Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Christ Was Born in Bethlehem" -- an Easter song miraculously restored to the playlist for Clayville ... shall this be a sign unto us?

Editor's Note. Where to begin? I wanted to play this song for Easter, but I couldn't work out dulcimer tab. So I gave up and went on to something else. Then, at the last minute, I found tab for it on Shelley Stevens' mountain dulcimer site. I decided that was a pretty good coincidence, so good it might qualify as a sign or a vision. Especially because there's a messenger angel in the song -- a southern Appalachian sacred ballad called "Christ Was Born in Bethlehem." The upshot: We've got three lead sheets with dulcimer tab for tomorrow's Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music session at Clayville Historic Site.

We've also got a slightly different place -- we'll meet in the Broadwell Inn building across the teardrop drive from the barn where we usually meet. Coming up in the next week:

  • From 10 a.m. till noon Saturday, April 2, Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music, in Broadwell Inn at Clayville Historic Stagecoach Stop, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.
  • From 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, Clayville-Prairieland Strings, at Peace Lutheran Church (formerly Atonement), 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield.

Here's the song, as performed by Norm Williams, Amanda Parker and Bob Mallalieu -- and a butterfly -- Aug. 29, 2010, at the Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival in Blandon, Pa. Says John Hilderbrand, who put it up on his YouTube channel, "Watch the butterfly and listen to the performers during this clip. It's inspirational and funny!" Please note: No butterflies were harmed in this performance.

Lead sheets with duclimer tab are available at I found it Thursday night when I was trying to download "Plan B" tab for Saturday's jam session -- "Belle of Belfast City" (and "Jamaica Farewell"). At first I couldn't get into Stevens' website and I hit the panic button. Then, I got this message:

THANKS FOR VISITING MY NEW WEBSITE. March! The weather is improving and we may have survived another winter. I was going to use this months song in December as a Christmas song but after reading the lyrics decided that it was more appropriate for Easter. I hope you enjoy this arrangement of "Christ was Born in Bethlehem" GET TAB

Apparently the website was down for maintenance.

All of Stevens' tab is available there again, at any rate. Look in the Tab Archives 2005-2010 and 2010-2016 directories. Here are links to the background I posted earlier on both songs:

Since I updated twice, I've just indicated edits with strike-throughs and underlines. It probably reflects my state of advancing confusion at the time, but if you ignore the parts I've stricken out you probably won't get confused.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Belle of Belfast City" -- aka "I'll Tell Me Ma" -- a song for Clayville with audio by Sinéad O'Connor and Kirsty MacColl, and a bonus track video, a BBC documentary on "Fairytale of New York"

Here's a tune we used to enjoy at sessions of the Prairieland Dulcimer Strings. It dropped out of the rotation a couple of years ago, but we had too much fun with it to make that state of affairs permanent.

So let's take a run at it Saturday.

Two sessions coming up in the next week:

  • From 10 a.m. till noon Saturday, April 2, Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music, in the barn at Clayville Historic Stagecoach Stop, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.

  • From 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, Clayville-Prairieland Strings, at Peace Lutheran Church (formerly Atonement), 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield.

The song is known by two titles -- "Belle of Belfast City" and "I'll Tell Me Ma."

Shelley Stevens has dulcimer tab with chords on her website -- directories at (click on links to "Tab Archives 2005-2010" and "Tab Archives 2010-2016"). "Belle" is in the directory for August 2010 and "Jamaica Farewell" for September 2006. The Internet is acting cranky on me tonight: If you can't open the webpage, I'll have copies available Saturday. .

"I'll Tell Me Ma" is performed by big-name commercial Irish bands like the Dubliners and the Irish Rovers as a rowdy, hard-driving pub song. It is all of that, but it's also an old, old children's song, first collected during the 1800s in various parts of England, with a lovely melody.

