Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A very funky tribute to Alan Lomax and his Sounds of the South field recordings


"Trials, Troubles, Tribulations" by Sharon van Etten and Justin Vernon duet Sounds of the South musicNOW -- uploaded by YouTube user nosnah227

http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2010/09/16/duke-performances-reimagines-sounds-south-hayti The Chronicle - independent daily at DUke University

By Andrew Hibbard | September 15, 2010

Ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s 1961 release of southern field recordings, Sounds of the South, is an eight-disc extravaganza of delta blues, gospel and southern folk music entrenched in a rich cultural history.

And almost 50 years after its initial release on Atlantic Records, the project has found a new life in the hands of Durham band Megafaun and Richmond jazz collective Fight the Big Bull’s Matt White. With the vocal assistance of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and musician Sharon Van Etten, this supergroup of sorts is reinterpreting Lomax’s recordings, filtered through the present day.

* * *

But, if not odd, the reality of the project is certainly disparate. How does Fight the Big Bull, a contemporary, brassy jazz big-band, fit in with so-called indie folk trio Megafaun and two disarmingly beautiful vocalists, Justin Vernon and Sharon Van Etten? Moreover, how do they come together under the concept of recreating southern field recordings?

For White, the answer is simple.

“In the public point of view, we’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, but we’re informed by a lot of the same things,” he said.

Indeed, what inspires all of these musicians is an incredible awareness of and engagement with historical tradition. What separates them in all of their different form and genre-bending impulses is the trajectory the history takes them on.

“They’re totally willing to experiment. Lots of things sound right to their ears,” Greenwald said. “They’ve listened to an enormous amount of stuff…. There seems to be a totally sincere interest in all sorts of different sounds and all sorts of different ways of thinking about music.”

To be sure, the character of the Sounds of the South performances will be avant-something. But what fuels this impulse is the sense of tradition.

http://belatedbaby.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/in-case-you-missed-it-megafaun-justin-vernon-sharon-van-etten-do-sounds-of-the-south/ Belated Baby - by four duke students -- "Trials, Troubles, Tribulations" and a cover of Mississippi Fred Mcdowell's "Write Me a Few Lines" w/ links to reviews

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Clayville beginners' jam Saturday -- "Amazing Grace" and "Rosin the Bow" -- WATCH THIS SPACE for links to some other songs we've learned so far ** plus a very cool African American variant of "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" **

Editor's (blogger's?) note: After trying the dulcimer tablature for a couple of arrangements of "Rosin the Bow" below, I've found one posted by the Three Rivers Dulcimer Society in Washington state that I think will be easier to learn, especially for beginners, so I am linking to it here


... and revising some of the discussion below to incorporate the new tab (with my revisions in italics). It has a different title, "Acres of Clams," but it's the same tune. -- pe

New for next month's session of the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music tune learning circle and teaching jam -- from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 4, at Clayville Historic Site, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains:

"Amazing Grace"

By request. There's dulcimer tablature in DAD, by Ron Zuckerman of the Huntsville (Ala.) Mountain Dulcimer Association, available on line at:

http://www.hsvmda.com/sites/default/files/tabs/AmazingGraceDAD.pdf ...

Here's a nice finger-picked version by YouTube user JustDulci, playing it as a memorial to her father on a mountain dulcimer that he built:

And here is a very traditional rendering by YouTube user LewDite, playing with pick and noter in DAA:

You don't have to be a Luddite to think an Anglo-Celtic folk hymn like "Amazing Grace" sounds best in open, modal tunings like DAA. It's best to learn it in DAD, however, since most dulcimer clubs nationwide play in DAD and most instruction books are written for DAD.

"Rosin the Bow"

This is a versatile tune. It was first published in the United States in 1838 as a drinking song for a young men's rowing club in Philadelphia, and it has popped up as an English morris dance and a fiddle tune in Scotland, Ireland and America. In Springfield the Prairieland Strings dulcimer club plays "Lincoln and Liberty" to the same tune, and on the west coast they call it "Acres and Acres of Clams."

