Archives For American Folk Songs

Long Time Ago

March 1, 2015 — 41 Comments

This is the last of the four songs that I chose to sing from Aaron Copland’s “Old American Folk Songs”. The lyrics are sorrowful and speak of lost love, the love of someone very important to the writer. It reminded me of the lyrics of “Danny Boy”, having to come to terms with being parted from someone that has become the centre of your world.

The lyrics were originally attributed to George Pope in 1837 but may have been adapted from an earlier song by John Cole in 1833. The sympathetic and emotive melody along with the piano arrangement added by Aaron Copland make this a particular beautiful song to perform.

Long Time Ago

On the lake where droop’d the willow
Long time ago,

Lakeside-Willow

Lakeside Willow


Where the rock threw back the billow
Brighter than snow.
Dwelt a maid beloved and cherish’d
By high and low,

american-woman-1850s

American Bride 1880’s


But with autumn leaf she perished
Long time ago.

Southern-American-Funeral-1850s

Mid 1800’s Funeral Cortège

Rock and tree and flowing water
Long time ago,
Bird and bee and blossom taught her
Love’s spell to know.
While to my fond words she listen’d
Murmuring low,
Tenderly her blue eyes glisten’d
Long time ago.

Today I have been asked to sing the four Aaron Copland songs during the judging interval of the Bruce Millar Gulliver Singing Prize in Stevenson Hall at the RCS. My good friend Jessica Hurst will be performing four songs after me and then we are both to perform a duet, Rossini’s “The Cat’s Duet” it is such an amusing piece and makes me smile thinking about it.

Back-Stage-Waiting-With-Jess

Jessica Hurst And Me Back Stage Before Today’s Performance

George-With-Charlotte-Back-Stage

George Todica Accompanied Me In My Performance Of The Four Aaron Copland Songs

Cat-Duet

Had Great Fun Performing Rossini’s “Cat Duet” With My Best Friend Jess Accompanied By Julia Lynch, Who Is One Of The Busiest Accompanists In The Country Who Has Performed With Many Distinguished Artists.

Now I am off out for a Pizza 🙂

The Boatmen’s Dance

February 22, 2015 — 55 Comments

When I found out that I needed to select and perform four folk songs this year as part of my course I knew that I wanted to tackle something new and different. I decided as you know to perform songs from Aaron Copland’s series of American Folk Songs which he composed in the early 1950s.

One of the hardest parts was choosing which four songs to sing, “The Boatmen’s Dance” became the third of my selections and one that I thoroughly enjoyed performing.

Bingham-Jolly-Boatmen

The Jolly Boatmen – George Caleb Bingham. Circa 1877.

 

The original version was credited to Dan Emmett in 1843 and was considered to be a celebration of the lives and exploits of the Ohio River boatmen. As immigration from Europe to the USA soared in the early 1800s the Ohio / Mississippi rivers became busier and busier as one of the primary routes for safe and secure travel for the Europeans searching for a new and better life for their families.

As people travelled down the river they often kept diaries or journals and there are many references to the jovial nature of the boatmen and their expertise on the fiddle.

flatboat

Boatmen On The River

 

In an issue of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, called “Folk Music on the Midwestern Frontier 1788-1825’, by Harry R. Stevens, Duke University one traveller (Timothy Flint, 1826) wrote “almost every boat, while it lies in the harbour, has one or more fiddlers scraping continually aboard, to which you often see the boatmen dancing.”

Another observed: “As the boats were laid to for the night in an eddy, a part of the crew could give them headway on starting in the morning, while the others struck up a tune on their fiddles…The boatmen, as a class, were masters of the fiddle, and the music, heard through the distance from these boats, was more sweet and animating than any I have ever heard since. When the boats stopped for the night at or near a settlement, a dance was got up, if possible, which all the boatmen would attend. ”

Ohio_River

The Ohio River

 

The Boatmen’s Dance

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

The boatmen dance, the boatmen sing,
The boatmen up to ev’rything,
And when the boatman gets on shore
He spends his cash and works for more.
Then dance the boatmen dance,
O dance the boatmen dance.
O dance all night ’til broad daylight,
And go home with the gals in the mornin’.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

I went on board the other day
To see what the boatmen had to say.
There I let my passion loose
An’ they cram me in the callaboose.
O dance the boatmen dance,
O dance the boatmen dance.
O dance all night ’til broad daylight,
And go home with the gals in the mornin’.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

The boatman is a thrifty man,
There’s none can do as the boatman can.
I never see a pretty gal in my life
But that she was a boatman’s wife.
O dance the boatmen dance,
O dance the boatmen dance.
O dance all night ’til broad daylight,
And go home with the gals in the mornin’.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

High row the boatmen row,
Floatin’ down the river the Ohio.

