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Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?

DigiTrad:
PETER AMBERLAY (2)
PETER EMBERLY


Related threads:
Chords Req: Peter Amberly/Amberley/Emberlay/etc. (17)
Lyr Add: Peter Emberlay (from Creighton Collection (3)
Lyr Req: Peter Amberley (from Bill Staines) (9)
Lyr Req: Peter Amberly (from George Hamilton IV) (3) (closed)
Lyr Req: Peter Amberly / Emberly (2) (closed)


JedMarum 11 Jan 00 - 11:43 PM
Arkie 12 Jan 00 - 12:02 AM
Barry T 12 Jan 00 - 01:17 AM
JedMarum 12 Jan 00 - 09:16 AM
Liam's Brother 12 Jan 00 - 11:22 AM
JedMarum 12 Jan 00 - 12:14 PM
BK 12 Jan 00 - 11:00 PM
Liam's Brother 12 Jan 00 - 11:26 PM
Art Thieme 12 Jan 00 - 11:44 PM
raredance 12 Jan 00 - 11:48 PM
Murray on SS 13 Jan 00 - 12:33 AM
Sandy Paton 13 Jan 00 - 01:42 AM
JedMarum 13 Jan 00 - 09:23 AM
Barry T 13 Jan 00 - 01:41 PM
Barry T 14 Jan 00 - 01:40 AM
Joe Offer 14 Jan 00 - 02:30 AM
Night Owl 14 Jan 00 - 02:58 AM
JedMarum 14 Jan 00 - 09:07 AM
JedMarum 14 Jan 00 - 09:12 AM
Barry T 14 Jan 00 - 10:35 AM
JedMarum 14 Jan 00 - 10:42 AM
Sam 14 Jan 00 - 03:21 PM
raredance 14 Jan 00 - 11:00 PM
BK 15 Jan 00 - 10:27 PM
JedMarum 16 Jan 00 - 12:10 PM
JedMarum 16 Jan 00 - 12:10 PM
Barry T 16 Jan 00 - 03:55 PM
Alice 16 Jan 00 - 06:08 PM
JedMarum 13 May 00 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,jim 13 May 00 - 04:25 PM
Marion 18 Dec 02 - 02:20 PM
Malcolm Douglas 18 Dec 02 - 02:43 PM
Marion 19 Dec 02 - 01:10 PM
curmudgeon 19 Dec 02 - 01:22 PM
curmudgeon 19 Dec 02 - 01:34 PM
MARINER 19 Dec 02 - 04:34 PM
GUEST,Janice Calhoun 14 Jun 04 - 01:14 PM
YorkshireYankee 14 Jun 04 - 08:51 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 15 Jun 04 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,Barry Parkinson 11 Feb 05 - 09:47 PM
GUEST,louella calhoun woods 14 Jun 11 - 12:08 PM
Arkie 14 Jun 11 - 12:55 PM
JedMarum 14 Jun 11 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Dave in Michigan 14 Jun 11 - 04:09 PM
GUEST,Dave in Michigan 14 Jun 11 - 04:32 PM
Artful Codger 15 Jun 11 - 12:45 AM
Snuffy 15 Jun 11 - 02:33 AM
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Subject: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 11 Jan 00 - 11:43 PM

I have been singing a version of this great song for a short while. It is a beautiful song. I have heard Bill Staines version and seen the DT listings. I have even tried creating a thread to find out more about the song, but not gained any real insights, yet.

Who knows where the song originated? There are apparently several versions around. Is there reason to believe there was a real Peter? Was there an author who began this story? Who sings it today? The song has such a haunting melody, and lends itself beautifully to a deep dropped D round sound. I can't seem to stop playing off its melody! Any thoughts?


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Arkie
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 12:02 AM

Don't know any history of the song and am anxious to learn more. The tune I have heard was used by Dylan for I Pity the Poor Immigrant and I think my have been used earlier for The Flying Cloud. Thanks for the post. I hope you get some response. I too like this song.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Barry T
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 01:17 AM

From Folk Songs of Canada by Edith Fowke and Richard Johnston...

This is a tragedy that is well authenticated. Just as the song says, Peter Amberley was born on Prince Edward Island, and came to work in the Miramichi woods in 1880. He was fatally injured the following winter when a yarded log fell on him. He was buried near Boiestown, New Brunswick.

The ballad was composed by a Maritime balladist named John Calhoun (1848-1939), who lived near Boiestown and had known Amberley. He wrote it as though the injured lad was telling his own story on his deathbed.

It is believed that Peter Amberley was the real name of the victim, but in New Brunswick it was usually transformed into Emberley; in Nova Scotia it became Amberlay or Rambelay and in Maine it became Emberly or Emely. The song lyrics exist in many versions, the longest of which runs to ten stanzas.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 09:16 AM

Barry T - you are a jewell. This is most valuable info, thanks kindly!