Since Clayville was the scene of Whig Party rallies during the 1840s, I'll have lyrics and suggested backup chords for a song I'm adapting from Whig candidate Henry Clay's 1844 presidential campaign ready for you by Saturday. There are many other versions, too, including some that are not for polite company (click here for more about the song's checkered career). The melody, one of the grand old Anglo-Celtic tunes, is the same for them all, however.

Here's a very straight-forward arrangement by the Three Rivers Dulcimer Society of Richland, Wash.


("Acres of Clams" is quite a song in its own right. Wikipedia has lyrics and history.)

If you want a more elaborate version, with lots of ornamentation and doodley-doo's, Ron Zuckerman of HMDA has a nice arrangement at

http://www.hsvmda.com/sites/default/files/tabs/RosinTheBeau2.pdf ...

Should it be spelled "Bow" or "Beau?" You see it both ways. Rosin (also spelled "resin") is what you put on a fiddle bow to give it tone, and "Beau" is an old-fashioned word for a handsome young man or boyfriend. Andrew Kuntz, in the Fiddler's Companion, suggests it was a nickname for a fiddle player.

Here it is on YouTube as performed by Bing Fultch:


After April's session at Clayville, I went looking for dulcimer tablature that better reflected the lyrics and would be more fun to play, not necessarily in that order of importance (click here for as good a set of lyrics as any, at http://www.8notes.com/digital_tradition/AUNTRODY.asp):

Go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody that the old gray goose is dead.

The one she's been saving to make a feather bed.

The old gander's weeping, because his wife is dead.

The goslings are mourning, because their mother's dead.

She died in the mill pond from standing on her head.

Go tell Aunt Rhody that the old gray goose is dead.

Don Pedi, traditional dulcimer artist and radio host of North Carolina, sings a version recorded by Almeda Riddle called "Go Tell Aunt Nancy" with a wonderful set of lyrics detailing that the goose was hit in the head by a walnut and broke out grandpa's teeth, along with the teeth on a circle saw, a gray wolf, a black dog and a coyote, and other wonders to behold, when they tried to eat the tough old goose. Almeda Riddle's version is available on YouTube:


We won't try to play it of course (for one thing, it's an a cappella vocal -- how do you play an a cappella vocal?), but this is worth a listen: A shorter version from a Duke University tribute to Alan Lomax' Sounds of the South field recordings, featuring trio Megafaun of Durham, N.C., and jazz band Fight the Big Bull, with vocalists Justin Vernon and Sharon Van Etten, singing a cappella, shows just how much you can do with this childrens' classic:

"Aunt Nancy," by the way, may have some in common with the West African goddess/folk hero Anansi. Independent scholar John Bealle, writing for the Alabama Folklife Association, explains:

... Arkansas singer Almeda Riddle sang "Go Tell Aunt Nancy" to the "Aunt Rhody" tune—a version she learned in her childhood that speaks to the alleged African American connections of the song. A key theme in Riddle's "Aunt Nancy" was that the goose was killed by a falling walnut. The gander and goslings mourn. When she is taken in and cooked, the family is stricken by misfortune—the fork breaks, grandma's teeth break, and the saw teeth break when she is butchered (Abrahams 1970a:117-120). Thus Riddle's trickster goose links the song, as folklorist Roger Abrahams observes, to the African American "Grey Goose" (such as the version sung by Leadbelly to a wholly different tune) where the goose exacts revenge upon her killers (178n47). And "Aunt Nancy" is the character "Anansi" from the West African story cycle, who appears in the Caribbean and parts of the U.S. with the "Aunt Nancy" name.
There's more in Bealle's introduction to a CD of 1947 field recordings titled Bullfrog Jumped: Children’s Folksongs from the Byron Arnold Collection. A list of Works Cited, including those referred to in the quote above, is available there.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" - campaign song for William Henry Harrison


Something to pair up with the campaign songs from Henry Clay's 1844 presidential bid on the Whig Party ticket -- the famous, or infamous, "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" from President William Henry Harrison's successful "log cabin and hard cider" campaign in 1840.

