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Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)

GUEST,Jenny 11 Dec 05 - 06:21 AM
Lancashire Lad 11 Dec 05 - 10:25 AM
GUEST 11 Dec 05 - 03:43 PM
Mary Humphreys 11 Dec 05 - 07:34 PM
Mary Humphreys 12 Dec 05 - 04:47 AM
Jenny S 12 Dec 05 - 09:52 AM
GUEST,Seaking 12 Dec 05 - 10:57 AM
Mary Humphreys 12 Dec 05 - 12:10 PM
Jenny S 12 Dec 05 - 02:12 PM
Jenny S 12 Dec 05 - 02:14 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 12 Dec 05 - 06:27 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 12 Dec 05 - 06:32 PM
Effsee 12 Dec 05 - 09:09 PM
Drumshanty 13 Dec 05 - 08:38 AM
GUEST,Kris 03 Oct 14 - 07:37 AM
Vic Smith 03 Oct 14 - 08:05 AM
GUEST,j 20 Nov 14 - 01:17 PM
GUEST,hautevitesse 15 Feb 16 - 12:32 PM
maeve 15 Feb 16 - 12:47 PM
Richie 21 Jan 17 - 07:44 PM
Jim Carroll 22 Jan 17 - 08:12 AM
Richie 22 Jan 17 - 01:37 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: GUEST,Jenny
Date: 11 Dec 05 - 06:21 AM

Does anyone have the lyrics for The Blackbird / What a Voice as sung by Lizzie Higgins?
The story is basically that of Tavern in the Town, but I believe the song begins "What a Voice..."
Thanks
Jenny


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Lancashire Lad
Date: 11 Dec 05 - 10:25 AM

Is this the same "Blackbird" as sung by Vera Aspey?

LL


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Dec 05 - 03:43 PM

Almost... but Vera's version does not begin with "What a voice, what a voice". I believe there are other differences too.
Jenny


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 11 Dec 05 - 07:34 PM

I have a tape from way back when with Jeannie Roberston singing it.
i will try to find it and transcribe it for you tomorrow. it is too late tonight.
Mary


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Subject: Lyr Add: WHAT A VOICE (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 04:47 AM

What a Voice - Lizzie Higgins 1985

What a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear
It's like the voice of my Willy dear
But if I had wings like that swallow high
I would clasp in the arms o' my Billy boy.

When my apron it hung low
My true love followed through frost and snow.
And noo my apron it is tae my chin
He passes me by and he ne'er spiers in.

It is up and doon yon white hoose brae
He called a strange girlie to his knee
And he's telt her a tale that he once told me.

There is a blackbird sits on yon tree
Some says it is blind and it cannae see
Some says it is blind and it cannae see
And so is my true love tae me.

O I wish I wish Oh I wish in vain
I wish I was a maid again
But a maid again I will never be
Till apples grow an orange tree

I wish I wish that my babe was born
And smiling on some nurse's knee
And for myself to be dead and gone
And-a long green grass growing over me.


Please note that the three line verse IS really three lines - Lizzie omits the third line of the tune.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Jenny S
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 09:52 AM

Hello Mary
Many many thanks!
Jenny


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: GUEST,Seaking
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 10:57 AM

Very similar in parts to 'The Butcher Boy'. Is the melody same or similar ?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 12:10 PM

Seaking, the melody is unique to Lizzie. I have never heard it sung to anything similar.
Jenny, I am glad that you are happy with the words.
It was wonderful just listening again to her superb delivery of the song.
Hope you enjoy singing it.
Mary


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Jenny S
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 02:12 PM

Hello Mary
Yes, I'm sure I shall enjoy singing this.
I found it thanks to Martyn Bennett's Grit album, but could not make out if the entire song is there or not - he usually only uses short samples from each source.
Jenny


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Jenny S
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 02:14 PM

Lizzie often set her songs to pipe tunes that she learned from her father.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 06:27 PM

Our old collection from 1952 still sits in our storage room in the basement, gathering dust. Jeannie sang that song for me then, and her singing of it leaves me breathless even now, whenever I play it over.... I just hope we live long enough to get all those tapes copied and organized- as well as George's thousands of photos...Life's TOO SHORT!