I must say I had suspected this was a song written about some true events. My mother's Soct and English families both emmigrated to the US through Canada, winding up in the the textile mills of Fall River Massachusettts. I don't know much about their time in Nova Scotia, but this song strikes a chord with me.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 11:22 AM

William Main Doerflinger writes this about the ballad.

"In a grave marked by a little wooden cross, a folk hero of the Northeast sleeps near the waters of the Southwest Miramichi. The cross in the small Catholic cemetery a mile or so east of Boiestown, New Brunswick, reads: 'Peter Amberley. Died 1881.'

"Henry McCarthy of Boistown, who worked on the cross in 1937, felt the name on it was the correct one. Yet McCarthy, like everyone else with whom I discussed the song in and near Boiestown, pronounced the name 'Emberly.'"

Bill continues, "It is common knowledge throughout the Boiestown district that the ballad is by the late John Calhoun, folk balladist who owned a farm, which he had cleared himself on forest land, at Gordon Vale... Statesments of local men who recalled the circumstances of Emberly's death were surprisingly consistent...

He was about 18 when he came from Prince Edward Island in the fall of 1880 and "was fatally injured on English Brook when a yarded log slipped off a pile from which he was loading a team, and crashed on his body."

Emberly was a Roman Catholic but was buried without the last rites as there was no priest in Boiestown and (possibly) because it was winter and the roads may have been closed.

The version printed in Bill's Shantymen and Shantyboys (and in the later edition, Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman) was sent to him by the author's son.

I had the great pleasure and honor of singing "Peter Amberly" for Bill Doerflinger on the occasion of his 89th birthday last summer.

All the best,
Dan Milner


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 12:14 PM

Thanks, Dan - I appreciate the additional info. Do you know if my pronounciation of Boistown is correct; "Boys-town" ??


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: BK
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 11:00 PM

The tune, for all practical purposes, is the same as I know for "the Wind That Shakes The Corn." - Beautiful tune. I've been wondering abt the song since I heard on a Bill Staines CD. Now I know.. thanks. (was actually drivin me [a little further] nuts..)

Cheers, BK


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 11:26 PM

I believe that's right, Liam.

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 11:44 PM

Bonny Dobson did "Peter Emberley" with the tune of "COME ALL YOU TRAMPS AND HAWKERS" and Bob Dylan used her tune for one of his songs around 1962. (I'm drivin' myself nuts but I can't think of the Dylan song I'm referring to. It's on the tip o' my tongue...) I doubt that "Tramps & Hawkers" was the original tune although it sure works very well. Jim Ringer used the tune for a new set of lyrics that he wrote also. My own version of "The Lakes Of Ponchartrain" is sung to the same tune.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: raredance
Date: 12 Jan 00 - 11:48 PM

Adding a little bit to Dan's synopsis of Doerflinger's comments. Doerflinger went on to say that after John Calhoun composed the ballad, he sent the lyrics to Abraham Munn of Holtville, New Brunswick to have Munn put a tune to it. Munn apparently had a bit of a reputation in those lines. Munn supplied a tune for it but that tune didn't survive. Later the tune we are familiar with became associated with the song (Edith Fowke describes it as a tune belonging to the "Flying Cloud" family). Munn also added a second final verse that appears in many versions of the song. The veres about wanting a holy father to come and bless his grave gave a very Roman Catholic view of the need for "last rites". When Calhoun learned of Munn's additional verse, he was extremely upset. Whether it was Munn's tampering with his creative effort or the religious overtones that upset him most isn't certain (Calhoun was not Catholic). Calhoun swore he would never write another song. He also had several hundred copies of his song printed as a broadside in Fredericton, without Munn's offending last verse. He distributed these free to Island men telling everyone that this was the only correct version of the song. Ironically Munn's extra verse contributed to the popularity of the song because it triggered Calhoun's wrath and provked him to make and distribute all those copies. Calhoun's attempt to obliterate the extra verse largely failed, as many surviving versions contain Munn's verse.

rich r


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Murray on SS
Date: 13 Jan 00 - 12:33 AM

The tune I know[and I've seen several] was adapted from tradition back around the eighties, I suppose. It's sung to "Come A' ye tramps and hawkers", but before that would be heard to "To pad the road with me" and / or "The Magdalen Green". Its form is ABBA, which I persist in thinking typically Irish.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 13 Jan 00 - 01:42 AM

Marie Hare, of Strathadam, New Brunswick, sings a fine version of the ballad to a different, and quite satisfying tune. I recorded her singing it back in 1962. You know how it is when you know a song to one tune, then hear it sung to another? Well, the Bonnie Dobson version always sound just plain wrong to me, yet that's the tune most people, these days, associate with the ballad. Caroline (that's my wife) still chooses to sing it to Marie's melody.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Jan 00 - 09:23 AM

Sandy - which melody does Bill Staines use? That is the tune I find so haunting, and one I find myself seeking endless variations...


