Sunday, August 08, 2010

Harrigan and Hart: "The Babies on Our Block" / and notes on the children's songs "Little Sally Walker" and "Greeny Gravel" it quotes

"Babies on our Block" - by Edward "Ned" Harrigan the usual indispensible Mudcat Cafe thread ... Sheet music in the Lester S. Levy Collection at Johns Hopkins

From the discussion on Musicals ...
Harrigan and Braham's songs were in the popular style of their day, with lots of sentiment and street-smart humor. The lyrics were redolent with slang, ethnic accents and imperfect grammar, speech forms which had not been set to music before. New Yorkers adored these tunes, and every neighborhood in Manhattan rang with renditions of "Paddy Duffy's Cart" or "The Babies on Our Block" –
If you want for information
Or in need of merriment,
Come over with me socially
To Murphy's tenement.
He owns a row of houses
In the first ward, near the dock,
Where Ireland's represented
By the babies on our block.
There's the Phalens and the Whalens
From the sweet Dunochadee,
They are sitting on the railings
With their children on their knee,
All gossiping and talking
With their neighbors in a flock,
Singing "Little Sally Waters" *
With the babies on our block.

"Oh, little Sally Waters,
Sitting in the sun,
A-crying and weeping for a young man;
Oh rise, Sally, rise,
Wipe your eye out with your frock";

That's sung by the babies
A-living on our block.

- Lyric transcribed from sheet music
Also this on the Musicals101 website, summing up Harrigan's later career: "Harrigan continued to produce and star in musicals until 1893. George M. Cohan's jaunty 'H-A-double R-I-G-A-N spells Harrigan' was an affectionate tribute to this early giant of the American musical stage." I distinctly remember my grandfather singing "H-A-double-R-I-G-A-N" when I was a kid.

Lyrics at ... the music isn't exactly leaping off the World Wide Web at me, but the Library of Congress has "The Babies on Our Block Schottisch" (1880) by Dave Braham on its website Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music. A piano version in C. Also the original sheet music for voice and piano in the Johns Hopkins collection (?) ...( in A).

From Richard Sudhalter, liner notes to "DON’T GIVE THE NAME A BAD PLACE: Types and Stereotypes in American Musical Theater 1870-1900" [ New World Records 80265] PDF file online

Though Harrigan poked gentle fun at most groups, he clearly held a special affection for the Irish. When The Mulligan Guard Ball opened at the Theater Comique on January 13, 1879, one of its most popular songs was "The Babies on Our Block" (Track 1), a nostalgic look at the songs and games of Irish children on the Lower East Side. It contains references to the songs "Little Sally Waters" and "Green Gravel," brought to the United States with the immigrants from Ireland.


* "Little Sally Waters (Walker)" is an old, old children's song, apparently. And it has gone deep in African American culture, and from there to high school (or junior high school) cheerleading to judge by the array of clips on YouTube. Mudcat Cafe has the usual very knowledgeable thread especially on its African American variants. Including this by Azizi Powell, who maintains a website called on children's games He taught it to children in an after-school program in Pittsburgh. He sang some of Leadbelly's version and:
Well anyhow, I'll tell you what else I told those children. I went waaay back and told them that ring games were used in slavery to teach SURVIVAL skills. Since you never knew when you'd be picked to go inside the circle, you had always to be ready. And then you had to move QUICK in the center of the ring and REAL FAST think up a different dance or motion from any other that had been done before. All this was happenin while the beat kept goin on and the other children kept singin on. But this fast thinkin is not just needed during slavery times. It's still needed now 'cause Black people still have to think quick and move fast when the spirit says move. You know what I'm talkin' bout?

But, wait a minute. Didn't I give those kids some more history!
I bet you didn't even know this. Little Sally Walkers' really WHITE. No, wait a minute. I'm not kiddin. Her real name was Sally Waters and she really came from Europe. How she got started was like this: way back when, a woman who was gettin married had to step over a saucer of water on her way to the wedding ceremony. I swear I'm not making this up. That's how those Little Sally sittin in a saucer words came about. It was a water purification thing. Ain't that somethin? We jumped over brooms, and they stepped over saucers. Anyway, who cares if Sally first came from White people - we made her Black with all those shake to the East let your back bone slip hip shakin motions. Not to mention that Black people are all mixed up with Black, White, Indian, Hispanic, and Asian blood…Anyhow, ole Sally Walker's all right by me. Wherever she came from, she's one of us now. And that's all I'm gonna say on that subject.
More on "Little Sally Waters" and "Green Gravel" (quoted in 2nd verse) in Alabama Folklife Association notes by John Bealle on Ala. children's songs collected in 1948 ... "Sally Walker" is No. 19 of ___ songs.
"Little Sally Walker" is a traditional marriage play extensively collected among British children. It is "Sally Water" in Gomme (2:149-179) and the Opies (#34, 1985:167-71). Gomme collected forty-eight versions of this game. In it, Sally will "choose to the east, choose to the west," and the game ends in marriage (p166). "In the Strixwould version [the oldest collected, in 1828], the child stands in the center holding in her hands something resembling a saucer; she then pretends to "knock it in a mortar," and gives the saucer to the one whom she chooses." At the beginning, Sally sometimes cries and wipes her eyes with a handkerchief (Gomme 2:167; Opie and Opie 1985:168). * * * The game is widely collected in both urban and rural settings in the U.S. and in the Caribbean. Jones and Hawes remark that the American "Little Sally Walker" became "a brief drama about the joys of release from shame" (1972:107). Concluding stanzas (e.g., "Shake it to the East") seem to be African American additions.
And this on "Green Gravel" (No.
Green Gravel is a widely dispersed but less popular game that usually appears as only a single four- or six-line verse. Its earliest collection was 1835 in Manchester, England (Opie and Opie 1985:240). There are obvious elements of dramatic structure, but only faint suggestions of meaning. As in Martha Drisdale's version, the chief dramatic element is the turning back, one-by-one, of the players.

Although this motif is common in European games, there is little indication what makes it so captivating for players. Thus much of the commentary by folklorists on this game has involved examining text fragments to determine their origin and meaning. As can be seen here, there is much disagreement and much speculation on this. * * * Vance Randolph posits a different explanation, suggesting Irish sources to account for the reference to freemasonry: ["]"Green Gravel" is an old Irish song, and I have been told that the first stanza is connected with the Irish Catholics' hatred of the Masonic fraternity. The Ozark natives know nothing of this, however, and do not connect "free meshin" with "freemason" at all. ["]
The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection at Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas has Almeda Riddle singing it and explaining the accompanying children's dance. And Digital Tradition has words and music.

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