An old-fashioned folk-singerly group's version, which I can't identify but surely is suitable for classroom use, uploaded by YouTube user KokoskaTeacher:

And a rather odd version by alternative rock group They Might Be Giants. There are several on YouTube, but this one has period graphics for the video:

Sheet music, apparently from a contemporary book, is also available on the Internet.

Swedish website with 1986 psalmbook "som melodipsalmbok på nätet"

Here's a website -- more accurately described as a cluster of blogs -- that looks like it might be useful. It's put up by a history teacher from northern Sweden named Andreas Holmberg, and it has sound files, video clips and historical notes on the hymns in Sweden's 1986 hymnal, or psalmbok ... at least the hymns that aren't under copyright.


Holmberg explains:

1986 års psalmbok som melodipsalmbok på nätet

Detta är ett bara ett av många sätt att göra vår psalmskatt mer tillgänglig för nya generationer. Det bästa sättet är att gå i kyrkan och återupprätta husandakten, d.v.s. att regelbundet sjunga och spela psalmer tillsammans även hemmavid. OBS! Av upphovsrättsskäl kan inte alla texter och noter publiceras på nätet än. För de psalmer jag inte kunnat återge här hänvisas till papperspsalmboken. Kommentarsfälten får gärna användas, liksom min mejladress andreas.holmberg[at]skutan.eu

Holmberg also has a similar blog with sound files and YouTube clips of hymns in the German Lutheran hymnal at http://kirchengesangbuch.blogspot.com/

. Also shorter blogs with sound files of other hymnody-related topics, like Den blomstertid with songs for summer.

Holberg's profile: Född 1970 i Umeå. Uppvuxen i Luleå, lumpen i Boden, studerande i Ludvika och Lund. Gymnasielärare (historia o svenska) i bl.a. Storuman, Ovanåker och Bollnäs. Numera (2012) kantorsstuderande och -vikarie. Kristen och socialliberal. Trebarnspappa, pastorsman, folkpartist, iggesundsbo, EFS-are m.m. Det ni! From Iggesund, Hälsingland, 126 km north of Gävle and 262 north of Stockholm.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Some campaign songs for Henry Clay to the tune of "Rosin the Bow"

See also my posts of 2009 on the history, sources and variants of "Old Rosin the Bow" (along with "St. Patrick Was a Gentleman") and the lyrics of "When Sherman Marched Down to the Sea" ("Our campfires shone bright on the mountains, / That frown'd on the river below ..."), written in 1865 by an officer of the 5th Iowa Cavalry to the same tune.

Carl Sandburg, in his introduction to "Lincoln and Liberty Too" in the American Songbag, notes that the tune of "Old Rosin the Bow" was first used for campaign songs when Henry Clay ran for president on the Whig ticket in 1844. He quotes this fulsome example of the political songster's art:

So, freemen, come on to the rally,
This motto emblazons your crest:
that lone star of Hope yet is shining,
It lightens the skies of the West.
Hark! freedom peals far in her thunder,
Her lightning no force can arrest,
She drives the foul army asunder.
"Hail, gallant old Hal of the West!
Edifying, huh? But not all the political ditties went in for elevated rhetoric. Sandburg adds that when Horace Greeley ran against U.S. Grant in later years, "Then let Greeley go to the dickens, too soon he has counted his chickens" (American Songbag 167).

Other songs for Clay's unsuccessful presidential campaign, with political lyrics set to popular melodies of the day, were collected in The Clay Minstrel; or, National Songster, published jointly by Greeley's New York Tribune and a Whig publisher in Philadelphia. Excerpts and sound files available on line at Northern Illinois University's National Political Campaign Materials, 1840-1860 website (if you have the right software to play the sound files).

