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Join us each month in song!
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CDSS designated 2016 our Year of Song. We chose it for two reasons: to honor the start of Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles’ prolific folk song collecting in southern Appalachia (1916-1918), and to look at how song serves CDSS's mission. This examination also begins a cycle of focusing on one or two genres at a time, as we identify community needs and allow for better use of our resources.

Our Song of the Month feature has been so well received that we decided to make it a permanent part of the website. You'll find an archive of these songs below as well as new ones being posted in the months to come.

CDSS’s song traditions are based primarily in the English and Anglo-American traditions — folk songs, ballads, sea shanties, rounds, songs with choruses. We also include spirituals, work songs, country harmony, African call and response, shape note and gospel, contemporary a cappella, and new arrangements of traditional songs. Our special emphasis is on community singing.

Lorraine Hammond, CDSS Board member and Song Task Group Chair, spearheaded our Year of Song efforts and oversaw 2016’s song selections. Judy Cook took on that role in 2017 and continues to contribute each month, with help from Lorraine. Our thanks to them both, as well as to Lynn Nichols for shepherding them to our website.

Happy singing!


Castle and mountains in Scotland

Annachie Gordon

Submitted by Cindy Mangsen

Child Ballad #239 exists in fragments, telling the story of Annachie and his love Jeannie, forced by her father to marry another man for his status and wealth. Jeannie tells her parents that if she marries the lord, she'll refuse to share his bed and will die for her true love.

Sure enough, she dies on the very day of the wedding, which is also the day Annachie returns from his seafaring. He dies, of course, of grief. It's a tear-jerker of a story, but when put to this beautiful melody (thank you, Nic Jones), becomes incredibly moving. Emily Friedman introduced me to this song, many years ago in Chicago.

Listen to Cindy sing "Annachie Gordon:"

"Annachie Gordon" sheet musicClick here to download a PDF of the sheet music.

Lyrics

Buchan is bonnie and there lives my love
My heart it lies on him, it will not remove
It will not remove for all that I have done
Oh never will I forget my love Annachie
For Annachie Gordon is bonnie and he's braw
He'd entice any woman that ever him saw
He'd entice any woman and so he has done me
Never will I forget my love Annachie

Down came her father, standing on the floor
Sayin' Jeannie's trying the tricks of a whore
You care nothing for a man who cares so very much for thee
You must marry with Lord Salton and forget young Annachie
For Annachie Gordon is only but a man
Although he may be pretty, ah but where are all his lands?
Salton's lands are broad and his towers they stand high
You must marry with Lord Salton and forget young Annachie

With Annachie Gordon I would beg for my bread
Before I'd marry Salton with gold to my head
With gold to my head and my gown swings to the knee
And I'll die if I don't get my love Annachie
And you that are my parents, though to church you may me bring
Ah but unto Lord Salton I will never bear a son
Oh a son or a daughter and I'll never bow my knee
And I'll die if I don't get my love Annachie

When Jeannie was married and from church she was brought home
And she and her maidens so merry should have been
When she and her maidens so merry should have been
She's gone to her chamber and she's crying all alone.

Come to bed now Jeannie, my honey and my sweet
For to style you my mistress it would not be meet.
Oh it's mistress or Jeannie, it's all the same to me
And it's in your bed Lord Salton I never shall be
Up spoke her father and he's spoken with renown
All you that are her maidens, won't you loosen off her gown
But she fell down in a swoon so low down by their knee
Saying, look on, for I'm dying for my love Annachie

The day that Jeannie married was the day that Jeannie died
That's the day young Annachie came rolling from the tide
And down came her maidens and wringing of their hands
Saying woe to you, Annachie, for staying from the sand
So long from the land and so long upon the flood
Oh they've married your Jeannie and now she's dead

You that are her maidens, won't you take me by the hand
Won't you lead me to the chamber where my love lies in
And he's kissed her cold lips til his heart turned to stone
And he's died in the chamber where his true love lay in

Cindy Mangsen writes: I am a singer, songwriter, guitar/concertina player who loves being part of the long chain!