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Barry T
Date: 13 Jan 00 - 01:41 PM

I'm working on a multi-track midi arrangement of the melody line that I have found in most recently published collections. I'll post it here when it's completed. I don't know which version it relates to, but at least readers of this thread will have a rendition to enjoy, sing or amend to their liking.

P.S. Great thread, folks! The Mudcat Forum at its best!


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Barry T
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 01:40 AM

The lyrics and my midi file are here for your entertainment.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 02:30 AM

I'd say the tune Barry sequenced is pretty much the same as what Bill Staines recorded, and what Art is probing his brain to remember as the tune for Dylan's "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" (that's the one, right, Art? - the one that somebody mentioned toward the top of this thread...)
We've had some interesting discussions of this song in the past - click here, also here and here, and a bit here. I thought there was another, more-detailed discussion, but I couldn't find it. Gets tough when the name can be spelled so many different ways.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Night Owl
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 02:58 AM

Thanks for posting the link for the song, Barry. To watch and listen to Bill Staines sing this song is unforgetable...every word...a song you can "see" as he sings. The tune you posted is, basically, the same as I've heard him perform.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 09:07 AM

Thanks all - great info!


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 09:12 AM

Barry

I have to say you have done a marvelous job creating this midi file. It's a great arrangement!


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Barry T
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:35 AM

Thanks, Liam. I don't normally venture into three part harmony for my midis, so this was an unexpected but enjoyable challenge.

I agree, too, with Night Owl. Knowing the story behind the lyrics takes them to a profound and evocative level.

Thanks for starting the thread. I now have a new song in my collection, and a whole lotta information about it to share with people. (No wonder I spend so much time here at the Cafe!)


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:42 AM

As I mentioned in this thread above, Peter Amberlay very likely has a background similar to that of my mother's family. Amberlay sounds like a British, maybe Scot or English name?? Does anyone know? So many of my mother's English blood line emmigrated to the new world; US and Canada in the last century ... and it seems they left less of a musical heritage than the Irish. I have heard so many wonderful songs born of the Irish immigration experience ... and not so many from the English.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Sam
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 03:21 PM

Kevin Evans and Brian Doherty (Evans & Doherty) did a fine version of this tune on the Album "Shine On Brighter" in '97 or '98. The album was widely distributed (at least in Canada) and should be fairly easy to get your hands on.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: raredance
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 11:00 PM

For those who value the hunt here are a couple more recordings that are a bit more obscure but nevertheless worthy.

Tom Kines on record 7 of the 9 record set "Canadian Folk Songs - A Centennial Collection.

The Wakami Wailers on their recording "Songs From the Lumber Camps - The Last of the White Pine Loggers". The Wakami Wailers are: Robert Hollet, Mark Despault, Mike Bernier, Jeff Allen and Andy Thompson.

rich r


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: BK
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 10:27 PM

Barry: Great Job! I think the tune you have is generally similar to the one Bill uses but different in many small ways & I really like it. You also have more verses that add more ideas.. Possibly some folk processing thru time.. Thanks for the link.

Cheers, BK


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 12:10 PM

Thanks to all for the wonderful inof on this song.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 12:10 PM

Ooops! I mean; info!


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Barry T
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 03:55 PM

No need to apologize! There was definitely some inof in there as well! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 06:08 PM

The tune also reminds me of Young Roddy M'Corley. Thanks for the midi, Barry. great thread -alice


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 May 00 - 01:08 PM

For those who have an interest in this song I have posted a sound file of Peter Amberlay on my website. Thanks for your help. I have always enjoyed the simple beauty of this tune, and its marevlous, if sad lyrics. Thanks for your input. I hope you enjoy the song.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: GUEST,jim
Date: 13 May 00 - 04:25 PM

the bob dylan tune is called the ballad of donald white


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Marion
Date: 18 Dec 02 - 02:20 PM

Hi all. I recently wrote a song using the tune Peter Amberlay as I learned it from Jed Marum, who learned it from Bill Staines. Someone who I sang it for said, "Oh, that's the tune of 'Tribute to Newfoundland' by Little John Cameron." When I asked him for more details, it did sound like Mudcatter ljc who he was talking about; and he said that it was a traditional Scottish tune that has had many lyrics for it.

Can anyone say definitively yet what the name of the original tune is? And does anyone know the Little John Cameron version?