Screen shot below of one of the songs from The Clay Minstrel; or, National Songster: To Which is Prefixed a Sketch of the Life, Public Services, and Character of Henry Clay, ed. John Stockton Littell (New York and Philadelphia, 1843). (Google eBook):

Saturday, April 20, 2013

St Patrick's Breastplate: A classic Anglican hymn for Trinity Sunday

Posted here now so I can learn the song for a solo on Trinity Sunday (May 26). ST PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE, incorporating a tune called DEIRDRE in the sixth verse, was No. 268 in the Episcopal Hymnal (1940) that I grew up with. Also commonly known by its first line, "I bind unto myself today," it was my confirmation hymn.

The Lutheran Book of Worship has it, omiting the sixth verse. The entire hymn is included in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (available on line at http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/ELW2006/450) , however. It is more than a thousand years old, and it has been ascribed to St. Patrick since the year 690 AD, when it was directed to be sung in the monestaries and churches of Ireland. Sometimes the hymn is known as "The Deer's Cry," reflecting an ancient legend that St. Patrick and his followers were changed into deer while singing it in order to escape a Druid high king of Ireland.

Several melodies have been written for the song, also known as a daily prayer of St. Patrick. As I know it, ST PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE combines words by Anglo-Irish hymnwriter Ce­cil Frances Alex­an­der with music by Charles Villiers Stanford, an Irish composer who taught in England's Cambridge University at a time when classical music was beginning to draw heavily on folk traditions.

"This hymn can be a chall­enge to sing with­out see­ing the words matched to the notes," observe the editors of the Cyberhymnal (linked below), "but it is a mas­ter­piece ne­ver­the­less."

They're correct on both counts.

The hymn is complex musically. As Wikipedia notes, "In many churches it is unique among standard hymns because the variations in length and metre of verses mean that at least three different tunes must be used - different in the melody sung by the congregation." The melodies (I count only two) are lovely Irish tunes, though, and they lend themselves to Celtic fingerstyle guitar arrangments.

What it sounds like

You hear elaborate arrangements of the piece, but melodically it draws on the modal harmonies of traditional Irish song. It lends itself to both settings.

So it can sound very different, depending on who's performing it and why.

At one extreme, perhaps, is the opening procession at the installation of the Right Rev. Andrew Dietsche as 16th Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of New York. Feb. 2 of this year at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. The hymn begins at 3:19 and the sixth verse ("Christ be with me ...") at 8:21. While the acoustics on the recording are muddy, it shows the pageantry of a high-church Episcopal service at its most elaborate, with a descant on the last verse and variations on the organ afterward as the procession winds down.


Very different is American guitar virtuoso John Fahey's arrangement in A minor, here covered by YouTube user BD Shelton.

(Also on Shelton's channel and worth coming back to: Lovely arrangements of another Episcopal hymn, "In Christ There is no East or West," and "Tarleton's Resurrection" by John Dowland in an open D tuning.)

With its roots in Irish folk melody, ST PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE lends itself to folk arrangements.

In the 1940 hymnal, the melody modulates from G-minor to G-major, which presents a little bit of a problem on the mountain dulcimer, but I think I've worked out a decent compromise between what I want to do and what I can do by tuning my baritone dulcimer to GCgg and capoing on the first fret. That gives me, by my reckoning, A-minor on ST PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE and D-major chords on DEIRDRE.

All of this is a work in progress, however.

A little background

Stanford, who arranged the hymn, was a professor of music at the University of Cambridge in England, but his roots were in Dublin and he clearly had an ear for Irish song. In his day he was a well regarded composer of several symphonies, mostly in the style of Brahms, but now he is chiefly remembered for his influence on students including Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, according to a magisterial profile in Wikipedia (I counted 149 footnotes).

