The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #103196   Message #2099592
Posted By: GUEST,Brian Peters
11-Jul-07 - 06:15 AM
Thread Name: Is there a 'Childs' songbook
Subject: RE: Is there a 'Childs' songbook
Having recently spent a good deal of time in the company of Prof. Bronson and his meisterwerk, can I speak up in his defence? The tunes in his four volumes, far from being "crap", "tatty", "dull" or "uninteresting", include some of the most beautiful traditional airs you can find anywhere. Lovely modal melodies, unconventional rhythms, its all there if you just take the trouble to look for it (and even an apparently simple tune can be the perfect vehicle for a good story, in the right hands). Of course this does require (a) access to a copy of Bronson, and (b) the time and patience to go through what can be an intimidatingly large body of material.

One of the problems with the Child Ballads is that many he considered pivotal to his collection were not widely sung even in his day, if ever. Those are the ones you need to compose or adapt tunes for if you're going to sing them - and many are tales well worthy of the telling. You want to sing 'Sir Aldingar' or 'King Estmere', and you're on your own. 'Willie's Lady' has only one entry in Bronson and it isn't too inspiring, so it's small wonder that Martin Carthy decided to look elsewhere. 'Kemp Owyne' also has only one trad. tune - it looks dull on paper but comes dramatically to life when you actually sing it. But if you're interested in 'The Gypsy Laddie', 'Two Sisters' or any of the many Child Ballads common in oral tradition, you can go to Bronson and you'll surely find one you like amongst the dozens he prints.

What's frustrating is that so many performers of Child Ballads neither look up interesting versions in Bronson or elsewhere, nor compose tunes of their own, but merely copy the versions that Martin Carthy or Nic Jones or Fairport popularised years ago.

As far as the original question goes, recent EFDSS publications (including the new edition of Marrow Bones) would certainly be a good place to start. Or you could always listen to some source recordings - Voice of the People, for instance. Then make up your own guitar chords.

Oh, and PS: the tune in Child for 'False Foudrage' is indeed a good one, but far better suited to Willie O' Winsbury than to the grim but ultimately heroic tale of the ballad with which it was collected. Better to find an alternative for 'Foudrage' - I used 'Lord Gregory', and it's surprising how few people spot it.