(Note: I haven't listened lately, but seems to me that Jeannie did repeat that second line, "he takes that strange girlie on to his knee," as she did in the later verse about the blackbird. It wouldn't matter much,- but I'll let you know when I listen again. Jean


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 06:32 PM

Joe Offer! I'm not allowed to edit- please close my parentheses above? Thanks, Jean


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Effsee
Date: 12 Dec 05 - 09:09 PM

i wouldna worry aboot it quine, as Jeannie micht hiv sayed! It's just great that she's still remembered for the wonderful singer she was! And Lizzie wisnae bad either!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Blackbird/What a Voice
From: Drumshanty
Date: 13 Dec 05 - 08:38 AM

During the recent documentary about the gypsy travellers that was shown on BBC tv, Martin Taylor told Sheila Stewart that when he hears her sing, he's not listening to her voice, he's listening to history. That is exactly how I feel about the few recordings of Jeannie Robertson and Lzzie Higgins that I have; they take my breath away too, and this song in particular. I wish I could have heard these women singing in person.

There is also a very young Scottish singer called Siobhan Miller who has been doing an excellent and powerful version of "What a Voice". It's good to know these songs are still being loved and sung.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: GUEST,Kris
Date: 03 Oct 14 - 07:37 AM

If you haven't seen this already, please please do, simply stunning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ_IQS3VKjA


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: Vic Smith
Date: 03 Oct 14 - 08:05 AM

I feel about the few recordings of Jeannie Robertson and Lzzie Higgins that I have; they take my breath away too, and this song in particular. I wish I could have heard these women singing in person.


Well, as a young man I had the pleasure of getting to know both Lizzie and Jeannie, of hearing them sing many times, of recording both of them [some of my recordings of Lizzie are available on the Musical Traditions double album (MTCD337-8)], of arranging tours for Lizzie.
Hearing them sing, tell stories and riddles - just being in their company was an enriching, life-enhancing experience and happy memories of both of them will stay with me for the rest of my life. And I might add that I feel the same way about my relationship with their nephew, Stanley Robertson.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: GUEST,j
Date: 20 Nov 14 - 01:17 PM

what exactly is this song about?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: GUEST,hautevitesse
Date: 15 Feb 16 - 12:32 PM

What a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear,
Is is the voice of our Lizzie dear,
But if I had wings like that swallow high,
I'd join our Lizzie, beyond the sky.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: maeve
Date: 15 Feb 16 - 12:47 PM

Nice, Guest hautevitesse. I miss her too.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: Richie
Date: 21 Jan 17 - 07:44 PM

Hi,

Just listened to Jeannie's singing of "What a voice." Truly one of the great recordings of this ballad. She and Lizzie as well as Ky Trad are now all singing in the heavenly band.

Someone asked what it means. I'm willing to try to give a narrative. Does anyone know Jeannie's source?

The first stanza has two ballad components. The first is similar to "Who's that Knocking at my window? And in the 3rd line the singer says, "It must be my true lover Willie." In this case Willie is long gone- and he's not coming back. This is an 'I Wish' ballad-- she wishes he was back, he's left her, she's pregnant with his child- still she's hopeful, "What's this voice, what's this voice what's this voice I hear-- must be the voice of Willie my dear.

This is unusual-- and the second half of the is also rare-- the reference to the "swallow" is found only in a few variants. A similar stanza is found in "Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies," another love song popular in the US (See also "She's like the swallow" from Canada).

In the second stanza, "the apron low" stanza, it's clear that she is pregnant and her lover has left her. After she's pregnant he goes by but never peers in. The stigma and sorrow of the unwed mother is followed by the 3 line stanza about the unfaithful father.

