Thursday, May 06, 2010

'Mo Mary' found! In ChoralWiki and YouTube, of all places!

One of my alltime favorite songs, ever since I first heard it on Harry Bellafonte's "Mark Twain and Other Favorites" LP when I was a kid, is "Mo Mary." Unlike some of his other songs, it's never to my knowledge been covered. And it turns out it's a folkish art song - or an artish folk song - collected in the Hebrides a hundred years ago by a Scottish singer who arranged it for voice and piano in very much the fashion of a John Jacob Niles.

Åke Holm, of Sweden, has complete information on Bellafonte's recording of the song, which he attributes to Richard Dyer-Bennett, for Victor on April 29, 1954. Includes studio orchestra personnel.

Turns out "Mo Mary" is an alternate title (the original was "An Island Sheiling Song," and it's from the Hebrides). YouTube has a clip of Scottish lyric soprano Marie McLaughlin performing "Eriskay Love Lilt" and the "Island Sheiling Song" (which begins at 1:24).

Also an interesting HMV (Victor) recording in London in 1933 by operatic tenor Joseph Hislop backed by orchestra conducted by Clifford Greenwood. On a wind-up gramophone player.

The song was collected - and arranged - by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser in "Songs of the Hebrides" (1909). ChoralWiki has sheet music (in G) and a passable MIDI file. Mudcat Cafe has the usual very well informed thread on the song, its origins, Kennedy-Fraser's strengths and limitations as an arranger and much, much else.

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