Some interpretations --

Na Fianna. Contemporary Irish band of Laois who got their start in the RTÉ All Ireland Talent Show in 2009–10. Website at Hazel Entertainments presents Laois Band 'Na Fianna' performing 'I'll Tell Me Ma' at the Hazel Hotel, Monasterevin, Co. Kildare.

Hounds of Finn. Folk-rock trio of St. Paul, Minn., a live performance in 2015 that elevates it (IMO) from pub music to a real song. --

It's been recorded frequently by other artists. Two that stand out in my mind are:

Which brings us to Kirsty MacColl, best known for her association with the Pogues on "Fairytale of New York" but a fine independent artist in her own right:

And the bonus I promised -- while I was looking for interpretations of "I'll Tell Me Ma," I came across a 56-minute BBC documentary:

The Story Of The Pogues & Kirsty McColl Fairytale of new york The full Story 1 of 1

For those who want to learn the song, there's an absolute gold mine at, where lyrics, guitar chords and notes for melody instruments are given on Martin Dardis' Irish Folk Songs website.

D R A F T Björnen sover | Gubben Noak

Svenska BarnsångerTV Svenska BarnsångerTV Barnsånger på svenska | Björnen sover

Friedmans Apostlar - Gubben Noak Friedman's Apostles, student choir at the Stockholm School of Economics Friedmans Apostlar Diplomering - Stadshuset Hösten 2015

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Keith Green, "Easter Song" (live) for Easter Sunday

Hat tip to Paul Hayden, who shared this video to Facebook today. Paul writes, quoting Melody Green:

You will love this video of Keith singing the Easter Song in late 70's -- and his tenderhearted sharing is so candid and encouraging, for anyone struggling, meaning all of us:) Even so, we celebrate the fact that Jesus has Risen! Hallelujah!! Share with your all your friends for Easter.

Keith Green was a contemporary Christian singer of the 1970s and early 80s whose life was cut short in a 1982 plane wreck. Good bio on the YouTube page at His music is available on Melody Green's YouTube channel at She was Green's wife and has continued their ministry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mr. Rogers: "Always look for the helpers ..."

"... because if you look for the helpers, you'll know that there is hope."

Nothing specifically to do with music, but ...

-- excerpt from Fred Rogers' four-hour-and-30-minute interview for the Archive of American Television at

Thursday, March 17, 2016

St. Patrick's Breastplate --


More performances of St. Patrick's Breastplate

I never sang it that year. Recorded on a celebration of St. Michael and All Angels at Church of the Redeemer: Church of the Redeemer, Kenmore, Washington.

Published on Aug 14, 2012 St Patrick's Breastplate, from the Cantus Christi (Canon Press) sung at the New Saint Andrews College Convocation 20

St Patrick's Breastplate | New Saint Andrews Convocation 2012. 4:24

St Patrick's Breastplate (arranged by Melville Cook), sung by St Peter's Singers of Leeds. DEIRDRE at 4:00

During his service as Organist and Choirmaster of Leeds Parish Church (as it was then known) from 1937 to 1946, Melville Cook left a number of craftsmanly hymn settings for posterity, most of which survive in manuscript in the Leeds Minster Choir Library. At least one was published and printed locally - a large-scale score of the traditional Irish hymn known as 'St Patrick's Breastplate'. Dr Cook's setting is a real gem, with an organ part of considerably more interest than the 'standard' version by Stanford.

This performance was recorded in Leeds Minster on Sunday 28th April 2013 during the recital of 'Music with Minster connections' sung by St Peter's Singers of Leeds, directed by Dr Simon Lindley. The organist is David Houlder.

Leeds Minster, formerly Leeds Parish Church, has a long and distinguished musical history. The list of organists and past organists of the Parish Church of St Peter-at-Leeds is outstanding. 'Music with Minster connections' celebrated both this heritage and the status of Leeds Minster with music from its famous composers since the consecration of the then-new building on 2nd September 1841, over 171 years ago.