O, I wish, I wish, O I wish in vain,
O, I wish I was a maid again.
But a maid again I will never be,
Till an apple grows on an orange tree.

This stanza was edited by Broadwood and Kidson to get the I wish I was a virgin again line out- which they did by putting brackets and changing the text! Here is the Lancashire text:

4. I wish, I wish, but it's all in vain,
I wish I were but [free again,
But free again I'll never be]
Till apples grow on an orange tree.

The "Till apples grow on an orange tree" ending dates back to the mid-1800s and is standard in the "I Wish" variants usually replacing the 'turtle dove/died for love' ending.

O, I wish, I wish that my babe was born,
And smiling on some nurse's knee.
And for myself to be dead and gone,
And the long green grass growing over me.

This stanza was also edited by Broadwood who removed it from Joseph Taylor's version replacing it with two standard stanzas.

In Robertson's ballad it's seems that this stigma is too great to bear. In the ballad there are two ways out- in one, she picks a bed of flowers and lies down and dies of a broken heart-- in the other, she hangs herself with a rope and leave a note. Robertson sang it the way she learned it, without finality. Her last verse comes from the 1686 broadside "Constant Lady" and it's the standard blind bird in the tree: she wishes that she could not have seen her lover then she wouldn't have become involved with him.

All I can say is, "what a voice"

Richie


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jan 17 - 08:12 AM

"Does anyone know Jeannie's source?"
Jeannie learned it from her mother, Maria Stewart
This is the note given in Porter and Gower's, Jeannie Robertson, Emergent Singer, Faormative Voice
Jim Carroll

(Love Has Brought Me to Despair, Laws P25)

What a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear,
It is like the voice of my Willie dear;
But if I had wings like that swallow flyin,
For I would clasp in the arms of my Billy Boy.

When my apron it hung low,
My true love followed through frost and snow;
But now my apron it's tae my shins,
And he passes me by and he'll ne'er speir in.

It was up onto the white house brae,
That he called a strange girlie to his knee,
And he tellt her a tale which he once told me.

O I wish, I wish, O I wish in vain,
I wish I was a maid again;
But a maid again I will never be
Till a aipple it grows on a orange tree.

O I wish, I wish that my babe was born,
And smilin' on some nurse's knee;
And for mysel' to be dead and gone,
And the long green grass growin' over me.

For there's a blackbird sits on yon tree;
Some says it's blind and it cannae see;
Some says it's blind and it cannae see,
And so is my true love to me.