Alex and friends playing music

Stand Steady

Alex Sturbaum

This song was written in support of our friends working in health care and other essential fields during the COVID-19 pandemic, who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe and healthy while being denied everything from basic protective equipment to hazard pay. We wanted to send support to our friends on the front lines, express outrage and frustration that they have been put in such an impossible situation, and hope for the day that we can welcome them back safely.

This song is also a call to action for those of us who are still financially secure - please check out the fundraiser mentioned at the end of the video, with clickable links available through the video on YouTube and Facebook.

Listen to Alex Sturbaum and friends sing "Stand Steady:"

Lyrics

It's peel off your scrubs, stumble in through the door
Step into the shower and scrub yourself raw
It's in at eleven, it's back out at four
For there's work to be done for the living
Ye who toil on the border between life and death
You're fighting for those who are fighting for breath
It's a battle that takes until little is left
And it's fearful and seldom forgiving

Stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming

Behind gloves, behind masks, there's a courage that dwells
When you head off to work in a world gone to hell
Do the job you were trained for, and do it as well
As you can with the tools you've been given
Politicians and ministers promise to serve
And to give us relief that we need and deserve
If any among them had half of your nerve
They'd have done more and done it unbidden

Stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming 

So hold on to hope through exhaustion and fear
And we'll go safe to ground till you give the all clear
And when this is all over we still will be here
In the bright shining light of the morning
When the bars are back open, we'll buy you a round
Lift our voices in song, raise the roof with the sound
And we'll join hands and dance till our feet shake the ground
To welcome the heroes returning

So stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming
Stand steady, my friends, in the darkest of times
Our love will go with you as you hold the line
When the hardship is past, we as one will entwine
And we'll dance to a better world coming
I know there's a better world coming

Alex Sturbaum is a songwriter and contra dance musician living in Seattle, WA. They perform with the bands Countercurrent, The Waxwings, and Gallimaufry, and produce the Vashon Sessions. Their second solo album, Loomings, comes out this month.

"Brave Lads of Gallawater" sheet music

Braw Lads of Galla-Water

introduced by Andrew Calhoun

This lyric to "Galla-water" is taken from David Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scots Songs (1769), p. 312. Herd was an excellent collector who did not manipulate/correct the source material, but he did not publish the song melodies.

The song was next published as #125 in Volume 2 of The Scots Musical Museum, with the lyric poorly adjusted. The SMM’s musical editor, Stephen Clarke, only printed the A part of the melody, a move typical of this indolent character through whom so much of the Scots song tradition, including the bulk of the songs of Robert Burns, has unfortunately been filtered. Clarke was in fact a church organist from Durham, England.

The full tune I sing here, "Braw Lads of Galla-water," was published by James Oswald in book 8 of The Caledonian Companion in 1756. Burns wrote a new version of the song using the same first line for the publisher George Thomson, but it does not match the quality and mystery of the old words. The shifting perspective in the lyric is well supported by the contrasting musical parts.

A poacher creeps through the woods

The Lincolnshire Poacher

introduced by David Jones

"The Lincolnshire Poacher" has been referred to as the unofficial county anthem of Lincolnshire. It is said that the song was a favorite of King George IV and dates back to the American Revolution (1776).

The tune has been used as a quick march by several British regiments, including the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, who are known as the “Poachers.” It was also used by some New York Regiments during the American Civil War. 


On a personal note: This was a song we sang at school. I first sang it when I was 10 years old, so I have known it for 75 years. It was a great relief to sing this song after “Who is Sylvia,” “Nymphs and Shepherds,” and other arty-type songs which were commonly sung in school singing classes. You may remember Jean Redpath talking about songs sung at British schools. She was very funny.

Another factor in its favor is that it has a good tune and is easy to sing.

A cowboy sitting on his horse

The Hills of Mexico

introduced by Sara Grey

The tune and text is a variation of “Buffalo Skinners” from Woody Guthrie but Woody’s version is more likely derived from this version. This is one of my favorite songs – so plaintive such a common theme.