More details about St Peter's Singers, including forthcoming concerts, recitals and liturgical performances, may be found on our website and on our Facebook group page 'St Peter's Singers of Leeds'

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Christ Was Born in Bethlehem" -- an Easter hymn that got into the bluegrass gospel repertory ** UPDATED 2x w/ editor's notes

UPDATED EDITOR'S NOTE: This post began as an introduction to "Christ Was Born in Bethlehem," which I hoped to introduce April 2 at Clayville. But I put it aside when I realized I wasn't going to be able to tab it out for mountain dulcimer in time. Then, late last night [March 30], I found tab on Shelley Stevens' website and changed my mind for a second time. New links, etc., at [posted Thursday, March 31, edits from March 29 revisions].

ORIGINAL EDITOR'S NOTE: I decided I'd better learn this song a little better before I try to introduce it at a session, but it's too nice a piece of music to delete. So I'm leaving it up on Hogfiddle, but with edits [posted Tuesday, March 29].

A song I want to introduce at Saturday's monthly jam session sooner or later. It's called "Christ Was Born in Bethlehem," and you'd think it's going to be a Christmas carol. But it isn't. Think of it more as a mountain ballad that begins at the stable in Bethlehem but focuses instead on the Easter story -- almost like a southern Appalachian counterpart to Handel's Messiah. It's been around in one form or another for more than a hundred years, and a version got into 19th-century editions of the Sacred Harp. We're doing to do the version that's gotten into the bluegrass gospel repertory.

Lyrics and chords, in G, at I'll have a chord sheet and mountain dulcimer tab (in DGD) with me Saturday morning.

Two sessions coming up:

  • From 10 a.m. till noon Saturday, April 2, Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music, in the barn Broadwell Inn building at Clayville Historic Stagecoach Stop, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.

  • From 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, Clayville-Prairieland Strings, at Peace Lutheran Church (formerly Atonement), 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield.

Here's "Christ Was Born in Bethlehem" as performed by the Smoky Mountain String Band, the house band at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for a Christmas program there in 2012:

And here's my favorite YouTube clip, a performance by Norm Williams, Amanda Parker and Bob Mallalieu -- and a butterfly -- Aug. 29, 2010, at the Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival in Blandon, Pa. Says John Hilderbrand, who put it up on his YouTube channel, "Watch the butterfly and listen to the performers during this clip. It's inspirational and funny!" Please note: No butterflies were harmed in this performance.

The folk festival performance is a cover -- of a very fine arrangement by Tim and Mollie O'Brien. It's also available on YouTube, along with a couple of others, at:

The Corries were a Scottish folk band of the 1970s and 80s. Their version of the song sounds more like the traditional Appalachian ballad.

Based on a hymn by American composer William Howard Doane (1832-1915), it got into the oral tradition in the U.S. and Australia, and it was part of Jean Ritchie's family repertory. (They called it "Down Came an Angel," but it's the same song.) It has been widely collected in southern Appalachia -- including by Cecil Sharp in the 1910s. Richard Chase also collected it, in North Carolina.

The ballad is modal -- I have it from the John C. Campbell Folk School's songbook edited by Betty Smith in D Mixolydian, and it appears elsewhere in other modes. Sometimes, as in Chase's collection, the first verse appears as "Jesus walked in Galilee (or Bethany) ... to save us all from sin," no doubt to get around the Christmas-y title.

As an Appalachian ballad, it would have been sung a cappella. Sheet music is available in an a cappella SATB choral arrangment by Peter Amidon, in his book "Fifty-five Anthems for the Small Church Choir." Sound file of a performance by Kari Smith and Fred Breunig, soloists. Says Amidon,

We first learned this beautiful Appalachian ballad from the singing of John McCutcheon. This is really a Lenten-Easter carol; the first verse talks of the birth, but the second verse jumps right to 'Judas he betrayed him...'. There are two harmonizations of the melody in my arrangement. I encourage you to try out different ways of using these harmonizations, as we did on this recording.

