The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #91417   Message #1740149
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
13-May-06 - 05:43 PM
Thread Name: Origins: King Orfeo versions
Subject: RE: Origins: King Orfeo versions
Only two sets have ever found with tunes (both in Shetland); both appear in Bronson, though it should be noted that the first text quoted above is not Kitty Anderson's as stated, but the Unst text published in 1880 and quoted by Child. Bronson prints the Anderson text, not Child's. The 1865 text is in Emily Lyle, Scottish Ballads (reprinted from Scottish Studies 20, 1976): that and Child's example are without music. According to Roud, a further text appears in Davis, More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, but I haven't seen that.

The assertion in the Rounder notes that "Bronson believed the melody to be a very ancient one" is incorrect. He said no such thing, nor did he imply it.

The Oxford book prints Child's text set to John Stickle's tune.

Recordings by Revival singers are generally arrangements of versions from traditional sources, though it may be that some have expanded texts collated from existing material, maybe in some cases including modern additions.

Carol Wood's recording, for instance, is an arrangement of Kitty Anderson's text, rendered partly (and not entirely accurately) into modern American English, with tune and one verse borrowed from John Stickle's set, and the refrain as he sang it. Bronson's note (III, 456, not quoted above) indicates that Kitty knew both forms of the refrain.

Andrew Calhoun's recording is a modernised re-write, apparently made up of bits from most or all available examples, and perhaps incorporating a few verses made up by himself and based upon details in the mediaeval romance; though it may be that these derive from the set printed by Emily Lyle, which I haven't seen. The tune is again John Stickle's. The refrain follows the (notional) English rendition quoted in the Rounder notes from the 1865 text.

Although the mediaeval romance may be the source on which the traditional song was based, we don't actually know that, so it's unsafe to make assumptions based on that suggestion. If there was a Breton lai on the subject, it has not survived.

The DT text (link at top of page) is that printed by Child; the prior source he specified is unfortunately not credited. For the record, it appeared in The Leisure Hour, February 14 1880, no 1468 p 109; "obtained from the singing of Andrew Coutts, an old man in Unst, Shetland, by Mr Biot Edmondston."

Both Shetland tunes are linked to in midi format, but they are not properly identified. Note that KNGORFEO.1.MID is Kitty Anderson's tune, while KNGORFEO.2.MID is John Stickle's.