Monday, September 14, 2015

"Down by the Salley Gardens" -- new lead sheets and dulcimer tab for an old favorite of ours, and a stunning performance on BBC

PLEASE NOTE: Members and friends of the Clayville-Prairieland Pioneer Academy of Music song-sharing and instrumental slow jam sessions are invited to play at the Clayville Fall Fesival from 1 to 4 p.m. (or thereabouts) Saturday, Sept. 19, and Sunday, Sept. 20, at Clayville Historic Site, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains. Details at

It's very informal, and we don't have a playlist, but this is a song I hope we'll play.

One song we haven't played a lot lately is "Down by the Salley Gardens," an Irish air with words by William Butler Yeats set to a traditional Irish melody. I couldn't find it when I went looking through my disorderly batch of sheet music, chords and dulcimer tab tonight. So I went on line and found new tab (hey, I don't know it's new -- it may be the same tab), which is linked below in case you can't find our old music.

It's a lovely song, and it was around in one form or another before Yeats arranged it -- or wrote it -- and published it in The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems in 1889. Says Wikipedia:

Yeats indicated in a note that it was "an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman in the village of Ballisodare, Sligo, who often sings them to herself." The "old song" may have been the ballad The Rambling Boys of Pleasure ..."

And this:

"Salley" or "sally" is a form of the Standard English word "sallow", i.e., a tree of the genus Salix. It is close in sound to the Irish word saileach, meaning willow.

The video below, taken from a British Broadcasting Corp. TV special, features Irish vocalist Karen Matheson backed by studio musicians from the US, Ireland and the UK.

It's from Transatlantic Sessions (series 2), a BBC television special that aired in 1998, featuring Nashville musicians and artists from Ireland, Scotland and England

fiddle: Aly Bain
accordion: Donald Shaw
flute: Ronan Browne
dobro: Jerry Douglas
guitar: Russ Barenberg
bass: Danny Thompson

Sheet music, chords and dulcimer tab

Signature performances on YouTube

  • By the trad Irish group Clannad in Leo's Tavern, their home pub, in Co. Donegal --

  • A vocal in the style of an art song, arranged by Benjamin Britten, by Swedish opera tenor Nicolai Gedda, accompanied by Gerald Mooreon piano --

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