Probably because of the Ritchie family's interest in the song, the ballad version has caught on with mountain dulcimer players. Here is YouTube user Darren W. playing Larkin Bryant's arrangement from her dulcimer instruction manual of the 1970s commonly known as "Larkin's Book."

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Two for St. Patrick's Day -- "Boys of Bluehill" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"

Our regular "third Thursday" session of the Clayville-Prairieland Strings at Peace Lutheran Church falls on St. Patrick's Day. So it's a grand occasion to play some of the Irish songs in our repertoire (and anything else you want to play when it's your turn to call a tune). And I'm linking below to a couple of tunes that have been requested -- or that I've been reminded of.

One, a hornpipe called "The Boys of Bluehill" is traditional Irish. The other, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," is as American as corned beef and cabbage or pouring green dye in the Chicago River.

Same time, from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, and in the same place -- but with a new name for the church at 2800 West Jefferson. The new congregation is made up of Lutherans from the former Atonement, Faith and Luther Memorial parishes (ELCA) in Springfield.

Here's some background, clips and links to lead sheets, dulcimer tab, etc., on the songs.

"Boys of Bluehill"

Lead sheet with dulcimer tab at pn the website. Nothing I could say about this standard session tune comes near renowned Irish fiddler Kevin Burke's note-by-note breakdown of how to play it, and ornament it, on a fiddle:

"Boys of Bluehill": Fiddle Lesson by Kevin Burke

Here it is in its natural habitat, a pub performance. Says YouTube user belljarbelfast: "Locke 'O the Irish playing a traditional set of hornpipes, Boys of Bluehill, Harvest Home and the Belfast Hornpipe."

Locke 'O the Irish -- Boys of Bluehill/ Harvest Home/ The Belfast Hornpipe

And Ben Seymour, luthier of Tryon, N.C., plays "Boys of Blue Hill" and "Harvest Home" on the dulcimer. Says Ben: "Two of my favorite Celtic tunes. I play these on my old "warhorse" dulcimer that goes everywhere with me :) I hope you enjoy ..."

"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"

The Three Rivers Dulcimer Society of Richland, Wash., has dulcimer tab with chords (courtesy of Shelley Stevens) on its website at, and Jessica Comeau, a teacher who coordinates the Pensacola Mountain Dulcimer Wildflowers, which she describes as "my volunteer public outreach project for creating awareness about the mountain dulcimer," has a nice finger-picking arrangement at

Jessica Comeau and Rhiannon play "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"

Here is the familiar refrain of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. The lyrics of the song were originally written by the Americans Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr., and the melody was composed by Ernest Ball. The song premiered in 1912 in a musical called "The Isle of Dreams." I am playing this piece on my new McSpadden dulcimer that I named Rhiannon. :-)

The song needs no further introduction. It's hardly Irish, but it's beloved by an entire generation of Irish-Americans, and musicians who play the tourist pubs in places like Dublin and Killarney learn it rather quickly because it's so often requested. Here's Bing Crosby's version of the Irish Folk song, recorded in 1939.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Psalmodikon -- misc. historical notes

"Psalmodikon" Wikipedia [Danish]

Instrumentets oprindelse og brug knyttes til Skandinavien i 1820'erne. En dansk 'Lieutnant og Skolelærer' Jens Worm Bruun (1781-1836) angives at have opfundet det.[1] En svensk præst og salmedigter Johan Dillner videreudviklede det og bragte det fra omkring 1830 i anvendelse i menigheder der ikke havde råd til orgel. Også i Norge blev det anvendt til indlæring af salmer efter ciffernotation i skole og hjem.[2] Senere i 1800-tallet vandt harmoniet frem som afløser.