73.1 Wish, I Wish (Love Has Brought Me to Despair, Laws P25)
Other titles for this song, which Jeannie learned from Maria, are common; it belongs to the "Died of/for Love?The Bold/Brisk Young Sailor/Farmer" story complex. A note by Lucy Broadwood (in Journal of the Folk-Song Society 19 [1915]: 186-87) indicates a probable ancestor of the text in Laing's Broadside Ballads (ca. 1700) with the tide "Arthur's Seat shall be my bed, or Love in despair." The essence of the theme has been compared to stanzas of "Waly, Waly" in Orpheus Caledonius (1725) and the later version in the The Scots Musical Museum (James Johnson 1788: 166; see also Ritson 1794, 1:235-36). The further textual connection with "Jamie Douglas" (Child 204) is well known. Bronson 1959-72, 3:258 firmly believes that the makers of the ballad used a popular lament to fill out its verses, singing it to the same tune. Christie 1876: 248 includes a version of the song in his first volume. It appears in the Duncan MS as "The Student Boy," and the first of five tunes in the Greig MS is entided "Arthur's Seat." The most recent Scottish variants are in: Buchan 1962: 61, with the title, "Will Ye Gang, Love?"; Buchan and Hall 1973: 93, a version by Lizzie Mary Hutchison; and MacColl and Seeger 1977: 194-98, sung by Charlotte Higgins. The air used by both Lizzie Mary Hutchison and Charlotte Higgins is closely related to Jeannie's, and she herself uses it for "The Famous Flower of Serving Men" (Child 106). It appears again in MacColl and Seeger 1977 as that for "The Convict Song," sung by John MacDonald (291). The earliest English printed variants are in Kidson 1891: 44-46, Baring Gould and Sheppard 1892: 184?85, and the Hammond MS (1905). Dean-Smith 1954: 63 gives a list of published versions. See also Gilchrist 1938: 192-93 and 1946: 16-17, Lloyd 1953: 103, and Palmer 1973: 278. See also Reeves 1958: 43?45, 90-92; and Reeves 1960: 96-98. There is an analog (in Journal of the Folk-Song Society 27 (1930): 110-12) called "The Shannon Water, or Mabel Kelly," and another immediately following, "Happy the Worm Lies Under the Stone." The Stanford-Petrie collection has it as no. 811, "I wish, I wish, but I wish in vain," and there are two fragments in Bunting 1796. Henry recovered it from Mrs. H. Dinsmore of Coleraine as "The Apron of Flowers" (Huntington and Herrmann 1990: 393). Several versions of the text have been recovered in North America, where it has been linked to "Careless Love" (cf. Lomax 1960: 585). Laws 1957: 61 names it "Love Has Brought Me to Despair" (P25) and notes versions from Indiana and Illinois. Additional texts are in Combs 1925: 205, Cox 1925: 353-57, Korson 1949: 48?49, Owens 1950: 134?35, and Randolph (1950: 268-69); see also the "Lullaby" in Grover n.d.: 24. "Floating" stanzas, lines, and images link the verses to similar stories of unhappy love, such as "The Butcher Boy" (68 above; Laws P24) or "The Sailor Boy" (Laws K12). The imagery of the apron (pregnancy), white house ("alehouse) strange girl, apple on the orange tree, burial beneath long green grass, and the girl are retained in most English and Scottish versions of the text.

Recorded versions-. SA 1952/33; 1953/195; SX 1958/2; 1956/2; Topic 10T52;
Collector CLE 1201 (Jean Ritchie's recording of Jeannie singing stanzas 2, 3, 4, 6); Folktracks FSA 067; Lizzie Higgins, Lismor LIFL 7004; Isla Cameron, Columbia KL 206; Amy Birch, Topic 12TS349; Campbell Family, Topic 12T120; Martin Carthy. Topic 12TS344; Audrey Coppard, Folkways FP 917; Frank Hinchcliffe, Topic 12TS308; Roscoe Holcomb, Folkways FA 2374; Norman Kennedy, Topic 12T178, Folk-Legacy FSS-34; Geoff Ling, Topic 12T236; Walter Pardon, Topic 12TS392; Frank Profitt, Folk-Legacy FSA 1; Jasper Smith, Topic 12TS304; Joseph Taylor, Leaarr LEA 4050; Tom Willett, Topic 12T84.
Additional references-. Child 1882-98, 4:90-105; Gower and Porter 1977: 67-70; Henry 1923-29, 2:194; Joyce 1909: 134; Kennedy 1975: 349, 372; Loesberg 1980 2:60-61; Lyle 1975: 108; Moulden 1979: 13.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: What a Voice (from Lizzie Higgins)
From: Richie
Date: 22 Jan 17 - 01:37 PM

Hi,

Thanks Jim for adding the text and detailed notes. There are some differences when compared to Mainly Norfolk text that are not just a different recording.

I take issue with the notes in several places, I won't go into much detail here: for example, "Arthur's-Seat Shall be my Bed" is related to "Must I be Bound" and is not related to this- there are no stanzas in common. Some "Will Ye Gang, Love?" stanzas are in common but the song AKA Rashy Muir also has a different chorus and stanzas not in common.

Richie


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