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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222              A CENTURY OF BALLADS
up with a good deal of chaff on the subject afterwards.
Of the humours of transposition he has several stories to tell. One of these had to do with a well-known lady singer, who asked him whether he would be kind enough to put the song down for her. "Certainly," said Bird. "What key shall I play it in?' "Key?" answered the singer. "Oh, I don't know anything about keys." Then, turning to a friend, she asked plaintively, "What key do I sing it in, my dear? "
This recalls the story told by Sir Charles Halle, who when asked by a singer, equally ignorant of keys, to transpose a song lower, inquired blandly, "About an octave, I suppose?' "Oh, yes, I should think that will do," replied the vocalist cheerfully.
Talking of transposition reminds me of yet another story, in relation to Tito Mattei, which is told by Sir Charles Santley in his Reminiscences:
"At a concert in the provinces a celebrated lady singer, being called upon for an encore, handed a ragged, dirty copy of a Scotch ballad to the accompanist, Tito Mattei, requesting him to play it in G flat—the copy was in D natural. Mattei demurred at first, but gave way and played the transposed accompaniment perfectly.
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