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Origins: background info for Two Sisters songs?

DigiTrad:
BINNORIE
BINNORIE (TWO SISTERS)
CRUELISH SISTER
OH, THE WIND AND RAIN (The Two Sisters)
THE CRUEL SISTER
THE SWAN SWIMS BONNIE (Two Sisters)
THE SWAN SWIMS BONNIE (Two Sisters)
THE TWA SISTERS
THE TWO SISTERS (7)
THE TWO SISTERS (8)
THE TWO SISTERS (9)
THE WIND AND RAIN (Two Sisters)
TWO SISTERS (12)
TWO SISTERS (13)
TWO SISTERS (Bonnie Broom)


Related threads:
Love and Death on the Shore (9)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters - with a harp being made? (11)
Question on a TWO SISTERS song (18)
Shakespear song hi ho the wind and rain (20)
Lyr Req: Bow Down (from Dirk Powell) (21)
J. Moulden or Philippa: Two sisters (28)
Lyr Req: Minorie (20)
Lyr Req: I'll be true unto my love (11)
Minourie (Binorie, Minorie, The Two Sisters) (18)
(origins) Origins: Two Sisters links at MBM (1)
Lyr Add: Sheila Kay Adams' 'Two Sisters' (1)
Two Sisters (Child #10) Variants (29)
Binnorie (18)
Lyr Req: Somebody's Waiting for Me (Sterling/Von T (8)
Binnorie - Icelandic version (19)
Lyr/Chords Req: Oh the Wind and Rain (30)
Two sisters, two songs? (15)
Lyr Add: The Two Sisters (of Sadie Damascus) (10)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters (Dylan) (8)
Lyr Req: Bows of London (from Waterson:Carthy) (4)
Lyr Req: Binnorie (from Elizabeth Stewart, #10) (17)
Lyr Req: charles ingenthron's twa sisters (4)
Lyr Req: Two little girls... (5)
the gay and the grinding (27)
Lyr Req: The Squire's Daughter (3)
Lyr Req: Loreena McKennitt's 'The Bonny Swans (13)
Stupid Question--'The Twa Sisters' (33)
Lyr Req: Twa Sisters / Lay Bent to the Bonny Broom (26)
Lyr Req: lee monroe presnell's two sisters (#10) (7)
(origins) Origins: Two Sisters (9)
Tune Req: 'Oh The Wind And Rain' (3)
'Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary' (14)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters (Frankie Armstrong) (5)
Tune Req: Sven (SVEND I ROSENSGAARD) (23)
Cruel Sister (22)
Lyr Req: Stecher's 'Oh the Wind and Rain' (6)
(origins) Origins: The Bows of London (14)
(origins) Origins: The Cruel Sister - Old Blind Dogs (9)
Nothing to do this Friday? (Manchester, UK) (14)
Lyr Req: The Cruel Sister (esp. Old Blind Dogs) (8)
Lyr Req: american version of Two Sisters (12)
Lyr Req: Harp form a breastbone (10)
Yet another blurb about 'Cruel Sister' (3)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters (Niamh Parsons ver.) Tha (5)
Lyr Req: The Cruel Sister (from Pentangle) (12)
Percy's Song: History? (7)
Hilary Kelley (9)
Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa (18)
Lyr/Chords Req: the two sisters (23)
Flanders ballad in Polish--fun project! (13)
I am humbled (124)
dulaman/two sisters (15)
Lyr Req: Dreadful Wind and Rain (13)
History of 'The Wind and Rain'? (11)
And A Two And A Three (5)
Lyr Add: Rollin' a-Rollin' (Child #10) (5)
Twa sisters (17)
Percy's Song (4)


Jennifer Smith 21 Jan 97 - 01:04 AM
GUEST,Lee Morrall 20 Nov 10 - 06:48 AM
Susan of DT 20 Nov 10 - 06:55 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Nov 10 - 07:58 AM
Jack Campin 20 Nov 10 - 08:29 AM
GUEST,SteveG 20 Nov 10 - 11:56 AM
Steve Gardham 20 Nov 10 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 21 Nov 10 - 04:56 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Nov 10 - 06:53 AM
GUEST,Agent Orange 01 Jun 11 - 06:33 AM
MartinRyan 01 Jun 11 - 06:38 AM
Dave MacKenzie 01 Jun 11 - 06:39 AM
MartinRyan 01 Jun 11 - 06:43 AM
Steve Gardham 01 Jun 11 - 04:50 PM
MartinRyan 01 Jun 11 - 06:55 PM
Desert Dancer 02 Jun 11 - 01:15 AM
GUEST 02 Jun 11 - 02:46 AM
Dave Sutherland 02 Jun 11 - 02:59 AM
Jim Carroll 02 Jun 11 - 03:45 AM
MartinRyan 02 Jun 11 - 03:52 AM
GUEST 02 Jun 11 - 06:12 AM
Desert Dancer 02 Jun 11 - 12:49 PM
Brian Peters 02 Jun 11 - 01:15 PM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Jun 11 - 03:41 PM
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Subject: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Jennifer Smith
Date: 21 Jan 97 - 01:04 AM