According to Wikipedia, Stanford "liked and respected folk songs," perhaps especially "genuine Irish folk tunes" he incorporated in his orchestral works, and his church music "is dominated by melody." I know him best for having "restored and arranged" the Irish Melodies of Thomas Moore. He is one of the few authors I've ever read whose footnotes are entertaining! See what he said about "The Last Rose of Summer," for example. He had no patience for arrangers who didn't understand modal harmony.

At any rate, Stanford's arrangement of ST PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE and DEIRDRE dates from 1904. It was included in Vaughan Williams' 1906 hymnal for the Church of England, and it clearly respects Anglo-Irish folk traditions.

According to the Cyberhymnal, the text is a 19th-century trans­la­tion of a Gael­ic po­em called “St. Pat­rick’s Lor­i­ca,” or breast­plate ("A 'lorica' was a mys­tic­al gar­ment that was sup­posed to pro­tect the wear­er from dan­ger and ill­ness, and guar­an­tee ent­ry in­to Hea­ven"). Ce­cil Frances Alex­an­der, the wife of an Anglican bishop in Ireland, wrote her paraphrase in 1889 from "a care­ful­ly col­lat­ed co­py of the best prose trans­la­tions" of the original poem at the request of an Anglican dean of the Cha­pel Roy­al at Dub­lin Cas­tle. The Irish-language poem on which it's based is very old, dating at least back to the seventh century, when it was already described as a prayer of St. Patrick. Padraic Colum's Anthology of Irish Verse (1922, available on line in the Bartleby collection) has an unrhymed translation by Kuno Meyer.

Citing a collection of 11th-century manuscripts known as the Irish Liber Hymnorum, the Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, ed Marilyn Kay Stulken (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981) says:

According to legend Patrick and the Druid king Loegaire [mac Neill] met at Tara Hill, where a festival of the Druid fire-worshipers was about to begin with the extinction of all fires through the country. Patrick however, defiantly lighted a Paschal (Easter) fire on the Hill of Slane in full view of the King, when then set out to kill Patrick. In the pursuit, Patrick and his companions were miraculously transformed into deer and recited this hymn in flight; hence its title, "Faeth Fiada," of "The Deer's Cry."
Some performances available on YouTube:
  • Another processional, more like what I remember growing up in the Episcopal church, at St. John's Episcopal Church, Detroit, on Trinity Sunday. The notes specify it was Hymn 268 in the 1940 hymnal.
  • A baritone solo during the processional at St. James Anglican Church in Kansas City.
  • A Christian contemporary vocal backed by guitar and flute (?) by YouTube users Moe & Erin Pacheco of Chicago: "An arrangement of the Lorica we put together for St. Patricks Day."
  • Vocal with strummed guitar chords by YouTube user Marco Klaue of the Netherlands.
  • Variations on "St. Patrick's Breastplate" by American composer Dwayne Milburn, commissioned in 2005 by Indiana University of Pennsylvania and performed there in 2012 (embedded below). Milburn is conductor of the Soldiers' Chorus and deputy commander of The U.S. Army Field Band.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Psalmodikon tab - Wår Gud är oss en wäldig borg (A mighty fortress ...) from 1819 psalmbook and Just som jag är (Just as I am ...) in Hemlandet

1. Johannes Dillner, Melodierna till Swenska Kyrkans Psalmer, Notarade med ziffror, for Skolor och Menigheten. Stockholm: Morstedt & Söner, 1830. Rpt. Charleston, SC: Nabu Public Domain Reprints, 2012. No. 124.

Shown here is the fourth verse, a free translation by Johan Olof Wallin (1819) of Luther's original.

2. Det Rätta hemlandet, ed. T.N. Hasselquist. Galesburg, Illinois, March 18, 1857.

From Oskar Ahnfelt's Andliga Sånger, which Hasselquist published month by month in Hemlandet. The melody is not the same one we hear now.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

"Walking in the Parlor" - clawhammer banjo version of a southern Appalachian fiddle tune at just the right tempo

A really cool southern Appalachian fiddle tune in D ...

