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Origins: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?

DigiTrad:
NIGHTINGALE (Wreck)
THE BRAVE VOLUNTEER
THE NIGHTINGALE
THE WILD RIPPLING WATERS


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Murray MacLeod 22 Mar 17 - 01:12 PM
Reinhard 22 Mar 17 - 01:23 PM
Jack Campin 22 Mar 17 - 01:26 PM
Gozz 22 Mar 17 - 01:27 PM
Jack Campin 22 Mar 17 - 01:43 PM
Gozz 22 Mar 17 - 01:49 PM
Marje 22 Mar 17 - 01:52 PM
Steve Gardham 22 Mar 17 - 06:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Mar 17 - 09:46 PM
Jack Campin 22 Mar 17 - 09:53 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 23 Mar 17 - 10:11 AM
Steve Gardham 23 Mar 17 - 10:42 AM
Jack Campin 23 Mar 17 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 23 Mar 17 - 02:55 PM
fat B****rd 23 Mar 17 - 06:54 PM
Murray MacLeod 23 Mar 17 - 07:00 PM
GUEST,mikeofnorthumbria (sans cookie) 24 Mar 17 - 07:54 AM
The Sandman 24 Mar 17 - 03:35 PM
Steve Gardham 24 Mar 17 - 03:53 PM
Murray MacLeod 24 Mar 17 - 06:56 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 25 Mar 17 - 02:25 PM
Steve Gardham 25 Mar 17 - 02:45 PM
GUEST,Ripov 26 Mar 17 - 06:08 AM
Marje 26 Mar 17 - 08:55 AM
Jack Campin 26 Mar 17 - 11:45 AM
Joe Offer 17 May 17 - 01:28 AM
Tattie Bogle 17 May 17 - 06:12 AM
The Sandman 17 May 17 - 12:52 PM
leeneia 17 May 17 - 04:53 PM
Jackaroodave 17 May 17 - 07:54 PM
GUEST,Dave Hunt 18 May 17 - 07:16 AM
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Subject: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 01:12 PM

If you watch the first minute of this video, you will hear the woman introducing the choral performance say that the song "Sweet Nightingale" started off in a 17th century opera.

The sound is very unclear on the video and I cannot make out the word she says before "opera" ...sounds like "valid" but obviously that makes no sense. Maybe someone else can decipher it.

Point is, did this song in fact start out in an opera, and then enter the folk tradition, as this woman claims? I have always been under the impression that it was as genuine an "Anon" folk song as it was possible to get.

Maybe some of our Cornish members can either confirm or debunk ... the song is reputed to be of Cornish origin, after all.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Reinhard
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 01:23 PM

"started its life in a ballad opera in the 17th century"


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 01:26 PM

The phrase was probably "ballad opera" - Polly, The Beggar's Opera, The Highland Fair, Love in a Village, Rosina etc.

There aren't any from the 17th century, though. The genre got going in the 1730s.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Gozz
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 01:27 PM

I'm from the other side of the border, but the "woman" you refer to in the video is Marilyn Tucker of Wren Music. She refers to a "Ballad Opera" and I confirm she says that is it's origin, but that the song was taken up by ordinary people who were singers after this.

The conductor she introduces by the way is Matt Norman the mandolin player and Dartmoor Step dancer, known particularly for his work in Gadarene. The arrangement is by Paul Wilson, also of Wren Music.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 01:43 PM

Looking at the Wikipedia page

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Nightingale

it would seem that the attribution to a ballad opera (Arne's Thomas and Sally) was a mistake which Tucker was perpetuating. The words are vaguely similar, the tune isn't.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Gozz
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 01:49 PM

But that is Wiki and .....
I suggest the OP takes it up with Marilyn via http://www.wrenmusic.co.uk/


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Marje
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 01:52 PM

The credentials of the song are a bit suspect, at least as far as ornithology goes. The nightingale is very rare in Cornwall, and "she" doesn't sing - it's only the males who sing.
Of course, this listening to the nightingale pastime was probably a cover for other after-dark activities that may have taken place "in the valley below"; it doesn't do to take folk songs literally.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 06:56 PM