I've run across at least half a dozen versions of The Two Sisters / The Cruel Sister song(s) over the years, and I was wondering if anyone knows the origins of it, ie. a specific Irish myth or bit of folklore? Or anything, really - for some reason the song fascinates me.

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: GUEST,Lee Morrall
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 06:48 AM

If you look on the net, it refers to the roots of the song in 'English' Folklore...I discovered it through the Tom Wait's version, which sounds very Irish or Celtic, but a lot of old English folk has that feel also, and can be mistaken for Irish.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 06:55 AM

Child #10, so look in Child for what he had to say about the origin.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 07:58 AM

There is no indication that The Two Sisters has any connection with Irish mythology.
It has not been recorded in Ireland, the nearest being the version from Mrs Cecilia Costello of Birmingham, England, who was originally from Galway.
Some of the motifs of the ballad, mainly that of a murder being solved using part of the body of the victim, is a universal one.
Below - all you ever wanted to know about the Two Sisters, but were afraid to ask - from Tristam P Coffin's 'The British Traditional Ballad in North America.
Jim Carroll

10. THE TWA SISTERS
Texts: Adventure, 9-10-'23, 191 / Barry, Brit Bids Me, 40 / Beard, Personal Fsg Coll Lunsford, 43 / Belden, Mo Fsgs, 16 / Botkin, Am Play-Party Sg, 59, 337 / Brewster, Bids Sgs Ind, 42 / Bronson, I, 143 / Brown, NC Flklre, II, 32 / BFSSNE, VI, 5; IX, 4; X, 10; XI, 16; XII, 10 / Bull Tenn FLS, IV, #3, 74; VIII, #3, 71 / Chappell, Fsgs Rnke Alb, 13 / Chase, Sgs All Times, 20 / Child, I, 137; II, 508 / Child Ms., XXI, 10 / Christian Science Monitor, 12-2-'37 / Cox, Fsgs South, 20 / Cox, Trd Bid W Va, 6 / Cox, W Va School Journal and Educator, XLIV, 428, 441 / Davis, Fsgs Va, 6 / Davis, More Trd Bids Va, 35 / Davis, Trd Bid Va, 93 / Eddy, Bids Sgs Ohio, 17 / Flanders, Ancient Bids, I, 150 / Flanders, Bids Migrant NE, 209 / Flanders, New Gn Mt Sgstr, 3 / Folkways Monthly, May '62, 19 / Garrison, Searcy Cnty, 19 / Gray, Sgs Bids Me Lmbrjks, 75 / Gardner and Chickering, Bids Sgs So Mich, 32 / Greenleaf and Mansfield, Bids Sea Sgs Newfdld, 9 / Haun, Cocke Cnty, 106 / Henry, Fsgs So Hghlds, 39 / Hubbard, Bids Sgs Utah, 5 / Hudson, Fsgs Miss, 68 / Hudson, Ftunes Miss, 25 / Hudson, Spec Miss Flklre, #3 / Hummel, Oz Fsgs / JAF, 1905, 130; 1906, 233; 1917, 287; 1929, 238; 1931, 295; 1932, 1; 1935, 306; 1951, 347; 1957, 249 / Ky Folklore Record, 1958, 116 / Kincaid, Fav Mt Bids, 22 / A. Lomax, Fsgs No Am, 184 / Morris, Fsgs Fla, 243 / Neal, Brown Cnty, 60 / N.Y. Times Mgz, 10—9—'27 / Niles, More Sgs Hill-Flk, 8 / Niles, Anglo-Am Bid Stdy Bk, 36 / Perry, Carter Cnty, 98 / Pound, Am Bids Sgs, 11 / Pound, Nebr Syllabus, 11 / PTFS, X, 141 / Raine, Land Sddle Bags, 118 / Randolph, Oz Fsgs, I, 50 / Randolph, Oz Mt Flk, 211 / Richardson, Am Mt Sgs, 27 / Scarborough, Sgctchr So Mts, 164 / SharpC, Eng Fsgs So Aplchns, #4 / SharpK, Eng Fsgs So Aplchns, I, 26 / Smith and Rufty, Am Anth Old Wrld Bids, 2 I SFL, 1944, 138 / Stout, Flklre la, 1 / Thomas, Blue Ridge Cntry, 152 / Thomas, Devil's Ditties, 70 / Thomas, Sngin Gathrn, 76 / Thompson, Bdy Bts Brtchs, 393 / Va FLS Bull #s 2—8, 12 / Vincent, Lmbrjk Sgs, 27.
Local Titles: All Bow Down, Bow Ye Down, The Fair Sisters. I'll Be True to My Love, Lord of the Old Country, The Miller and the Mayor's Daughter, The Miller's Two Daughters, The Old Farmer in the Countree, The Old Lord by the Northern Sea, The Old Man of (in) the North (Old) Countree, Sister Kate, The Swim Sworn Bonny, There Was an Old Farmer (Joyner), There Was an Old Man Lived in a Gum Tree, (There Was an) Old Woman (Who) Lived on the Seashore (in the West), The Two (Three) (Little) Sisters, The Two Young Daughters, West Countree, The Youngest Daughter.
Story Types: A: A girl, jealous mat a gentleman has courted her younger sister, invites the latter on a walk and pushes her in the water to drown. A miller robs the struggling girl, rather than rescuing her, and is punished by death for his crime. Capital punishment for the elder girl may or may not be mentioned. Examples: Barry (A); Belden (C); Davis, Trd Bid Va, (A); SharpK (B).
B: Two princesses are playing by the water. The elder pushes the younger in. A miller finds the dead girl and makes a musical instrument from her body. The instrument reveals the murderer.
Examples:   Barry (E), SharpK   (K).
C: The usual story is started, but the musical instrument is made from the younger sister's body by the elder sister, and the instrument then names the murderer. This version has three-quarters of each stanza as refrain. Examples: JAF, 1932, 7.