Like so many old-time string band tunes, it's often played at breakneck speed. But clawhammer banjo player Christopher Olson has a relaxed solo version, based ultimately on the "measured and tranquil" style of a noted West Virginia fiddle-playing family, on YouTube at ...

Olson's version is a cover of Scott Ainslie's recording on "Banjo Gathering." Ainslie posted this comment to YouTube: "This is deeply beautiful to me on a couple of scores: one, your playing and care are lovely, and two, a way of touching the banjo brought to us out of the 19th Century and early years of the 20th by Lee Hammons has successfully moved from his hands, to mine, and now to yours. Thanks. A lot." Certainly Olson's playing here brings out the old modal feel of southern Appalachian fiddle music, especially in the low course. User JanetB on the Banjo Hangout thread 09/10/2012 at 08:41:38, says most versions she knows are "very upbeat and lively. But if you listen to [author, folklorist and banjo artist] Stephen Wade's rendition on his CD Dancing in the Parlor, it's quite different -- he calls it measured and tranquil and says he based it on Lee Hammons' playing."

Lee Hammons was part of the Hammons family of West Virginia that Alan Jabbour interviewed and recorded in 1973 for the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture. According to the Encyclopedia of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University, "For two centuries, the Hammons family of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, has maintained a distinctive style of traditional Appalachian music. ... Unlike the string-band and ensemble traditions of near- by Kentucky and Virginia, the music the Hammons family played was part of a larger West Virginia tradition of solo performance, presumably due to the relative isolation that lingered within certain sections of West Virginia well into the twentieth century."

Maybe they just made time to relax and feel the music. At any rate, it's a relief from the supercharged tempos that clog dancers so often prefer.

The tune is a good one, at any tempo.

Banjo Hangout has background, discussion and links to sound files dating back to the 1920s, at http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/244471. Andrew Kuntz says in Fiddler's Companion:

WALKING IN THE PARLOR [1]. See related tune "Trude Evans." Old‑Time, Breakdown. USA; West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas. D Major. Standard tuning. AB (Silberberg): ABB (Brody): ABA'A'B'B' (Krassen). A melody with minstrel-era origins, although some hear distinct echoes of the English morris dance melody “Shepherd’s Hey.” The tune was mentioned in an account as having been played at a LaFollette, northeast Tennessee fiddlers' contest in 1931. The title (as "Walk in the Parlor") appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountian fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Wilson Douglas (Ivydale, W.Va.) remarks it was noted W.Va. fiddler French Carpenter's favorite tune, and says of its origins with his mentor:


A lady composed that. She was a fiddler and a top square
dancer. She lived during Carpenter's time, but she was old.
French said she played that tune and nobody could beat her.
That's where he learned it. Her name was Trod Evans. She
was a lady fiddler.


Indeed, the tune is sometimes called “Trude Evans.” It took five years, according to Douglas, for him to learn the tune with "the proper time at the proper time, or the proper rock, or the proper swing, or the proper shuffle." Despite its minstrel beginnings Gerald Milnes found a version with topical references regarding the nature of John D. Rockefeller (Milnes, Play of a Fiddle, 1999). Sources for notated versions: Highwoods String Band (New York) [Brody, Phillips]; John Hilt (Tazewell County, Virginia) [Krassen]; Wilson Douglas (W.Va.) [Phillips]; Charlie Acuff [Phillips]; Oscar ‘Red’ Wilson [Silberberg]. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 284. Krassen (Masters of Old Time Fiddling), 1983; pg. 114‑115. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pg. 252 (two versions). Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; pg. 164. Spandaro (10 Cents a Dance), 1980; pg. 6. Anachronistic 001, John Hilt (Va.) ‑ "Swope's Knobs." Document 8039, “The Hill Billies/Al Hopkins and His Buckle Busters: Compoete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 1” (reissue). Paramount 33153 (78 RPM), Dr. D. Dix Hollis (Ala., 1861‑1927), 1924. Rounder 0047, Wilson Douglas (W.Va.) ‑ "The Right Hand Fork of Rush's Creek" (1975). Lee Hammons ‑ "Shaking Down the Acorns." Rounder 0023, Highwoods String Band ‑ "Fire on the Mountain." Rounder 0089, Oscar and Eugene Wright ‑ "Old Time Fiddle and Guitar Music from West Virginia." Rounder C‑11565, Eugene Wright ‑ "Rounder Fiddle" (1990). In the repertoire of Luther Davis, Galax, Va.