I heard this version from Roscoe Holcomb; it’s ironic the way songs can move in opposite directions. We doubt Roscoe ever travelled west – someone probably had migrated back to the Southeast and he heard it there.

Three angelic women in sailing shipsI Saw Three Ships by Walter Crane, courtesy of The Victorian Internet

I Saw Three Ships

introduced by Dave Para

Like John Roberts & Tony Barrand, Dave Para loves this "Crawn" version of the widespread carol “I Saw Three Ships.” It was collected in 1895 from a Humber estuary boatman on the east coast of England, and ultimately published by Baring-Gould in his Garland of Country Songs in the same year.

It finally makes sense out of the puzzle of why three ships appear in the Christmas narrative at all. Legend has it that the skulls ("crawns" = "craniums" = "crowns"?) of the "Kings" or "Wise Men" were taken and lodged in the cathedral at Cologne.

Dave thinks of this more as a pilgrim carol than a Christmas song, so here it is in March.

The trooper discovers the tailor in the cupboard

The Trooper and the Tailor

introduced by Mark Gilston

I performed my first public concert at the Yellow Door Coffeehouse in Montreal in 1971. When I was putting together my set list, I noticed that two of the songs contained lyrics about ears which had been isolated from their owners’ heads. “The Cat Came Back” had the line, “Next day all they found was Freddy’s own right ear.” “Perrine” had the the line, “The mice they chewed and chewed and only left an ear.” I was also familiar with the song, “Jackknife” from the Unholy Modal Rounders, which begins, “I was cleaning my jackknife when you did appear. I had a fight with you; I cut off your ear.”

The Lady Elgin"The lake steamer Lady Elgin, as she lay at her wharf at Chicago on the day before she was lost. -From a photograph by S. Alschuler."

Lost on the Lady Elgin

introduced by Lee Murdock

This song was composed by Henry C. Work in the wake of one of the worst maritime disasters to occur until that time. The Lady Elgin was a side-wheel steam-powered vessel, 300 feet long with a capacity of 1000 tons. She carried finished goods, mail, general freight and passengers between lake-towns in the United States and Canada. Her master was Captain Jack Wilson, well respected among his peers and considered a first-rate sailor.

Cemetery in Newfoundland, CanadaBright Phoebe

introduced by Kim Wallach

It was autumn, around 16 years ago, a friend died unexpectedly of a heart attack. My marriage with my hopes and dreams was also dying. I was searching through my big collections of songs - Lomax, Warner etc - tracking down songs I wanted to learn. I found "Pinery Boy," and the Warner version of "Lang a-Growing." Then in Folk Songs of the Catskills by Cazden, Haufrecht & Studer, State University of New York Press, Albany c 1982, I found the relatively rare "Bright Phoebe." The raw grief and loss in both melody and lyric matched what I was feeling perfectly, and I set about learning it.

I am a singer and a songwriter. The way I understand the world, my place in it and my feelings about it has always been through music.

Mark WalkerTickle Cove Pond

by Mark Walker
introduced and performed by Anita Best

"Tickle Cove Pond" was written by Mark Walker, a fisherman and songwriter who lived in Tickle Cove, Bonavista Bay in Newfoundland, Canada during the late 19th century. This song is prized locally for the beauty and wit of the lyrics, which turn a mundane event into an act of heroism. In addition, this song has been recorded by a St. John's Traditional Folk group called Connemara, Anita Best and Sandy Morris on a CD entitled Some Songs, and by classical singer Meredith Hall. It was also recorded by the Vermont-based ensemble Nightingale.