D: A combination of Types A and B is sometimes found in which the instrument is made from the body, and both the miller and the elder girl are executed. Examples: SharpK (A).
E: The usual story is started, but the drowned girl appears to make a harp of herself and reveal her murderer.
Examples: Henry, Fsgs So Hghlds (C).
F: The usual story is told, but the miller is left out. The girl in the water may plead with her sister to pull her from the "sea-sand" (quicksand?) and be refused.        Examples: Brewster (B, C), Neal.
G: An amazing version found in Newfoundland tells of the younger sister's shoving the elder sister in the water, although the younger has received more attention from the suitor. The body is fished out with a fishing pan, the face covered with lace and the hair full of golden lumps. A ghost tells the lover how his sweetheart was killed.
Examples:   Greenleaf-Mansfield
H: The usual story is told, except the elder sister bribes the miller to push the girl back into the water. Both the sister and the miller (sometimes only the miller) are hung.
Examples: Randolph, Oz Fsgs (D); Lomax, Fsgs No Am, 184.
I: The story is like that of Type A, except the miller is the father of the two girls and pushes his own daughter into the water. Examples: Cox, Fsgs South (A).
J: The usual story is told, but the miller is the lover of the girls and seems to rescue the younger one after she has been pushed in. Examples: JAF, 1905, 131.
K: A story similar to Type J is told, but after the rescue all go to church and "now they're (which two is not clear) married I suppose".
Examples: Thompson.
L: The story is like that of Type J, except that a prince courts the girls. The miller rescues the elder sister. She falls in love with him, and they marry.
Examples: Haun.
M: The usual story is told. However, the "fisherman", who has no previous connection with the girls, seems to rescue the drowning maid. Examples:   Cox, Trd Bids W Va   (B); Perry.
N: Two little girls float down a stream in a boat. Charles Miller comes out with his hook and pulls one out by the hair and makes a fiddle of her body. Examples: BFSSNE, XII, 10 .
O: The story is like that of Type L, except the miller rescues the younger sister after she promises to marry him. The tone is comic.
Examples: Brown (A).
P: The story is similar to Type A, except the sisters (it is not clear whether this includes the one pushed back in the water), flee "beyond the seas and died old maids among black savagees".
Examples: Flanders, Ancient Bids (C).
Q: The usual opening of the Type A story is followed. However, the miller's son sees the younger sister's body in the dam. The miller drains the dam and removes the body of the girl. A passing harper makes an instrument of the bones and the murder is revealed as he plays and sings.
Examples: Davis, More Trd Bids Va (AA).
Discussion: This song and the similar tale (see Aarne-Thompson, Mt. 780) still have current traditions in Europe. The ballad is also current in Britain (Child, I, 118) and has more American story variations than any other song. Thus, it makes an excellent subject for study. Paul Brewster has done a very complete survey of both the song and the tale in FFC, #147 (1953) and included a useful bibliography to both in Bids Sgs lnd, 42-43. He feels the song began in Norway before 1600, spread through Scandinavia, and then to Britain and the West. However, he thinks the tale is of Slavic origin. This thesis (see also his article The Geographical Distribution of "The Twa Sisters" in Annuario de la Sociedad Folklorica de Mexico, 1944, 49-54), along with Harbison Parker's "The Twa Sisters"—Going Which Way? in JAF, 1951, 347-360), re-evaluates Knut Leist0l's belief that the ballad was first composed in Britain, split into two versions, both of which came to Scandinavia, one to Norway and one to Denmark. Parker believes the ballad to have originated in Western Scandinavia, and the British versions to stem from Faroe or Norwegian texts. See also Lutz MacKenson's study in FFC, #49 (1923) and Child, I, 124-125. Archer Taylor (JAF, 1929, 238f.) discusses the American, English, and Scottish versions of the ballad. He concludes that the American texts follow the English tradition (see p. 243 ) exclusively. The beaver hat, the failure to call the hair yellow, and the introductory stanza are all English traits. For the Scottish traits (not common to America) see pp. 238—40.
