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Padstow May Song query

Tradsinger 11 May 11 - 03:31 AM
doc.tom 11 May 11 - 04:01 AM
Tradsinger 11 May 11 - 06:11 AM
doc.tom 11 May 11 - 07:24 AM
Tradsinger 11 May 11 - 07:40 AM
harmonic miner 11 May 11 - 07:49 AM
Tradsinger 11 May 11 - 08:11 AM
breezy 12 May 11 - 04:41 AM
Little Robyn 12 May 11 - 06:57 PM
Tradsinger 13 May 11 - 04:13 AM
Little Robyn 14 May 11 - 06:49 AM
Les in Chorlton 14 May 11 - 07:19 AM
Little Robyn 14 May 11 - 08:49 AM
Les in Chorlton 14 May 11 - 09:11 AM
breezy 15 May 11 - 04:57 AM
Little Robyn 15 May 11 - 06:52 AM
harmonic miner 17 May 11 - 06:12 AM
doc.tom 17 May 11 - 06:31 AM
GUEST,Marianne S. 17 May 11 - 12:33 PM
Little Robyn 17 May 11 - 07:38 PM
GUEST,Marianne S. 18 May 11 - 03:57 AM
Les in Chorlton 18 May 11 - 05:31 AM
harmonic miner 18 May 11 - 09:56 AM
Little Robyn 18 May 11 - 07:08 PM
doc.tom 19 May 11 - 04:24 AM
Ruth Archer 19 May 11 - 04:38 AM
harmonic miner 19 May 11 - 04:43 AM
Les in Chorlton 19 May 11 - 05:01 AM
greg stephens 19 May 11 - 08:01 AM
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Subject: Padstow May Song query
From: Tradsinger
Date: 11 May 11 - 03:31 AM

This is something that has been bugging me for years. In the 70s I went to a talk by Charlie Bate at the Wadebridge folk festival. He talked about the Padstow May Day song and was keen to emphasise the difference in the way the two teams (red ribbon and blue ribbon) played the song. I think Charlie was in the red ribbon team. The differences were:

1. For the last note of the first line 'Unite and unite and let us all unite', Charlie's tune went back to the tonic, i.e. if you are playing in G, you go back to a G, whereas what I hear these days from both teams is the note E.

2. There is a verse that starts 'All out of your beds' and Charlie pointed out that this verse is shorter than the others and must be played as such. Again, I can't detect it in today's singing/plsying.

3. The two teams used to leave a different interval between the verses (I think the blue team used to put in an extra beat or two, but can't quite remember). Charlie said that this used to cause problems when the 2 teams met in evening around the Maypole as they tended to get out of time with each other. Again, these days, I don't hear any difference in the gap between verses between th3 2 teams.

I get the impression that there is much less emphasis these days on singing the song and more on just playing the tune. And I get the impression that these differences that Charlie talked about no longer apply as now everyone plays the tune the same.

Comments?

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: doc.tom
Date: 11 May 11 - 04:01 AM

1. Never heard the last note as an E! there is a variation in the last note on the 'nite' of U-nite - it can either be the A (before dropping to the G of 'For')or the C (before dropping to the G of 'For'). The boxes play both. The C is more recent. There's also the issue of the 'unto day' which, since about 1970, tends to get lifted by younger singers into the higher octave rather than the way Charlie sang/played it.

2. I've not heard the 'All out of your beds' verse since Charlie and his accordion went and no single lead box had the force to force the verse. Some of us still make sure the verse is sung & played every year - but it can't be done on the day and in procession.

3. I've never been aware of the a difference in the timing between verses. Certainly the pace is different between the parties (it also differs on whether you're going uphill or downhill - until the MC spots it!). You also sometimes get a de-synchronisation between tune and drums within one party when the space gets narrow and the band stretched out, of course. The difficulties in the bands playing together lay rather in the speed difference but also, as Beryl Marriott pointed out, in the detail of the on-beat relative to the anscruxis. In more recent years, the parties have got the playing together right when they've stopped and then re-started together.

Peace Oss have within my experience (i.e. since 1960s)tended to sing more than the Old Oss. I've no idea if they are now singing less. Certainly Matthew is encouraging the Old Oss party to sing up at least in St. George.


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Tradsinger
Date: 11 May 11 - 06:11 AM

Hello Doc and thanks for your reply from the front line.

