into division" after the first four bars. In some of the arrangements of popular airs in Queen Elizabeth's Virginal Book, as well as in various manuscripts of lute-music of the sixteenth century, the







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