The extremely wide variation of story types in America can probably be traced to forgetting of details combined with attempts to rationalize either the presence or absence of the "harp" motif with the rest of the narrative. Certainly there has been no printed text that has frozen the story, as is the case in other songs. Note should be made, in connection with this point, of the Gardner and Chickering, Bids Sgs So Mich, B version ("Peter and Paul went down the lane") which is scarcely recognizable as the same song.
Perversions of the original such as my Types C, E, and G (cf. Child B and my Type C in connection with G) are the results of small changes in some detail of the narrative. However, they reveal the sort of change that might easily create a new story if enough momentum were gained. For example, the Type A version in North Carolina and Kentucky (see Ky Folklore Record, 1958, 116) is ready to give birth to a new plot. Here the tale is told in the first person, first by the younger, then by the elder, sister. After the elder girl pushes the younger in the river, the miller pulls the younger girl out and is executed for the crime. The elder sister goes scot free. No mention is made of the miller's robbing the drowning girl. Type I has been melodramatized through similar alterations of detail, probably with the aid of forgetting. Types F and M are undoubtedly the results of omission of the ending in one of the other classes, though check the Cox, Trd Bids W Va, B text in which the miller is hung for pulling the girl to shore. Types J, K, and L have all been sentimentalized. J and K are certainly related to Child M, while K and L may echo the marriage feast that is present in the Norse forms of the story. Types D and H refer to texts that are well-known, D combining Types A and B, while H is paralleled by Child S. (Under Type J, see Garrison, Searcy Cnty, 20 who quotes his informant as saying "that they (some forgotten Vines) told how the miller and trie cruel sister, who had together plotted the younger girl's drowning in an attempt to get possession of property that had been left to her by her sweetheart, were hanged".) Type N resembles Type B in the use of the instrument motif, but seems quite corrupt at the start. Barry, BFSSNE, XII, 10 theorizes on this text. Type Q, from Virginia, is one of the finest texts collected in America. It resembles Child B, although it includes the "bow down" refrain of the Child R-S, U-V, Z series.
In general, the miller is present in American versions, although the grue¬some musical instrument portion is lacking. (See Child Y and the whole Rf. group.) The elimination of such a supernatural motif is in keeping with the usual American practice, and the New World mood is on the whole lighter than the Old. Flanders, New Gn Mt Sgstr, 4 points out that texts where the girl gets capital punishment are less likely to degenerate into comedy than those where the miller is hung.
The refrains of the ballad have been given a great deal of attention. For discussions of them see Barry, BFSSNE, III, II; Belden, Mo Fsgs, 16; Henry, Fsgs So Hghlds, 38; JAF, 1932, 2 ("bow down" refrain); and Taylor, JAF, 1929, 238. The usual American refrains are the "juniper, gentian, and rosemary" corruption, or a "bow down, etc.—I'll be true to my love, if my love'll be true to me" variation. Nonsense lines ("sing i dum", "hey ho, my Nannie") are also found, and Randolph prints a refrain "bonnery-O" which seems to come from "Binnorie, O, Binnorie" (Child C). See also BFSSNE, IX, 4 and X, 10 and the Morris, Fsgs Fla, texts. The latter songs feature the word "rolling" in various combinations.
Botkin in his Am Play Party Sg, 59f. discusses the refrain of the song and its use in the dance-game versions, and Thomas, Sngin Gathrn, 79 describes the ballad as a Kentucky dance.
The song is often found utilizing the "bowed her head and swam" cliche so common to Child 286.
For a detailed discussion of a number of American texts, see Zielonko, Some American Variants of Child Ballads, 30. Refer also to Barry, BFSSNE, III, 2 and XII, 10 for detailed treatments of the tradition of the song, especially in connection with Type N.
Helen Flanders and Phillips Barry   (see Ancient Bids, 163, Gl, G2) discovered a remarkable Polish text in Springfield, Vermont. In this song, the younger sister is murdered during a raspberrying contest and a flute is made from reeds at the grave. It seems to be a folk variant of the ballad Maliny, written in 1829 by Alexander Chodzko (1804-1891). Barry dis¬cusses this text in detail in BFSSNE, X, 2-5 and XI, 2-4. See also Jonas Balys, Lithuanian Narrative Folksongs (Washington, D.C., 1954), G7, 119-120.
Jeckyll, Jamaican Sg Stry, 14 prints a cante fable called King Daniel that follows the outline of The Twa Sisters and that includes a talking parrot.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 08:29 AM