I think on the notes we are talking at cross purposes. All the versions of the song that I have heard (and I have cross-checked this on YouTube etc), are in G, so that the notes for that first phrase 'Unite and unite and let us all unite' would be D D E F# G A G G G F# E, or in Charlie's version, the last note would be a G not an E. I suspect that you are thinking of the tune in C rather than G.

Here's what Charlie said at his talk at Wadebridge in 1975, which I have just transcribed from my tape recording "That's the reason when the 2 Obby Osses get together, you'll understand why we have the jangles, because the other boys [blue ribbon] go right from one verse into the other so that when the 2 bands get together ... (pause for laughter from audience). Now, I'm not saying we're right and I'm not saying they're wrong but this is it."

And he illustrated this with his accordeon. I suspect this distinction has now been lost. Views?

Cheers

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: doc.tom
Date: 11 May 11 - 07:24 AM

Yep - sorry - brain in the wrong place - transpose my comments to G and we're OK.

Timing between verses - never noticed (although I don't hear the Peace Oss very much). You may be right and the distinction is now lost.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Tradsinger
Date: 11 May 11 - 07:40 AM

Thanks very much, Tom, and long may the tradition continue. Personally I like to hear the May Day song being sung as well as played, but hey, it's your tradition to perform as you want.

'Oss 'Oss!

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: harmonic miner
Date: 11 May 11 - 07:49 AM

Proabably been said before, but tjat whole Padstow thing really seems to have been staged for the musicologists


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Tradsinger
Date: 11 May 11 - 08:11 AM

Hello HM,

I am sure that is not correct. It is a vibrant living tradition carried out by the townspeople as their own custom. Like any tradition, it is capable of being analysed, but this is really irrelevant to all those who take part in it or come to enjoy it. The Padstownians certainly don't do it for the musicologists!

Or were you being just provocative?!

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: breezy
Date: 12 May 11 - 04:41 AM

a few years ago - about - 10 -   the note, nay phrase - played fron the syllable Un as in 'un today' from the line for summer is acum 'un'to day was the octave note, but that may have been because certain voices ranges couldnt sing the lower notes in the key it was being played in.

Or Chris Brinn had blown a read on his accordion


Twere a tad windy this year and the pub singing during the day was lead by the Ring O'Bells choir who are coming on at a pace.

See you next year


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Little Robyn
Date: 12 May 11 - 06:57 PM

I've just consulted my Inglis Gundry 'Canow Kernow', printed in 1966.
He gives 5 older versions (from 1860, 1891, 1912, 1914, 1928) and the 2 variants as sung and played by 'the Blue Ribbon team and the Old Oss team (Red ribbon) in 1962.
There seem to be only minor variations, perhaps relating to the ability of the musicians of the time and the instruments they played - drums, melodeons, concertinas, banjos, flute/fife/whistles etc. The piano accordion is a more modern introduction and doesn't show up in the photos from 100 years back, tho' today they seem to dominate.
Every version EXCEPT the 1962 Red Oss (Charlie's team) has the note on "...all unite" falling to E. Charlie played the G.
Gundry says "The variants E and G at the beginning of the fourth bar, which were first noticed by Cecil Sharp in 1914, seem now to have been adopted by the Blue and Red teams respectively.
Also, in the previous bar, "..let us all.." the 1860, 1912, and 1962 Red Oss all sing G A G F, the 1914 tune has G F G F, and the others, including the 1962 Blue Oss team have G G G F.
The "unto day" sung an octave higher is only in the 1962 version and Gundry calls it "...the sensitive spot where modern boys have raised the tune an octave to suit their treble voices..."
Gundry comments on the melody:
"The above chart shows that the Padstow May Day, or 'Obby 'Oss song is an example of a living folk tune, still in process of evolution. The children's innovation in bars 6-7, backed by the high-shouted "UNTO DAY" on the part of the unofficial dancers, points to what might happen in the future if these boys refuse to fall in line with their leaders when their voices break! The melody has changed considerably during the last hundred years, so it is difficult to imagine what it might have been like in medieval or ancient British times, if we are right in believing that it dates from the days of pagan Britain and was not introduced by pagan Anglo-Saxon invaders."
He also notes "...an interesting divergence between the two versions in the link between melody and repeat at the end of the line. The Old 'Oss Party return to duple time as soon as the words are finished, while the Blue Ribbon team take an extra three-four bar before coming back to the duple time. The former method is more precise, but the latter is more subtle and haunting, so that you are swept into the repeat of the tune before you know what is happening."
In most of my recordings, that bar is filled with the drummers adding their Ba boom boom boom!
The young boys mentioned above would now all be in their 60s or older. John Buckingham, who helps publish the Padstow Echo, had his own Wee Oss when he was a lad in the 50s so presumably he was one of the boys who sang higher.
In 1972, when I took part in the Blue Oss team, I noticed that many of the followers were only singing one mutated verse over and over, tho' both teams had issued word sheets:
'With a merry ring, adieu the merry spring
For summer is acome unto day
And give to us a cup of ale and the merrier we shall sing
In the merry morning of May.'
That seemed to be the mood of the day but I didn't notice it in 1990 when I visited Padstow again.
Now that the drums and accordions are so abundant, the tune is practised well before the day and hopefully singers practise the words as well.
The 'Padstow Echo' is a lovely little magazine edited by Sue Norfolk with assistance from John Buckingham and Barry Kinsmen and copies are available from Sue. Letters to the editor could possibly find answers to some of these questions - direct from the source.
Email susan@padstowecho.wanadoo.co.uk
Oss Oss
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Tradsinger
Date: 13 May 11 - 04:13 AM

