English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

122 Songs and Ballads, and 323 Tunes With Lyrics & sheet Music - online book

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When, by chance, the text of a modern street-song succeeds in penetrating into the mountains it is at once mated to a traditional tune (e.g. No. 99) and sometimes still further purified by being moulded into the form of a traditional ballad (see No. 87). But this happens but rarely, for, strange as it may seem, these mountain valleys are in fact far less affected by modern musical influences than the most remote and secluded English village, where there is always a Parsonage or Manor House, or both, to link it to the outside world.
We found little or no difficulty in persuading those we visited to sing to us. To prove our interest in the subject and to arouse their memories, we wrould ourselves sometimes sing folk-songs that I had collected in England, choosing, for preference, those with which they were un­acquainted. Very often they misunderstood our requirements and would give us hymns instead of the secular songs and ballads which we wanted; but that was befoie we had learned to ask for "love-songs," which is their name for these ditties. It was evident, too, that it was often assumed that strangers like ourselves could have but one object and that to "improve", and their relief was obvious when they found that we came not to give but to receive.
It is no exaggeration to say that some of the hours I passed sitting on the porch (i. e. verandah) of a log-cabin, talking and listening to songs wrere amongst the pleasantest I have ever spent. Very often we would call upon some of our friends early in the morning and remain till dusk, sharing the mid-day meal with the family, and I would go away in the evening with the feeling that I had never before been in a more musical atmosphere, nor benefited more greatly by the exchange of musical confidences.
The singers displayed much interest in watching me take down their music in my note-book and when at the conclusion of a song I hummed over the tune to test the accuracy of my transcription they were as delighted as though I had successfully performed a conjuring trick.
The mountain singers sing in very much the same way as English folk-singers, in the same straightforward, direct manner, without any conscious effort at expression, and with the even tone and clarity of enunciation with which all folk-song collectors are familiar. Perhaps, however, they are less unselfconscious and sing rather more freely and with somewhat less restraint than the English peasant; I certainly never saw any one of them close the eyes when he sang nor assume that rigid, passive expression to which collectors in England have so often called attention.