„ Hr. J. W. Bruun, Lieutnant og Skolelærer, har udfundet et Instrument, kaldet Psalmodicon, hvis Hensigt er at yde en sikker Veiledning ved Underviisning i Tonestigen, Accorder, Charole, etc.. Det er simpelt, at enhver Snedker kan forfærdige det, og dog kan derpaa udføres Alt, hvad der kan synges, Alt hvad nogetsomhelst Instrument kan frembringe. Man kan lære at spille det i første Time, og i den anden spiller man fra Bladet. Det kan aldrig forstemmes, thi hvordan det end staar, er det dog altid stemt. Det har kun een Streng men derpaa haves alle høilige Toner lige indtil Fugle- og Musepib. Det vil, siger Proffessor Scholl i sin Anbefaling: som et ubekosteligt Børneinstrument vække Gehører og give en ypperlig Forøvelse til videre Fremskridt i Musiken, hvorfor han ønsker Psalmadicon almindelig bekjendt. (Det faaes tilkiøbs i København hos Musikhandler Lohse for 1 Rdr.-Sølv. Her i Aarhuus kan man faae det at se paa Adressekontoiret). “

— Aarhus Stiftstidende 1824-05-01

The instrument's origin and use attached to Scandinavia in the 1820s. A Danish 'Lieutnant and school teacher' Jens Worm Bruun (1781-1836) is said to have invented it. [1] A Swedish pastor and hymn writer Johan Dillner further developed it and brought it from around 1830 in use in congregations could not afford organ. Also in Norway, it was used for learning hymns by ciffernotation in school and home. [2] Later in 1800 won the harmonium up as a replacement.

"Sir. JW Bruun, Lieutnant and school teacher, has devised an instrument called Psalmodicon whose purpose is to provide a safe veiledning by the teaching of the Tone ladder Accords, Charole, etc .. It's simple that any Snedker can forfærdige it and however, can then be performed Anything that can be sung, All anything instrument can produce. One can learn to play it in the first hour, and in the second to play from the magazine. It can never be detuned, for no matter how it stands, it is always voted. It has only one string but then held all høilige Toner until Birds and Musepib. It will, says proffessor Scholl in his Recommendation as a ubekosteligt Children Instrument wake Gehører and provide an excellent Forøvelse for further progress in music, why he wants Psalmadicon plain known. (It is acquired tilkiøbs in Copenhagen at Music Handler Lohse for 1 Rdr.-Silver. Here in Aarhuus can get it to look at Adressekontoiret). "

- Aarhus Herald-Tribune 1824-05-01

Kirsten Ostenfeld

Carl Bergman. "Sweden: European Intelligence" Evangelical Christendom. June 1, 1859: 204-205. Google Books

Our Swedish people have in these latter times been, more than formerly, a singing people, and (what is to me more precious) a people who at least sing the Lord's praise. Oscar Ahnfelt has contributed much to this; but an old silver-=haired clergyman, Dillner, near Upsala, had also formerly done much. He has invented a simple musical instrument, with a single string, called the [205] Psalmodicon, and which is played with a fiddlestick, like a violin. Instead of musical notes, he uses only the ciphers, 1, 2, 3, &c. On this instrument, which is used throughout the country, the farm-servant and maid-servant can play any melody they choose, and thus spiritual songs come rapidly into use. It is astonishing that an instrument so simple can have produced so general and astonishing a result. May we not in this trace the Lord's hand, who in these days is pouring out hisHis blessing on the Lands of the North?