A very full and informative reply. Thank you, Robyn.


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Little Robyn
Date: 14 May 11 - 06:49 AM

I'm just watching a BBC News audio slideshow with John Buckingham talking about May day.
Click here
Oss Oss
Wee Oss
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 14 May 11 - 07:19 AM

"The melody has changed considerably during the last hundred years, so it is difficult to imagine what it might have been like in medieval or ancient British times, if we are right in believing that it dates from the days of pagan Britain and was not introduced by pagan Anglo-Saxon invaders."

We went to Padstow around 76 and were really knocked out by the whole event and have always found the song strange and mesmeric. What evidence is their for its history?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Little Robyn
Date: 14 May 11 - 08:49 AM

Not a lot of written history before the mid 1800s.
There is a drawing dated about 1835 of 'Padstow Hobby Horse' which shows two musicians playing a fife and drum, several men in top hats firing guns into the air, a tall maypole in the background with someone trying to climb it, two or three people who might be dancing (or they could just be walking funny, with hands on hips), a man posturing in front of the horse - presumably the Teaser and an odd looking hobby horse. All the elements of the Oss are there but it looks to me as if it was drawn by someone who hadn't actually seen it but drew it from a verbal description. Because yes, it has big eyes but not those sort of eyes and yes, it has a big nose but not like that one. It does have a big red tongue but it doesn't stick out the way the drawing shows and the horses head on a stick out front is much more stylised in even the earliest photographs. The character in the Oss costume in the drawing must be well over 6 foot tall because he towers over all the other figures. Maybe it did look like that back then but I suspect not.
According to Donald Rawe in his book Padstow's Obby Oss and May Day Festivities:
"The earliest written reference to a hobby horse is actually in the old Cornish drama Bewnans Meriasek (The life of Meriasek) written in 1502. This at least points to the conclusion that hobby horsing was general to Cornwall at the time."
"Sir Walter Scott in his novel 'The Abbott' (1820) describes the Hobby Horse festivities at Lochleven, Scotland:
'Here one fellow with a horse's head painted before him, and a tail behind, and the whole covered with a long foot-cloth, which was supposed to hide the body of the animal, ambled, caracoled, pranced and plunged, as he performed the celebrated part of the hobbie-horse, so often alluded to in our ancient drama.'
A similar description of a hobby horse's 'frisking' is given in Hone's Every Day Book (1826), under May 1st."
Donald also mentions St Augustine preached against 'horse magic' back in the 4th Century so presumably it's true origins stretched way back before that and have been lost in the mists of antiquity.
Oss Oss
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 14 May 11 - 09:11 AM

Thanks Robyn that's most helpful

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: breezy
Date: 15 May 11 - 04:57 AM

Donald attended one of my performances last summer in Padstow. He was pleased that I included a lesser known cornish song in my recital

I know his sister too, she came to my performances as well.

its got sod all to do with Obby osses but so what !