Frank Proffitt playing banjoI'm Going Back to North Carolina

Traditional
introduced by Judy Cook
performed by Frank Proffitt

I love this traditional song from the southern Appalachians for its simplicity, accessibility, and poignancy. It’s easy to keep it going by adding either the first or third verse as a chorus between every verse, or by adding any number of “zipper verses” that might suit the situation. We have the song sung by Frank Proffitt on the album Frank Proffitt of Reese, NC (1962), Folk Legacy Album #1. The entire Folk Legacy catalog is now available on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

A convict in chains en route to AustraliaFor the Company Underground

introduced by Margaret Walters
performed by Margaret Walters, Don Brian, and Robert Boddington

Words: Francis MacNamara, aka Frank the Poet, written approx. 1839

Tune: adapted by Margaret Walters from “Norwich Gaol” from Peter Bellamy's 1977 ballad opera, The Transports

Francis MacNamara was a convict transported to Australia in 1832 on the ship Eliza. An incorrigible rogue, he served more than 17 years punishment. "For the Company Underground" is Frank's letter to J. Crosdale, Esq., who was the superintendent of the Australia Company's Colliery Establishment in Newcastle (north of Sydney), outlining the precise conditions under which he would be prepared to work underground.

The Maid of Sweet Gurteen

introduced by Marge Steiner

The song is found in Northern Ireland and in the Canadian Maritimes. 
Roud number: 3025

The singer is Frank Murphy in Derryard, Roslea.

Recorded on 08/21/1978

I like to introduce people to source singers when I'm giving talks and such, and I was taken with Frank Murphy's modal rendition. Please note that, as with many source singers, Frank’s tune varies from verse to verse. We have transcribed the first verse here, but urge people to listen carefully to the entire song.

Starving to Death on a Government Claim

introduced by Bob Bovee

"Starving to Death on a Government Claim," also known as Lane or Greer County Bachelor, is a traditional song from the late 19th century. It's often sung in 6/8 time to the tune of "The Irish Washerwoman," or sometimes in 3/4. I learned it from a 78 rpm record by Ed Crain with considerable changes to the tune, words and tempo. Growing up in Nebraska, I can identify with the life and landscape of this song, the hardships of a difficult existence.

Annan Water

introduced by William Pint and Felicia Dale

Annan Water is a superb example of the folk process in action.

In the late 1960's English singer Nic Jones encountered lyrics in  Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads, that had been taken from yet another book, Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders. Jones modified the words, turned the final stanza into a chorus, borrowed a melody from another traditional English song, and processed it all into a brand new 'traditional' song. Annan Water describes the tragedy of a man's struggle to reach his true love, riding his horse to exhaustion at a swollen river's banks and finally attempting and failing to swim the raging water. The singer, admonishing the treacherous river, vows to build a bridge guaranteeing that never again will it divide true lovers.

Listen to a great version sung by the Irish vocal trio, The Voice Squad.

The Shearin's No' For You

introduced by Ed Miller

vectorstock 3626681It's an old song, probably 19th century, from the song-rich northeast lowlands of Scotland; one of many songs relating to the harvest time of late summer. Harvest time in the old agricultural system of Lowland Scotland was one of the few times when men and women worked together out-of-doors. They would form "gangs" where the men would do the shearing (cutting by scythe or "heuk") and the women the picking-up and "stookin" before the crop was taken off for threshing. The 2nd verse may be romantic; but the other 3 are not.

In the first verse, the young man says "don’t even come to the harvest, you're so pregnant you can't bend over to pick it up," and the 3rd and 4th verses tell her to forget dressing nicely and making herself look good as life from now on will be one of drudgery at home with the children...typical Scottish fare!

There are many versions of this song... some have verses where the girl complains of being taken advantage of and then abandoned by the young man; but this is a more benign version.

Listen to Ed Miller sing the tune:

Listen to Scots Women sing the tune:

Shady Grove

introduced by Sparky and Rhonda Rucker

"Shady Grove" is a traditional Southern Appalachian song. Like many mountain songs that blend Celtic and African influences, it is most often played in a modal tuning. Its origins are murky. The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Volume III, credits it as a "Negro song." In the Journal of American Folklore, the song was collected in both Kentucky and Tennessee. In one of her books, Jean Ritchie reminisced about hearing it as a fiddle tune when she was growing up in eastern Kentucky. We have recorded this song twice — once on our CD, Treasures & Tears, and again on Dear Jean, the Jean Richie tribute album.