Lars Roverud: Musiker og pedagog. Norsk biografisk leksikon

Da Ole Andreas Lindemans koralbok ble autorisert til bruk i kirkene 1835, fikk Roverud offentlig støtte til å reise rundt i landet og utbre de nye melodiformene i landets skoler og kirker. Som pedagogisk hjelpemiddel benyttet han psalmodikon, et enstrenget instrument som kunne spilles etter et siffersystem. Instrumentet var lansert av J. W. Brun i København 1823, men ble etter hvert tatt i bruk i alle de nordiske land. Roverud forbedret den danske modellen og utviklet en egen siffernoteskrift. Instrumentet var så enkelt i konstruksjonen at det kunne lages av enhver snekkerkyndig. Psalmodikonet, som fantes i flere stemmeleier (sopran, alt, tenor, bass), ble i løpet av 1830-årene det viktigste sangpedagogiske hjelpemiddelet i skole, kirke og hjem. Roverud sørget selv for å utgi samlinger med sanger og salmer som kunne spilles på instrumentet i en siffernotasjon som gjorde notekunnskap overflødig. 1835–37 og 1841–47 fikk han bevilgninger til kursvirksomhet for skoleungdom, skolelærere, kirkesangere og organister. Undervisningsreisene strakte seg fra Kristiansand i sør til Tromsø i nord.

When Ole Andreas Lindeman's chorale book was authorized for use in churches in 1835, got Roverud public support to travel around the country and propagate the new melody forms in the country's schools and churches. As educational aid he psalmodikon, a stringed instrument that could be played by a cipher system. The instrument was launched by J. W. Brown in Copenhagen in 1823, but was eventually adopted in all the Nordic countries. Roverud improved the Danish model and developed its own digits notation. The instrument was so simple in structure that it could be made of any carpenter. Psalmodikonet, which existed in several voting rents (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), was during the 1830s the most important song teaching aid in schools, churches and homes. Roverud even made sure to publish collections of songs and hymns that could be played on the instrument in a numeric notation did note knowledge superfluous. 1835-1837 and 1841-1847 he received funding for training programs for schoolchildren, schoolteachers, church singers and organists. Teaching trips stretching from Kristiansand in the south to Tromsø in the north.

Hildur Heimisdóttir, Langspil and Icelandic Fiðla: (Aarhus, 2012)

invented by J.W. Bruun in Copenhagen 1823

Saturday, March 05, 2016

"Jesu, Thou Joy of Man's Desiring" -- on the futures list for Clayville jam sessions?


This morning at Clayville, we played our improvised, all-by-ear version of Pachelbel's Canon in D and it sounded good to our ears -- as it always does. And it reminded me of the time several of my friends got together in a pickup old-time/bluegrass band in grad student days. It lasted a few months, if memory serves, and they got a few gigs playing for drinks and tips at bars around the UT campus. One of their songs was a banjo arrangement of "Jesu Thou Joy of Man's Desiring," the chorale from Bach's cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147.

No doubt it was a desecration, but I was learning to play the dulcimer at the time, and Jesu was one of the first melodies I worked out on the dulcimer -- another desecration, no doubt -- at least the first few measures up to where the melody wanders off into a chord progression the dulcimer can't get to.

All of which got me to thinking -- wouldn't it be fun to play "Jesu" at Clayville?

So here, to add to my ever-growing list of projects I may or may not get around to sometime, are some notes on "Jesu Thou Joy of Man's Desiring."

And some YouTube videos:

Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring-Christopher Parkening

Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring: fingerstyle guitar -- Joseph Sobol. arranged and played by Joseph Sobol on a custom Fylde Falstaff guitar. Thanks to Daniel Santiago of East Tennessee State University for the videography, and to Roger Bucknall of Fylde for the guitar.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Jesu, joy of man's desiring (BWV 147), The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford

Celtic Woman also have a typically hyped-up schmaltzathon of an arrangement at ... oh, hell, on second thought, if you want to hear it, you can Google it yourself.

Sheet music of a number of classical pieces, BTW, inculuding Grieg's "Morning" and a couple of others I want to learn, at

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Contemporary service, Lent IV (the Saturday before), March 5 at Atonement, Faith and Luther Memorial blended congregation

• Call to Worship: Made to Worship (Jamie, Adam, & Michele)

• Worship Songs:

spoken creed (we will soon start looking at a couple of options for some new sung creeds - couple of cool ones that I will be sending your way!)

sung Lord's Prayer

Sending Song: Forever