The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #122008   Message #2670439
Posted By: Jack Blandiver
03-Jul-09 - 05:12 AM
Thread Name: Pronunciation of Gaelic/Norn in 'King Orfeo'
Subject: RE: Pronunciation of Gaelic/Norn in 'King Orfeo'
The pronunciation is pretty much as written: scowan urla grun - wha yorten han grun orlac - although I've heard the variation scowan arlish grun / wha yorten han gorl arlish.

The Archie Fisher version contains many gratuitous exta(neous) verses (by Martin Carthy apparently) and an arrangement featuring saga strings, basically an orchestral string section playing stirring cadences over a fetching pedal drone; the effect is such that after the intro one expects to hear Scott Walker rather than Archie Fisher. A classic of its kind really which the rest of the album sadly fails to live up to.

I first heard the song 30 years ago, as sung by one Fred Lane of Lancashire on Styrbjorn Bergelt's 1979 LP Tagelharpa Och Videfloyte, thus introducing me not only to King Orfeo but the whole bowed-harp thing. So thirty years of Orfeo & Crwth! That said, the latest recording I made of it is a demo on which I accompany myself on Tibetan singing bowl. Just this minute uploaded this recording onto my myspace page. Listen to it at:

The image is a pastel by Ron Baxter made after I sang the ballad at The Fleetwood Folk Club back in the autumn. To see the image in greater detail click HERE.


The story of how the tune was discovered is interesting, as for many years the ballad featured in many collections, including Child (#19) without a melody until an old singer (forgive me, I know not who!) piped up with a single verse, introducing it as a piece of nonsense, or words to that effect, thus completing the picture. Perhaps someone can provide the actual details of this?

And whatever became of Fred Lane?