What about the southern half of Europe? The story is the basis of Mahler's cantata "Das Klagende Lied", which he took from a German version, I think.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 11:56 AM

Jim
I hope you didn't type out all of that Coffin info. The OP was 13 years ago.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 05:12 PM

Jim,
Just in case the OP is still around I've taken the liberty of extracting the crucial answer to the query from your long quotation.   'Paul Brewster has done a very complete survey of both the song and the tale in FFC, #147 (1953) and included a useful bibliography to both in Bids Sgs lnd, 42-43. He feels the song began in Norway before 1600, spread through Scandinavia, and then to Britain and the West. However, he thinks the tale is of Slavic origin'

From what I've seen and heard of the very beautiful Scandinavian versions, Norwegian in particular, I'm happy to go with Brewster. Most British versions are somewhat burlesque in comparison, although I hasten to add I love singing my local version from Driffield, East Yorkshire.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 21 Nov 10 - 04:56 AM

Long ago I was told Binnorie is a corruption of By Norham and this certainly fits the feel of the ballad, especially as given by Bruce & Stokoe in The Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882) which has a melody to die for. Whilst they do point out it ubiquitousness throughout Europe and Scandinavia in my mind when I sing it The bonny mill-dams of Binnorie are ranged along the Tweed beneath the soaring ramparts of Norham Castle.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Nov 10 - 06:53 AM

"I hope you didn't type out all of that Coffin info."
What - with my typing skills; that we should all live so long!
Scanned them in from the book.
"Most British versions are somewhat burlesque in comparison,"
Would highly commend Scots Traveller Christina Kelby's version (I think it's on Tangent's, The Muckle Sangs). For me, it captures perfectly both the mystery and the tragedy of the subject.
MacColl's composite version based on this does it justice on The Long Harvest IMO.
I think MacColl's and Seeger's Long Harvest versions give a good overview of the different interpretations of the ballad; after all these years I still find myself singing around the house:

Peter and I went down the lane,
Down the lane, down the lane,
Peter and I went down the lane,
And sister followed behind.

Catchy little song.
I seem to remember seeing a book devoted to the ballad, but I may be imagining this.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: GUEST,Agent Orange
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 06:33 AM

@Jim Carroll:It has not been recorded in Ireland, the nearest being the version from Mrs Cecilia Costello of Birmingham, England, who was originally from Galway.||Oh, really? I've got the Altan and Clannad versions of this song, and both these bands are from Ireland.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 06:38 AM

@Agent Orange

It's a matter of record really....

Regards


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 06:39 AM

Where did Altan and Clannad (practically next door neighbours in Donegal) get their versions?


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 06:43 AM

From Brian Mullen of Derry, as far as I know - a fine singer.

