The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #91417   Message #1740034
Posted By: Roberto
13-May-06 - 02:41 PM
Thread Name: Origins: King Orfeo versions
Subject: RE: Origins: King Orfeo versions
From the notes in the booklet that goes with the Rounder cd edition of Child ballads (Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland vol.1) from the recordings 1949-68 made by Peter Kennedy, Alan Lomax, Bob Copper, Seamus Ennis, Hamish Henderson, a.o., first published on lp on Caedmon:

When Patrick Shaw went to Shetland to collect songs, he was shown another text of this ballad that had appeared in The Shetland Times, written down from the recitation of Bruce Sutherland of Turf House, North Yell, in 1865. The refrain is clearly derived from the old Norn language used in Shetland: "Skoven arle gro / Hvor hjorten han gar arlig [Early green's the wood / Where the hart goes yearly.]" There was no extant version of the tune, however.
Ballad singer John Stickle (1875-1957) worked as a cooper at Baltasound on Unst, and later at Lerwick making barrels for the herring fisheries, which in his day were centered on Shetland, as oil is today. In his spare time, he was fiddler for local dances and weddings and he sang and recited at parties and concerts. Interestingly, his great-grandfather was a German man who had been rescued, still holding onto his fiddle, when his ship was wrecked on Unst in the 1770s. His son, Robert, John Stickle's grandfather, inherited his father's musical ability and was recognized as the best fiddle player in all Shetland ("that was in the first position.") He supposedly was press-ganged with his fiddle (his only duty being to play) and composed many of the tunes that are still popular in Shetland today. It was while his descendant John Stickle was singing nonsense songs to Patrick Shaw that he came out with this fragment, remarking, "Have you ever heard anything so silly as this?" He had no idea of its rarity and its significance to ballad scholars. Shaw at once thrilled to the realization that he was hearing the long-lost tune of the ballad of King Orfeo. recovered for this whisper from the Middle Ages was as little to be expected as that we should hear a horn from elfin-land blowing," he wrote. Bronson believed the melody to be a very ancient one; he includes John Stickle's version as well as another version with similar words, taken down by Francis Collinson from Kitty Anderson in Shetland in 1955.