I keep asking Maureen Tatlow to make me a small one


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Little Robyn
Date: 15 May 11 - 06:52 AM

I have a small oss - a model of the Blue Oss. There was a Red one in a shop window many years ago (1972)and I asked Betty if the person who made it would make me one too. He didn't want to because he was a Red Osser - but he did - for five pounds! A lot of money in those days! I had a bit of bother fitting it into my suitcase to come back to NZ but I did it and it's sitting in the shelf beside me right now. The skirt/body is about 13 inches in diameter and 7 inches deep. The little man inside is about 11 inches tall and with the mask on stands about 16 inches. He has been used in displays here and has been to two folk festivals when I gave an illustrated talk on May Day.
I've also made several kid's size Osses which hare been used by children and Morris dancers on special occasions over the years. The one in the garage now is a light-weight version made of black parka nylon on a wire frame. The mask is basically cardboard but with the nylon glued on and painted. The horse head is also nylon covered cardboard. He was used at the Auckland Folk Festival a few years ago, when we danced around the festival site and up to the tent where the model was set up with a miniature maypole and strings of buntings to hold it in place. There were copies of old photos surrounding us and I had made a song sheet so people could sing along. We borrowed Andy's big drum, about the size of the Brenton drum and I played my accordion. We had a great time!
Oss Oss
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: harmonic miner
Date: 17 May 11 - 06:12 AM

@Tradsinger,

Not being provocative, just that I'd heard it said that it was basically staged for Alan Lomax and his team. I know nothing about it other than (a) what I read in the recent biography of Lomax and (b) youtube clips. And the latter somehow don't seem realistic. I can see how a community might want to have a bit of a laugh at the expense of the American tourists. I'm not saying they did.


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: doc.tom
Date: 17 May 11 - 06:31 AM

Padstow doesn't do it for anyone else - it's done for Padstow! Both Lomax and Kennedy (Peter)had 'staged' performances (in Peter's case 'cos he was making an art film! - although he claimed just to be recording the tradition) - they had to be, they were out of season.


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: GUEST,Marianne S.
Date: 17 May 11 - 12:33 PM

Staged for Alan Lomax? Was he alive in 1835 (see Little Robyn's reply above)

Actually I'm being sarcastic, because the idea that the Osses were created to play a joke on Alan Lomax is itself laughable. ("I can see how a community might want to have a bit of a laugh at the expense of the American tourists").Troll alert?


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Little Robyn
Date: 17 May 11 - 07:38 PM

So do you think it was staged for Jean Ritchie and George Pickow as well? They made a film "Oss Oss Wee Oss", that shows some of the Padstow festivities. Perhaps someone could ask Jean if she thinks it's real.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: GUEST,Marianne S.
Date: 18 May 11 - 03:57 AM

Nice of them to stage it for me in 1971!!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 18 May 11 - 05:31 AM

Some people believe that it takes place on a Ley Line that connects Padstow with The Lost City of Atalntis and Newgrange in Ireland.

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: harmonic miner
Date: 18 May 11 - 09:56 AM

Hey, I'm just saying that there's a rumour that it was staged for some North American musicologists. I didn't make it up. I don't even know when the musicologists were there, before or after 1971. If people say the rumour is incorrect, fine. I'd like to find out more about it. Where can I?


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Little Robyn
Date: 18 May 11 - 07:08 PM

There are many threads here that you can read - I don't know why they haven't appeared at the top of this thread yet, but you can put Padstow in the Lyrics and Knowledge Search box up the top and find lots of them. This one here for example.

Robyn


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: doc.tom
Date: 19 May 11 - 04:24 AM

Les - some people beieve anything!
Harmonic miner - trace the source of the rumour, it's the only way.


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 19 May 11 - 04:38 AM

"I'd like to find out more about it. Where can I?"

Go to Padstow on May Day. It's fairly convincing. There's also a lovely little museum in the town which had books and books full of history and newspaper clippings. You could sit and amuse yourself with those for a while.


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: harmonic miner
Date: 19 May 11 - 04:43 AM

Ruth, I might just do that, it sounds like fun


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 May 11 - 05:01 AM

I have only been once but I really enjoyed it and it felt like one of the most exciting old and strange events that are part o but the f some kind of living tradition. I suspect, as with many old traditions tne amount evidence-free speculation overwhelms actual evidence. I don't think that helps anybody but the event thrives inspite of that

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Padstow May Song query
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 May 11 - 08:01 AM

I was there in 1981(and not since) and the difference in the gap between the verses was clear then. The red lot had a gap one beat shorter than the blue, to the best of my recollection. I am interested to hear that anomaly has now been ironed out.


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