Regards


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 04:50 PM

I'm pretty sure Jim was referring to 'source' singers, not revivalists.
Is Brian Mullen a 'source' singer and if not where did his versions come from?


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 06:55 PM

Hi Steve

I'm perfectly sure Jim WAS referring to 'source singers" as distinct from 'revivalists'. That said, of course, the distinction is a bit more blurred in Ireland.


Brian Mullins is a fine singer and collector - but would not claim to be a "source singer" in the sense that you (and I) use the term. I gave his name because, to the best of my knowledge, that's literally where Clannad got it. I'll ask Brian how he came across it when I get a chance...

Regards


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 01:15 AM

This thread, J. Moulden or Philippa: Two sisters, from 1999 (and also linked at the top of this thread), has answers previously sorted, to wit:

- John Moulden said: "Brian tells me he got the song from Clive Collins, English Fiddler, whose source he believes was Andy Irvine who learned it in America."

- I pointed out that the Clannad version is basically "version E in Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. It was collected from Mrs. Clercy Deeton at Mine Fork, Burnsville, North Carolina, September 19, 1918."

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 02:46 AM

I've heard that the Two Sisters (The Wind and the Rain) is based on The Swan Harp, a shape-shifting tale of murder wherein the victim is shifted from human to swan before dying, and a roving harper builds a harp from the swan's breastbone, then the harp relates the story of the murder when played.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 02:59 AM

True Guest - listen to Ewan MacColl's version of "The Swan it Swims So Bonny-o" for the full story of that one.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 03:45 AM

"Is Brian Mullen a 'source' singer'"
No, he isn't, though he is a very nice feller!!
For the record - I was talking about source singers; there is a version taken down from 'an Irishman in Liverpool' in 1906 and included in The Journal of the Folk Song Society by Frank Kidson.
My information that Mrs Cecelia Costello sang it was in fact incorrect - she didn't; I was confusing it with her 'The Cruel Mother'.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 03:52 AM

DesertDancer

Thanks for ferretting out the earlier answer to this question.

Regards


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 06:12 AM

"there is a version taken down from 'an Irishman in Liverpool' in 1906 and included in The Journal of the Folk Song Society by Frank Kidson."

That one also appeared in The Penguin book of English Folk Songs.

"the Clannad version is basically "version E in Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians"

There are 14 versions in that book and all but one follow the English pattern with the 'Bow Down' refrain, lacking the supernatural harp or fiddle. Only version A ,from Jane Gentry of Hot Springs, NC, has a (incomplete) reference to a magical harp. This version, with a refrain of 'Jury flower gent the roseberry', resembles that recorded later by the Warners from Lee Monroe Presnell (who was from the same area; Mrs. Gentry came originally from Watauga County and her maiden name was Hicks).

'The Wind and Rain', which many people seem to think is the definitive American version, owes its hegemony mainly to the folk revival, and is rare in the traditional collections.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 12:49 PM

Yes, the "Clannad version" is harpless.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 01:15 PM

'GUEST' at 6.12 was me.


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Subject: RE: bkground req. for Two Sisters songs?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 03:41 PM

Here's the deal about ballads.

Take the year 1000 in Europe. It's still the Dark Ages. There are three classes of people. The self-styled nobility, churchmen and women, and the peasants. The peasants were pretty miserable.

Gradually the nobility lost their power. Because
   there weren't very many of them
   they married their cousins all the time
   their child-rearing methods were awful
   they thought they were above taking care of their lands

Over the next 600 years, there arose a middle class. Merchants with businesses, wealth, fine homes, musicians in the musicians gallery. They came to reject the idea that they were mere peasants who only deserved a short and brutish life. And by this time, their households have made ballads an established form.

If you get out a book of ballads and read a bunch of them, you will detect a common theme. That theme is "what jerks the so-called upper classes are." Whether they are abducting damsels, drowning their sisters, casting spells on their daughters-in-law or stabbing nice ploughboys in the back, they are all just a bunch of degenerates.

One exception: millers. It was all right to make songs ridiculing millers, even though they don't belong to the nobility. Millers were the used-car salesmen of the medieval period.

These theme that "They're rich but they're no good" is so appealing that there is a great pool of ballads which sloshed around Europe and over to America. And as they sloshed, they changed. The sloshing seems to have gone on for centuries, which means that the history of any one plot produces a wealth of detail. The big story (as eeen by me) gets lost.

And there you have my view of the history of ballads in a nutshell.


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Mudcat time: 24 September 7:46 PM EDT

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