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Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)

Abby Sale 26 Dec 05 - 01:00 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Dec 05 - 11:24 PM
Abby Sale 27 Dec 05 - 09:05 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Dec 05 - 05:50 PM
Mrrzy 27 Dec 05 - 09:28 PM
Effsee 27 Dec 05 - 09:44 PM
Abby Sale 28 Dec 05 - 10:20 AM
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Subject: Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 26 Dec 05 - 01:00 PM

Happy Kwanzaa!


Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri!

In the US from 1966, the 7-day festival
is based on African harvest fests.

        Kwanzaa is a holiday
        Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa
        Is an African holiday
        Seven Principles
        Seven Candles
        Seven Black days for the African

                "The Kwanzaa Song"

St Stephen's Day is 12/26, the day after new Christmas (12/27 in the East). In the Isle of Man it's time for Hunting The Wren (and singing all those songs). In NY State it was traditional to sing the song on Dec 26th but they sang:
         "Let's hunt coons," says Risky Rob.
        "Possum for me," says Robin to Bob.
        "Let's catch rabbits," says Dan'l and Joe.
        "I'm huntin' rats," says Billy Barlow.

                                "Let's Go A-Hunting," Lomax, FS of NA

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
What are Happy's all about? See Clicky

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Subject: RE: Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Dec 05 - 11:24 PM

Coons? 'Possum? The American "Billy Barlow" and allies depart from the English "Cutty Wren" in which only the the bird is sought.

The Barlow version in FSNA was collected by Lomax in Texas, but both animals have ranges which extend through New York and into Canada. I doubt the traditionality of the song in New York, however.

The Traditional Ballad Index separates the two songs under the names "Cutty Wren" and "Billy Barlow(I)". "The Wran," a relation of "Cutty Wren," was collected in New England by Flanders and Olney; was it also found in N. Y?.

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Subject: RE: Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 27 Dec 05 - 09:05 AM

Thanks for the input.

Lomax (Alan in this case - more reliable than John) doesn't give the source in the notes. He says the NY version is the Wren type and I think he means it is either defunct at the time of writing or else that its use on St Stephen's Day was a thing of the past.

At the song itself, (p.311) he cites HH Flanders, _Ballads Migrant in New England_ p.58; Dean-Smith, _A Guide to English Folk Song Collections_; _An Index to the songs published in the "J. of the Eng Folk Dance & Song Soc." since 1888_ (at "Cutty Wren") & Opie, _Oxford Dict. of Nursery Rhymes_ p.367.

You'd have to check there. I'd start with Flanders, of course.

I'm not sure if you're saying this but there's no question in my mind (or, apparently, Lomax') the Barlow and Wren are versions of the same song. Ballad Index, as you say gives separate entries but note that they have the same Roud number, 236. My Roud confirms that. I'll drop a note to Bob Waltz of BI. He's very, very, very good but doesn't claim utter perfection.

Lomax goes on that Barlow became progressively more popular moving out West just because of the strong hunting theme. Seems they liked shooting things on the frontier. Or songs about it. But it was mostly about non-wren critters and more a children's song.

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Subject: RE: Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Dec 05 - 05:50 PM

Alan Lomax in FSNA, 1960, p. 311-312, states that "Let's Go A-Huntin'" was collected at Fort Spunky, Texas, by J. A. Lomax, no date or singer cited. Reference is made to p. 101 of the earlier "Our Singing Country," 1941.

In "Our Singing Country," by John and Alan Lomax, a similar song (only a rat was hunted) was printed under the title "Billy Barlow," pp. 101-102, collected in 1915 from the singing of Bud Riley, Fort Spunky, Texas.
Both are cited as collected at Fort Spunky. Although Alan in FSNA cites "p. 101" of "Our Singing Country," the songs are not the same.
Peggy Seeger, who did the melodies for FSNA, uses a somewhat different tune from the one in the earlier book.
As often happens with books by the Lomaxes, we are left with confusing citations. Did Peggy Seeger apply her own text and melodic variation in FSNA?
Apparently we only have Alan Lomax' word that the "wren song was sung in New York on St. Stephen's Day" (FSNA, p. 304).
"The Wren Hunt" in the Opies, "The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book," pp. 178-179, is a good English version, the oldest in print (c. 1744, in a Tom Thumb song book, according to the Traditional Ballads Index).
The American song ialso is suggestive of an English children's song; a fragment:
Hunting we will go, brave boys,
Hunting we will go;
We'll catch an old fox
And put him in a box,
Fox a-hunting we will go,
Halt! Shoulder arms! Fire!
p. 144, part 1, Alice B. Gomme, 1894-1898, "The Traditional Games of England..."

Do Helen H. Flanders and Marguerite Olney, 1953, "Ballads Migrant in New England," mention collecting "The Wren," given the number 4683 in the Roud Index, in New York? I don't think so, but I will check when I re-find the book in my scattered library. German-Dutch or English lineage? This also needs checking.

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Subject: RE: Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)
From: Mrrzy
Date: 27 Dec 05 - 09:28 PM

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen's day was caught in the furze...

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Subject: RE: Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)
From: Effsee
Date: 27 Dec 05 - 09:44 PM

Have any of you guys ever seen a wren? I have, I held a dead one in my hand. It had tried to fly through the spokes of a bicycle wheel, Not mine I hasten to add. It was one of the saddest moments of my life. Thinking about it later, I wondered why anyone would want to hunt it. This little scrap of life that was supposed to be the source of evil, that deserved to be hunted down. Ain't we a funny race?

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Subject: RE: Happy! – Dec 26 (Kwanzaa / St Stephen)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 28 Dec 05 - 10:20 AM

Effsee: a moving story.

If anyone's interested, Bob Waltz's response. My comment as quotes, with ">"

>These are certainly the same song (see Lomax, FSNA, pp 305 & 311, in
>particular.) And you show the same Roud #, 236.

Roud is a lumper. I'm a splitter. The fact that he shows the same
number for the two just demonstrates the point. If I followed his
numbers for everything, there wouldn't be much point in two indices.
(There may not be anyway, but there would be even less in that case.)

I know a lot of people think they're the same song. I don't. The
difference in purpose is significant enough that they should
classify separately, though I allow the possibility of common

>Lomax (Alan in this case) doesn't give the source in the notes.

Which frequently seems to mean he touched it up. I have reached
the point where Lomax files in the "Niles" category. I just don't
trust his evidence.

These decisions are always tough. There are several I regret.
But, frankly, splitting "The Cutty Wren" and "Billy Barlow"
doesn't bother me at all -- I've yet to see the mixed version
where Billy hunts wrens. That would be, perhaps, the smoking
gun. :-)
[ie, "missing link" - ajs]

>I'm very pleased to send this to you. I so rarely get to send criticisms to the BI.

Oh, there are lots of things in there with problems. :-) It's just
that they mostly involve songs nobody cares about. :-)

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