Indeed the song comes from Thomas Arne's little opera 'Thomas and Sally' of the early 18thc (not 17th). The original words were by Isaac Bickerstaff. The song was so popular that it was sung independent of the opera at the pleasure gardens throughout the 18thc. The original survived almost intact to be collected c1900, but the well-known version sung in folk clubs and much collected must have been rewritten by a broadside hack about 1800 which is when it began to be widely printed on broadsides. The song like most of its type was written in London and the inclusion of a nightingale is simply poetic licence.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 09:46 PM

But typically ballad operas used existing tunes of songs people knew, and wrote new words.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 09:53 PM

This is Arne's tune (the "German flute" transposition; original vocal version is one fret up). I don't recognize it as related to the usual "Nightingale" tune and I don't like it much.

X:1
T:A Dialogue
M:3/8
L:1/8
Q:1/8=120
K:D
A   |d2 F/D/|A2 F| BEF|G2\
F   |d>cB   |cF^A| B2F|d2\
c   |B>cA   |BE^G| A2z|z2
A   |dA=c   |B2 B| eBd|c2\
A/A/|d>ef   |edc |Hd2z|z2|]


(From the IMSLP scan, page 7).


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 23 Mar 17 - 10:11 AM

dead right McGrath of Harlow! Too many followers of folk/traditional music & song are all too ready to accept that the first written version is the original!
Such rigidity of view is a contradiction in terms, and a lot of old cobblers of course. Having a mythical 'original' version does enable students of ethnomusicology to create theses about its subsequent journey through the folk process & to keep a few academics in work.

The downside is that it does a grave disservice to the real 'tradition bearers in denying that anything of value can be created by the PEOPLE rather than the plagiarists/composers who set up the alleged 'original' version, however long ago.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Mar 17 - 10:42 AM

Ballad opera tunes. I'm sure this was common practice though it's highly unlikely this was exclusively the case.

The tune used today on the folk scene was probably added when the later version from the 19th century was rewritten. The oral version in Purslow's 'The Constant Lovers' under the title 'Well Met, Pretty Maid' is recognisably related to Arne's tune, however plagiarised.

As for the texts, it's a well-known fact all of those ballads about Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars go back to Roman times or earlier!

Of course things of value can be and are created by the PEOPLE. There are plenty of examples, but if they created all of the broadside ballads exactly how did they become so widespread? If you mean the broadside hacks living in the towns and cities near the printers were part of the PEOPLE then we are in accord.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 23 Mar 17 - 12:02 PM

Too many followers of folk/traditional music & song are all too ready to accept that the first written version is the original!

Name them, then.

In fact, let's see you name even one.


Such rigidity of view is a contradiction in terms, and a lot of old cobblers of course. Having a mythical 'original' version does enable students of ethnomusicology to create theses about its subsequent journey through the folk process & to keep a few academics in work.

Try reading some real ethnomusicology and see what they actually investigate. You can find about 10 complete issues of the British Journal of Ethnomusicology on the archive site http://lit.gfax.ch/. Something like the article about potatoes and music in Bolivia will come as a mind-boggler to just about anyone.

The downside is that it does a grave disservice to the real 'tradition bearers in denying that anything of value can be created by the PEOPLE rather than the plagiarists/composers who set up the alleged 'original' version, however long ago.

So who's saying that, then?

Music goes both ways between popular aural tradition and elite art music composition. We have about 2000 years of documentation of how it happens.

It would be nice to know where the currently popular tune came from. I don't know, it looks like Steve Gardham doesn't either, and you certainly don't.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 23 Mar 17 - 02:55 PM

YOU for one Mr Campin- we've had this discussion before and I see little point in pursuing it- basically you don't believe it's a real folk song/tune unless it was written down hundreds of years ago.