A video from our live performance for a Jean Ritchie tribute at KY Music Weekend on July 25, 2015 can be found here.

Bedlam

introduced by Keith Kendrick

This wonderful version of “Bedlam” was collected by Cecil Sharp from Jack Barnard in Bridgewater 1906. I found it in Book 2 of The Crystal Spring: English Folk Songs, and I've been singing it since the 1970s.

Having seemingly been cruelly cheated out of her loved one (who, incidentally must have been either a thoroughly nasty piece of work or simply a complete and utter prat!) by jealous or unthinking friends, this poor girl, suffering probably only from a bout of melancholy, finds herself inappropriately dumped in a mental institution mistakenly diagnosed as slightly loopy, an all too common occurrence in days gone by – and not totally unheard of in more recent times either!

LIsten to Keith and Sylvia Needham sing the tune:

The Bonny Bunch of Roses

introduced by Joel Mabus

roseFor the CDSS Song of the Month, I offer "The Bonny Bunch of Roses," as performed on Irish television in 1965 by a young Colm Walsh of County Clare. Here is the video of his performance.

I have transcribed his melody and also the lyric he uses, which is not what is posted beneath the video. I have never heard this exact version anywhere else — there are many, many variants. The song is in the "Bonaparte Canon," as it were. In this ballad, the young out-of-favor Napoleon II is speaking with his mother, Archduchess Marie Louise, after daddy is dead and buried at St. Helena. He tells he will do what his father failed to do — give her the "bonny bunch of roses" — being England, Ireland and Scotland. And she says, "Don't try it, kid!"  

A version of this tune is sometimes called "Bonaparte's Retreat" (one of the several) and exists as an Appalachian fiddle & banjo tune called "The Bunch of Roses."

Ambletown

introduced by Geoff Kaufman

There are a number of versions of this lovely song most commonly called "Home, Dearie, Home." I first heard this one from Ed Trickett in a house concert in NYC just as I was getting serious about performing and I often give it credit for steering me toward a career built around maritime music. I love its poignant vignette of the sailor far from home and the whimsical twist of the wife neglecting to tell him if their baby is a boy or girl.

Hear the song performed by Geoff Kaufman:

Throw Open Your Shutters

introduced by Lynn Nichols

At CDSS, we are stewards of traditional music, dance, and song, but while the songs may be traditional, the traditions are living ones. Which brings me to "Throw Open Your Shutters." Connecticut composer Amy Fell Bernon wrote this high energy, festive choral work in the Renaissance madrigal style in 2000 as a tribute to her high school choral director in Jamesville-DeWitt, NY. The piece features a wonderful interplay between voice parts, particularly in the “Hey Ding-a-dong” section. Bernon has set it in SATB, SSA, and TBB versions, and it is performed either with piano accompaniment or a cappella.

Amy Fell Bernon is one of Connecticut’s leading composers of choral music. She’s also a talented singer, pianist, conductor. Amy’s music is accessible and unpretentious, and she has received countless commissions from choral festivals and ensembles of all levels. Her works for treble voices are especially popular among women’s choirs and youth choirs.

The Wild Rover

introduced by Brian Peters

The Wild Rover is one of the best-known traditional songs, but it’s not the Irish drinking anthem many people assume. It began life in the 1670s as an English broadside ballad about a hard-drinking ‘Bad Husband’ who saw the error of his ways, but was edited down over the centuries, rebranded as ‘The Wild Rover’, and a chorus added. It was popular in England, Scotland and Australia, and the version made famous by the Dubliners contains elements from all of those places. Brian’s version was collected in Hampshire, England, in 1906, and retains the older chorus and temperance message – a similar version was written down in the same area as early as 1820.

Watch/listen to Brian perform The Wild Rover at this link or embedded above.

     
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