I hope that you are all singing along with me on these songs

Charlotte-and-Jessica

Jessica Hurst and Me

 

I have been asked along with my best friend Jessica Hurst to perform our folk songs during the judging interval at this year’s Bruce Millar Gulliver singing competition. There will be a surprise for those that can make it, Jess and I will be also be performing a duet but I wonder if you can guess which one ? I will reveal all next week after the event. I am posting a bit earlier than usual tonight because I am going to try and get an early night and a get a good long sleep.

The Little Horses

February 8, 2015 — 81 Comments

The-Little-Horses-Blog

This past ‘reading week’ at the Conservatoire I have been putting the final touches to my essay on Wagner and just wanted to relax and chill out for a couple of days so I took the opportunity to go home for the weekend.

I arrived back in Glasgow about 8:30 pm so tonight’s post will only be a short one but nevertheless I hope that you enjoy it 😊. Following my post on Aaron Copland and the songs that I performed for my exam in January I was asked if there was any chance to record them.  During the week I was able to put some time aside and record the songs and tonight I would like to share the first of those songs with you.

“The Little Horses” is a lullaby and evokes images of the Old American West. When I told my Dad he said it reminded him of a TV programme that he watched growing up, “The Little House On The Prairie” based on the stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

 

Aaron-Copeland-Blog

This month we have been recording four short accompanied folk songs of our own choice for examination.  Folk music is generally music that has been passed down through generations.  When taking ABRSM exams (the exam board of the Royal Schools of Music) for singing they always test unaccompanied tradition songs (folk songs).  It is seen as an important part of each singing exam.  They may seem like an easy choice, however, they are one of the most difficult songs to perform to an optimum standard.  ABRSM themselves says the testing allows examiners to “assess the elements of unaccompanied singing through a more natural, musical and ‘singerly’ genre.  Singers have to pitch and produce the notes from within, and accommodate the extra elements of language and meaning with nowhere to hide”.

folk-music_2256313b

The choice of folk song can be vital some of them can have a very wide range required.  I’ve always sung British folk songs but I saw a concert at City Halls in Glasgow with work of the composer Aaron Copland and decided at that moment to research more of his work to consider performing a program of his.  People consider his music to evoke the vast American landscape and pioneering spirit.

Aaron-Copeland

Aaron Copland 1900 – 1990 was one of America’s best modern music composers born in Brooklyn, New York.  He wrote for voice, piano, orchestra; for plays, movies and dance he was also a conductor, pianist, teacher and author.  He studied in Paris, France for four years in his early twenties and decided that the French had a very ‘French’ way of writing and that the Americans had nothing like that so he decided to compose music that was truly American.  He used ideas from jazz music, cowboy songs, American folk songs and popular songs during the time of the American civil war, he even wrote a ballet about Billy the Kid the famous gun-slinger.

Appalachian-Spring

Scene From Appalachian Spring

 

He was a highly decorated man.  In 1945 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his music for a ballet called ‘Appalachian Spring’, the last part of the ballet is based on ‘A Gift to be Simple’ a traditional song.  In 1950 he won an Academy Award for his compositions for the film ‘The Heiress’ following nominations for his scores for ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘Our Town’ and ‘The North Star’.

The-Heiress-1949

Olivia de Havilland And Montgomery Clift In The Heiress ( 1949 )

 

In 1964 President Johnson presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom America’s highest award to civilians. In 1987 he was awarded a special Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress.

His work in the late 1940’s and 1950’s include the use of the Schonberg twelve-tone system but found it ran contrary to his desire to reach a wide audience.

The four songs I chose to sing were:

The Boatman’s Dance

Long Time Ago

The Little Horses

Ching-A-Ring Chaw