Such tunnel vision does no service to the music- forget your ethnomusicology and Bolivian potatoes- I'm too busy playing the music for that and suggest you consider where the music really came from, as I said the PEOPLE or the FOLK if you prefer? Or maybe you think the 'dots' were handed down by the Great Folksinger in the Sky?

Composers have a real skill, and I respect that, and in modern times, it's possible to know who wrote songs like the Jute Mill Song (and I met her) or 'Ride On' but to try & pin down the composition date of an ancient song is just barmy. Your total misunderstanding of what traditional music is about is evidenced by your accusation that I don't know where a particular tune came from. OF COURSE I DON'T that's the point! Nor do you, you just think you do!

Your 'elite art music' has NOTHING to do with traditional music- of course the material goes both ways, but your elite art music is exactly that, a refined version of the real thing for those who consider they are part of an 'elite' but really their problem is don't understand anything that isn't written down.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: fat B****rd
Date: 23 Mar 17 - 06:54 PM

Durrr...I thought it was the one from "Cinderella".


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 23 Mar 17 - 07:00 PM

So I can at least assume that the tune which is universally sung today was not composed originally by Thomas Arne or any other operatic composer ... it is a bona fide Anon trad tune. That's all I wanted to know.

I cannot help but be reminded, reading about the tune being altered , and the lyrics being altered, about my deceased grandfather's yard broom, which he claimed was over a hundred years old, and had had only five replacement shafts, and seven replacement brush heads in all that time.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: GUEST,mikeofnorthumbria (sans cookie)
Date: 24 Mar 17 - 07:54 AM

Does anyone have more information on the alleged Cornish connection? I can only offer a bit of anecdotal evidence, but for what it's worth, here it is.

During the summer of 1962 I hitch-hiked down to Cornwall with a couple of other reprobates,intending to try our luck at busking. Along the way we stopped off at Cyril Tawney's folk club at the West Hoe Hortel, and did a floor spot there. On hearing that we had nowhere to stay that night, Cyril generously allowed us to unroll our sleeping bags on his living room floor. He also advised us that "The Sweet Nightingale" always went down well with Cornish audiences, because it was considered to be 'a local song'.

I also seem to recall that Peter Kennedy's anthology of traditional songs from these islands includes a version of Sweet Nightingale in the Cornish language, though I suspect that it's a modern translation.

Anyone out there from Mebyon Kernow with more information?

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Mar 17 - 03:35 PM

Once upon a time Cornwall had Brenda Wooton,


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Mar 17 - 03:53 PM

The difference with the broom analogy here is that anyone would be able to see the modern version is recognisably the same song as Bickerstaff's 18thc text.

Here is an honest opinion, even the modern-day tune is quite unlike most traditional tunes. In fact it is very like the pieces that came from the glee clubs of the early-19th century, pieces like the Copper Family's 'Spring glee', 'Dame Durden'......

Jim, what makes folk songs folk songs is the PEOPLE selecting and shaping. The origins have sod-all to do with it.

Regarding the 'Cornish' connection. 'The Sweet Nightingale' text as we now sing it was published in Bell's 'Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England' in 1857 where it is described as 'An Ancient Cornish Song'. The early anthologists were apt to use the term'ancient' very loosely and with no real research. 'This curious ditty which may be confidently assigned to the seventeenth century' etc. Bell heard it in Germany in 1854 sung by a troupe of Cornish miners on stage (no doubt in the form of a glee).

All of the many other versions derive from Bell including various publications by Baring Gould who collected the tune from various Cornish/Devon singers and published it in Songs of the West in 1905. Cyril either got it from Songs of the West or from Canow Kernow in the 1950s


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 24 Mar 17 - 06:56 PM

" Here is an honest opinion, even the modern-day tune is quite unlike most traditional tunes".

Steve, I have no intention of ever resuming my career in prolonged Mudcat exchanges, (been there, done that) but I would really like to know

A: what is the common factor in "most traditional tunes" which is absent in "Sweet Nightingale" , and
B: are there many (or any) other traditional tunes from which this common factor is also absent?

Feel free to be as musicologically technical as you want.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 25 Mar 17 - 02:25 PM

Steve- re the PEOPLE deciding the essence of folksong is exactly what I was trying to say!
It's the obsession with song origins and looking for chapter and verse regarding a song many hundreds of years old which I cannot understand! It's OK for academics, but I can't see the point?

As you rightly say, the PEOPLE choose- Jack Campin's statement that there is movement between various music genres is also something I accept but certainty about origins in this context seems unrealistic & not worth pursuing.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Mar 17 - 02:45 PM

Jim, everyone is entitled to take from folk song what they want. It just so happens an awful lot of people like to know where their favourite music has come from and how it evolved. You don't. No problem. Nothing to do with academia.

Murray. First of all the structure does not match up with our typical folk ballad structure. Can you think of another folk song that matches this one in structure? There might be a few but I would contend they also probably come from the theatre or glee clubs.

Secondly, for me at least the extended 'below-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow' is much more typical of a glee or a theatrical piece.

'musicologically technical'! You've got the wrong bloke.


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: GUEST,Ripov
Date: 26 Mar 17 - 06:08 AM

Is not "hearing the nightingale sing" a euphemism?


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Marje
Date: 26 Mar 17 - 08:55 AM

Of course it's a euphemism, of a well known sort, which lends support to the idea that at least some of the text is traditional. However, as I mentioned above, it also undermines the idea of an ancient Cornish origin for these lyrics, as people would be unlikely to keep using an figure of speech relating to a bird that was not native or familiar in their region.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Mar 17 - 11:45 AM

First of all the structure does not match up with our typical folk ballad structure. Can you think of another folk song that matches this one in structure? There might be a few but I would contend they also probably come from the theatre or glee clubs.

Secondly, for me at least the extended 'below-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow' is much more typical of a glee or a theatrical piece.


Yep - there's nothing like that sort of repetition of phrases, words or even isolated syllables in the ballad tradition, or in the more freely structured mediaeval poetry and song that preceded it. On the other hand you do find that in Italianate opera, which is where the glee club idiom mainly came from (mediated in the British Isles by the art-music composer who wrote Michael Turner's Waltz).


It's the obsession with song origins and looking for chapter and verse regarding a song many hundreds of years old which I cannot understand!

Knowing the origin of a song often connects you with the human concerns that impelled someone to compose it or made people first want to sing it. Folk tradition is not just about transmitting words and tunes, it's about meaning and history.


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Subject: Origins: Sweet Nightingale / Well Met, Pretty Maid
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 May 17 - 01:28 AM

I've grouped all the "Nightingale" songs together, which is a terrible thing to do. But people get them confused, and most of our "Nightingale" threads discuss more than one "Nightingale" song - so don't blame me. They're very different songs, however. This thread is almost completely about the song known usually as "Sweet Nightingale," so let's make this the Origins thread for that particular song. Here's what the Traditional Ballad Index has to say about the song:

Well Met, Pretty Maid (The Sweet Nightingale)

DESCRIPTION: Singer invites girl to hear the nightingale; he offers to carry her pail. She demurs; "I've hands of my own." They agree to marry; now she's not afraid to go out walking or to "hear the fond tale of the sweet nightingale/As she sings in the valley below"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (Journal from the _Ann_)
KEYWORDS: courting love sex marriage bird rejection seduction
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Bell-Combined, pp. 467-470, "The Sweet Nightingale" (1 text)
Williams-Thames, p. 45, "To Milk in the Valley Below" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 494)
Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 187-188, "A New Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill, p. 562, "Sweet Nightingale" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kennedy 89, "An Eos Whek [The Sweet Nightingale]" (1 text + Cornish translation, 1 tune)
DT, NITINGAL

Roud #371
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Nightingale
NOTES: Kennedy's Cornish words are a revivalist translation from the English. The song has been collected from tradition several times, but positively shouts out a composed origin. Kennedy lumps it with "The Valley Below," but as the plots are notably different, I don't. They certainly share a common ancestor, though, possibly in Thomas Arne's opera "Thomas and Sally" (1761). - PJS
I doubt even that much, and the fact that Kennedy lumps them (on no basis at all that I can see) makes me doubt all his other references. The one thing I'll allow is his claim that the song has a very fine melody. I've used a title from JFSS because that's the way I learned the song.
It's very difficult to know what to do with songs of this type. Huntington thinks his text is a survival of the Corydon/Colin-and-Phyllis/Phoebe type. As Paul observes, it sounds more like a minstrel than a folk piece. But Theodore Bikel and Cynthia Gooding recorded something quite similar (under the "Well Met" title), and there are enough broadsides with similar form that I decided I needed to include the song.
The trick now is to decide which of these many pieces actually belong here, and which are orphan broadsides.... - RBW
Last updated in version 2.8
File: K089

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


And here are the lyrics we have in the Digital Tradition. I can't tell where they come from.

          THE NIGHTINGALE

D
My sweetheart come along, don't you hear the sweet song
D A7 D A7
Of the beautiful nightingale flow
D A7 D A7
You will hear the fond tale of the sweet nightingale
D G D A7 D A7
As she sings in the valley below
D A7 D
As she sings in the valley below

Pray leave me alone, I have hands of my own
And along with you I'll not go
For to hear the fond tale of the sweet nightingale
As she sings in the valley below....

Pretty Polly, don't fail, and I'll carry your pail
Straight home to your cottage we'll go
We will hear the fond tale of the sweet nightingale
As she sings in the valley below....

Pray sit yourself down with me on the ground
On the banks where the primroses grow
You will hear the fond tale of the sweet nightingale
As she sings in the valley below....

Down in yonder grove there is an alcove
And violets around it do spring
Just by in a bush there sits a song thrush
'Twill charm you to hear how she sings....

Why hark, my love, hark, why yonder's a lark
She warbles and pleases me so
That the beautiful tale of the sweet nightingale
Will never entice me to go....

The two lovers agreed to be married with speed
And straight to the church they did go
Now no more she's afraid to go down in the shade
Or to walk in the valley below....

@animal @love @courtship
Recorded by Margaret Chrystal, T. Bikel, C. Gooding
filename[ NITINGAL
RPf


Jackie Oates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANbOWvQcM1w


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 17 May 17 - 06:12 AM

I have sung this since my long past schooldays, never really questioning where it came from, just enjoying the song, which I think echoes Jim's point.
Yes, it's interesting to research origins, but only up to a point. I did look into it the other week, when the BBC featured some project about English folksingers going into a forest somewhere in southern England to play and sing along with nightingales at silly o'clock am. The instrument they took with them was that very traditional English one, the shruti box!!
We don't have nightingales in Scotland, but some pretty tuneful warblers!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 May 17 - 12:52 PM

I once heard a nightingale in Scotland in Aberdeen. I had just done Aberdeen folk club which I have had the pleasure of doing many times [there you used to be a great moothie there called arthur morrison] this would have been in the 1980s, anyway as we came back late at night there was a nightingale [unmistakeable song singing in the middle of the city, not far from a street light


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: leeneia
Date: 17 May 17 - 04:53 PM

When I read over the words that Joe posted, it seemed to me that this song was designed for the stage. I can just see a male singer and female singer in quaint costumes, each singing their respective verses.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 17 May 17 - 07:54 PM

Is this rhyme scheme common in traditional ballad quatrains: Lines 2 and 4 rhyme with each other, but 1 and 3 each rhyme internally (and may rhyme with each other)?

It sounds "stagey" to me, but that may be just because my ignorance is vast.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Nightingale... tune from an opera?
From: GUEST,Dave Hunt
Date: 18 May 17 - 07:16 AM

Now I heard...many years ago and I've forgotten who told me, that the tune use today was originally the horn obligato in a ballad opera (Thomas Arne's 'Thomas and Sally perhaps?)


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