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Traditional song



Celtic design I hope to add more information here as time permits, and as I come upon more interesting material. Suggestions welcome.



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Technology and folksong
Has the advance of modern technology had a damaging effect on folksong? Not according to the renowned scholar Kenneth Goldstein of the University of Pennsylvania. He took a more optimistic view.


Traditional song origins
The beginning of a collection of stories about the origins of some traditional songs.


16th century ballads
This site giving information on 16th century ballads (mostly English ones) seems to be operated by someone from the Society for Creative Anachronism. Lots of links to similar sites.


Traditional Gaelic singing
An introductory article by Craig Cockburn. He says it's moved it but I couldn't find it at his new URL. There's lots of other good stuff there, though.


West gallery music
A great topic of debate in the field of English folk song has been the famous Copper family of Rottingdean, Sussex. Most of the experts say that English folk music is never harmonized, yet not only do the Copper family sing in harmony, but they have kept meticulous records which show that the family has been singing this way for at least 200 years. It occurred to me that the source of their style may be in the "west gallery" music that was sung in English churches in the approximate period 1650-1750. This style of music, which seems somewhat related to shape note singing in the U.S., was mostly replaced by barrel organs, as described in Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree. A very interesting page describes the revival of west gallery music in England.


Danny Boy
Is Danny Boy really an Irish song? And, if not, where did it come from, and why do we think it is Irish? Maybe you saw that show that was on my local PBS station lately, Danny Boy: In Sunshine or in Shadow, that featured such exciting clips as Eric Clapton discussing De Dannan's version of the song. (Now I'm waiting to hear Martin Hayes giving his opinions about B. B. King and Son House!) Unfortunately, the format and marketing requirements of television required the omission of most of the interesting stuff (as usual). Here you can get the real story, an amazing 100 year long detective mystery!

Just after St. Patrick's Day, 1999, I received a message from Julian Lloyd, the producer of In Sunshine or in Shadow. My favourite version of the song was done by pianist Bill Evans (not in the least Irish, though), and I was pleased to find out that he agreed with my opinion.

Your Danny Boy info is really great and I was thrilled to find it. I have long had a fascination for this air and song, although admittedly less scholarly than your own. I have over 100 different recordings. You may have seen a TV documentary - 'In Sunshine or in Shadow' - on the song which I wrote and put together about three years ago. It was shown on ITV here and also on PBS in The States. Sadly, owing to the cost of licensing footage, the US version could not contain a really epic version by Jackie Wilson. Have you ever been in touch with Brian Audley, a musicologist from the North of Ireland, who has done a lot of research into the history of the air?

I once had an interesting correspondent from Dublin who had served as a UN soldier in Korea. "One freezing night in January we were about 20 yards from the enemy trenches when I heard the tune drifting over, played on pipes. We took their position in the morning and though I searched for the piper or the pipes, I found nothing. I asked a fellow soldier if he had heard anything and he confirmed my experience." I have heard it said that the tune has much in common with Eastern music and it is certainly still one of the favourite mainstays of Japanese Karaoke juke boxes.


Waltzing Matilda
Allen Abel of the National Post wrote a very nice introductory article about Australia's most famous song.


Auld Lang Syne
As you may know, the tune to which Auld Lang Syne is now sung is not the original tune used by Robert Burns. And according to Tony Doyle, the modern tune was composed by an Englishman! Check out his William Shield page for more on this controversial topic.


Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall
Also known as Ten Green Bottles, a new discovery suggests that this song may have annoyed parents taking their children on pilgrimage to Canterbury during Chaucer's time (between cries of "Beest wee there yette?").



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