Marion


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 18 Dec 02 - 02:43 PM

The tune is commonly known nowadays as Come All You Tramps and Hawkers, but that's quite a recent name for it. Previously it was associated with Caroline of Edinburgh Town (though it wasn't the only tune to which that ballad was sung) and, later, with Lily of the West; a close relative is used for some versions of The Lakes of Ponchartrain. It's been known quite commonly in tradition in the USA and Canada since the (mid?) 19th century, and in Scotland for longer, though I wouldn't know how long, or what it was originally called.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Marion
Date: 19 Dec 02 - 01:10 PM

Thanks, Malcolm.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 19 Dec 02 - 01:22 PM

The McPeakes recorded the tune as an instrumental with the title, "The Winding Streets of Erne>" And let's not forget "Davy Faa" and "Paddy West" and Peggy Seeber's "Come My Little Son" -- Tom


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 19 Dec 02 - 01:34 PM

I forgat to add that Bill Staines has been to the grave where he sung the song for Peter's memory - Tom


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: MARINER
Date: 19 Dec 02 - 04:34 PM

Jim Payne and Fergus O'Byrne recorded it on the album "Wave over Wave" . The air they use is the same as The Ballad Of William Hollander". Now I have to trawl back into my memory banks, but I think a version was also recorded by Alan Mills (?) on the vinyl album "Songs Of The Maritimes" which came out in the late 50s, early 60s.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: GUEST,Janice Calhoun
Date: 14 Jun 04 - 01:14 PM

I am John Calhoun's Great Grand Daughter

My Father was Carl Calhoun, who was the eldest son of Frederick (Fred) Calhoun.

My father was very close to John Calhoun and to set the story staight
Peter Emberley was only 15 years old when he died. He ran away from home in PEI because of the cruelty of his step father. He worked with my Great Grand Father and died on a log jam. He is buried in Boiestown,New Brunswick. My father told me that just before great grandad died, he burned all the poems he had ever written.


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 14 Jun 04 - 08:51 PM

Wow, Janice, thanks for all that good info! Although it's a real pity your great grandfather burned all his poems. thanks for stopping by Mudcat. maybe you'll stcik around?


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 15 Jun 04 - 03:52 PM

Thanks Janice for the great additional information. Welcome to the Mudcat!


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Subject: RE: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: GUEST,Barry Parkinson
Date: 11 Feb 05 - 09:47 PM

Just came upon all this and wanted to let Jed Marum know that, yes, Boistown IS pronounced "Boys-town" (and not, say, "Bwoi-town").


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Subject: RE: Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: GUEST,louella calhoun woods
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 12:08 PM

John Calhoun was my great grandfather and my father used to sing this song to me all the time when I was a child. It is indeed based on a true story.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Arkie
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 12:55 PM

Ms Woods, thanks for posting here. This is one of the things that makes Mudcat a great, and a reliable resource. This is truly a beautiful and memorable song and has been a personal favorite of mine since hearing is sung by Bill Staines.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: JedMarum
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 01:05 PM

Yes - Louella. Thanks so much for posting here.

I sang this song this weekend in Nebraska and the story behind the song.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: GUEST,Dave in Michigan
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 04:09 PM

Barry T (who posted in this thread on 14 Jan 00) - are you still out there?

The link you posted on 14 Jan 00 to the lyrics and your midi arrangement is now dead (not surprising). Though I was able to persuade the Wayback Machine to yield a copy of your lyrics, I didn't/don't know how to get it to yield the (somehow associated) midi file, which is what I was really seeking. Do you /does anyone have a current version?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: GUEST,Dave in Michigan
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 04:32 PM

[ok, cancel that request - I solved my own problem as follows: 1) examine the source html of the lyrics page that the Wayback Machine produces; 2) find in it the url that refers to the "audio background" midi file; 3) feed the URL of that midi file to the Wayback Machine; 4) click File->SaveAs; 5) Voila! (or perhaps Bingo!) I'll have to listen to it later - can't right now - but I expect it's ok. ]


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Subject: RE: Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 15 Jun 11 - 12:45 AM

Barry Taylor's MIDI is in the GEST Great Canadian Tunebook (http://members.shaw.ca/tunebook/):
Peter Emberley: http://members.shaw.ca/tunebook/emberley.htm
A link to the MIDI is at the bottom of the page (the underlined bit saying "Right-click" etc.)


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Subject: RE: Origin: Who knows Peter Amberlay story?
From: Snuffy
Date: 15 Jun 11 - 02:33 AM

I can confirm Mariner's recollection from Dec 02 that Alan Mills recorded the song on "Songs Of The Maritimes" in 1959, together with Rufus's Mare by Calhoun's elder brother, George, who was also noted as a a songwriter.


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