Available at http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/WAL.htm (scroll down directory).

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

When Aunt Rhody's Irish Eyes Are Smiling (even though the Old Gray Goose is Dead) at Clayville - tunes for Saturday, April 6

We'll introduce a couple of old standards Saturday morning at our second Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music tune learning jam session (from 10 a.m. till noon, with some tips for beginners at 9:30 ... details here on the Clayville.org website). They're the chorus to "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and the American folk song "Go Tell Aunt Rhody,"

"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"

"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" was written in 1912 by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff Jr. and set to music by Ernest Ball, for Olcott's production of The Isle O' Dreams, an early Broadway musical. It's one of those "foyne Oy-rish" songs that was later made famous by Bing Crosby, 200 other recording artists, and (I am not making this up) a 1985 duet by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Shelley Stevens has dulcimer tablature in the archives for March 2005 on her website. Technically, it's for the chorus only. Like a lot of early Broadway and Tin Pan Alley songs, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" also has an introductory verse that hardly anybody remembers. The legendary 1920s-vintage 78rpm recording by Irish tenor John McCormack has both verse and chorus at ...

We're just going to do the chorus Saturday. If it was good enough for Bing Crosby, (and it was), it's good enough for us! If you want to work up the song as a solo with both the verse and the chorus, there are lyrics and backup chords in D on the GuitareTab.com website and four-part barbershop harmony on the Barbershop Harmony Society website. Singing harmony with a barbershop quartet is not for the faint of heart, but the sheet music here is also in D if you're interested.

"Go Tell Aunt Rhody"

A favorite children's song, one that most traditional Appalachian dulcimer players learned very early in the game. (Think "Boil 'em Cabbage" but with a catchy melody!) Dulcimer tab by Terry Lewis of the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association (NGFDA) has dulcimer tab for melody and harmony below at http://bellsouthpwp.net/d/u/dulcimer/AuntRhody.jpg. Guitar chords (or backup chords) in D at http://oldgleaner.com/images/music/AuntRhody_D.jpg. We play the same chords on a dulcimer, or any other instrument.

"Go Tell Aunt Rhody" (or Nancy or any one of a half dozen other names) is related to the shape-note melody SWEET AFFLICTION ("In the floods of tribulation ..."), and it has been assigned to sources as varied as the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau and African-American tradition. Most plausible answer, according to folklorist John Bealle, is it may owe something to both sources. Writing for the Alabama Folklife Center, Bealle has "reviewed the various arguments ... in detail," but acknowledges "this may well be beyond the interests of many readers." The YouTube clip below shows California singer-songwriter Renee Winter playing a duet with her mother. Watch her mother, on the right, playing chords, harmonies and other fancy stuff.

Also, you ought to watch "Strumelia" teaching this "quintessential beginner's tune for [traditional Appalachian] noter-drone type playing." She tunes her dulcimer differently (to DAA instead of DAA) and she uses a noter, or hand-held stick, to sound the notes. But that's the authentic sound of the mountain dulcimer. And Strumelia, who is an accomplished musician from upstate New York who fell in love with the authentic sound of southern Appalachian music, has a series of YouTube videos that offer the best introduction available on the Internet. This video is 9:37 minutes long, but it'll be the best 10 minutes you've ever spent with your dulcimer!

A few more tunes

We already have tab for some of these, either for our sessions at Clayville or the Prairieland Strings dulcimer club in Springfield. But here are links to what's available on line: