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Sweet Afton - which tune?

27 May 99 - 12:26 PM (#82155)
Subject: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Susan-Marie

I learned Flow Gently Sweet Afton from the DT. There are two tunes, one that sounds like "Away in a Manger" and another. I liked the unfamiliar tune better, so that's how I sing it now. However, I just read that the song is very well-known in Scotland. Can anyone tell me which tune it is commonly known by? If I sing it with the lesser-known tune, is anyone going to berate me?


27 May 99 - 07:41 PM (#82239)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: DougR

Just let'em try, Susan-Marie! Sing it anyway you want to! Sing the version you love the best.

DougR


27 May 99 - 08:30 PM (#82248)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GN

Robert Burns sent his melody for the song with the song to the Scots Musical Museum, #386, but the original tune has for the most part been displaced by one composed by Alexander Hume about 1850.


28 May 99 - 08:07 AM (#82352)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Susan-Marie

Thanks Doug, I will stick with the tune I like best, it suits sean nos ornamentation better. GN - thanks for the background. Can you tell me which tune is the Burns and which is the Hume? One of the tunes in the DT has a descant for the entire first line (this is the one that sounds like "Away in a manger"), the first line of the other tune starts out low, goes up a few notes, goes down one, then up a few, then back down.


28 May 99 - 09:39 AM (#82374)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Shack

Susan-Marie, I love this song but did not know ANY tune. I will settle for the Away In a Manger version for now, but WHICH Away in a Manger? The one that goes up on "away" or up on "a"?


29 May 99 - 01:06 AM (#82574)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Helen

Shack,

it's the one which goes up on "away" but it's not exactly the same tune. If you search for Afton in the blue search box at top rightof this screen yuo'll get the lyrics and two blur "click here to play" links. You may have to save the files and play them on a midi programme, or if you have the right software (I don't know what it is) you will hear each one when you click on each link.

Helen


29 May 99 - 02:01 AM (#82581)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Murray on Salt Spring

The old anon tune in the Scots Musical Museum (1792) is [roughly]: Key F 3/4 c/f a gf/ ga b- ag/ f a gf/ gt c/ f a gf/ ga c fd/ c b-a ga f etc. Sol-fa-wise , and equally roughly, it's s,/ d m rd/ rm f mr /d m rd/ dt,--s,/d m rd/ rm s d'l/ s fm rm/ d. The Hume tune is often heard, but believe me the traditionalists go for the old one every time. That second tune is like the (American) tune of "Away in a Manger", thus: s,d/ m- rd/ d t, l,/ s, l, s,f,/ f,m, etc. The old tune, incidentally, was first published in the Museum, and seems to have been composed by a Major Logan of Ayrshire.


03 Jun 99 - 04:35 PM (#83777)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Susan-Marie

Man, I hate it when work gets in the way of my hobbies! Sorry it took so long to get back to you, Murray, and thanks very much for the clarification on the tunes. It shouldn't matter, but I like knowing that that tune I picked is the old one.


10 Jan 03 - 10:24 PM (#864079)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST

Does anyone know of any recorded versions of this song?


10 Jan 03 - 10:28 PM (#864081)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST

Other than Andy M's on his Robert Burns album, that is?


10 Jan 03 - 10:31 PM (#864085)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST

Excuse me again. Dick Gaughan's website says he only performs it live, and has never recorded it, but for a TV programme on Burns. I'm looking to hear versions by women, or as a choral arrangement (women's voices) actually.


10 Jan 03 - 10:48 PM (#864097)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Q

Strange, I have only heard one tune, like the midi in the Contemplator: Flow Gently
Three verses in the text.


10 Jan 03 - 10:56 PM (#864099)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Q

There is a howler in the first verse of the Contemplator lyrics-
Thou green created lapwing, thy screaming for bear.
In the second verse, differences from DT (proof-reading better)- hill becomes glen and dell becomes den.


11 Jan 03 - 01:35 AM (#864168)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: masato sakurai

The Scots Musical Museum version (that is, the original) is sung by Tony Cuff on The Complete Songs of Robert Burns, vol. 1 (Linn Records CKD 047), which is also on Auld Lang Syne: A Fine Selection of Popular Robert Burns Songs (Linn CKD 088). Sound clip is HERE. The tune is in the following as well as in Scots Musical Museum, Dick's Songs of Robert Burns and Kinsley's Poems and Songs of Robert Burns:

C.V. Stanford, The National Song Book (Boosey, 1907, p. 72; as "Afton Water")
Maver's Collection of Genuine Scottish Melodies (Robert Maver, n.d., p. 38 [tune name: "The Brae of Ballenden"]
Helen Hopekirk, Seventy Scottish Songs (1905; Dover, 1992, pp. 42-45)
A Song of Scotland (Wise Publications, n.d., pp. 74-75; as "Afton Water")

    I don't believe the "familiar tune" was composed by Alexander Hume, though Margaret Boni (in Fireside Book of Folk Songs, pp. 106-107) and William Cole (in Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales, pp. 135-137) attributed the tune to Hume. According to The Book of Worl-Famous Music by James J. Fuld (4th ed., p. 228), the version ("known particularly in America") was composed by J[onathan]. E[dwards]. Spilman, who "was born in 1812 in Greenville, Ky., became a lawyer, then a minister, and died in 1896 in Flora, Ill."

The first edition at the Levy collection is:

Title: Flow Gently Sweet Afton. A Ballad. [no images given]
Composer, Lyricist, Arranger: Written by Robert Burns. Music Composed and Arranged by J.E. Spilman.
J. E. Spilman Publication: Philadelphia: George Willig, 171 Chesnut[sic] Street, 1838 [Sold at P.H. Taylor's Music Store, opposite the Banks, Richmond, Va.]..

See other editions:

Title: Flow Gently Sweet Afton. A Ballad. [only one page is given; link to cover is inactive]
Composer, Lyricist, Arranger: Written by Robert Burns. Music Composed and Arranged by J.E. Spilman.
J. E. Spilman Publication: Philadelphia: George Willig, 171 Chesnut Street, 1838.

At American Memory:

Flow gently, sweet Afton, music by J.E. Spilman (Boston, Massachusetts, Oliver Ditson & Co., 1880) (Another copy)

      There're several compositions by others, which I think are less known.

      The Alexander Hume version has a different melody, which was sung by Joseph Hislop (tenor) and recorded in 1922 as "Afton Water." The recording is on The Star o' Rabbie Burns (Moidart Music Group MIDCD 004), whose notes say "The original setting (1791) has long been superseded by this typically Victorian version of 1855 by Alexander Hume."

~Masato


11 Jan 03 - 02:03 AM (#864178)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Mark Cohen

Chris Thile, the phenomenal mandolin player from the band Nickel Creek, wrote a gorgeous new tune to this poem, which is on their first CD. A brief clip can be heard HERE -- it's #7 on the right-hand column.

Aloha,
Mark

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJXDbR2zKy4


11 Jan 03 - 02:06 AM (#864181)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: masato sakurai

The Spilman edition (probably the first) is reproduced in Nicholas E. Tawa, Sweet Songs for Gentle Americans: The Parlor Song in America, 1790-1860 (Bowling Green University Press, 1980, pp. 233-234). Tawa, who gives the date as "1838", says (pp. 9-10):

Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, words by Robert Burns and musuc by the American J.E. Spilman (Philadelphia, 1838), is a typical composition by a native composer. Its undemanding accompaniment is distinctively subordinate to the vocal melody. The A-major melody, regularly pausing every four measures, remains within the octave e' to e", except for f" sharp. Aside from a single sharped fourth of the scale, the work is diatonic. The txt is in two stanzas, the second printed following the music. The song provides a consummate illustration of a parlor ballad.

~Masato


11 Jan 03 - 10:29 AM (#864378)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: masato sakurai

Flow gently sweet Afton [mp3] sung by Charlotte MacInnes (February 15 and June 15, 1939, collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Oakland, California) is the Alexander Hume version. This is from California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties.

~Masato


11 Jan 03 - 10:53 AM (#864396)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST

Thanks for the Charlotte MacInnes mp3 Masato, I hadn't come across it. Yer a good man. Mark, that arrangement by Nickel Creek is great! We're looking for an arrangement we can use for 4 female voices, so are looking for ideas. I'll definitely play that one for them.

Thanks for the assistance.


11 Jan 03 - 01:08 PM (#864503)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Q

Several take-offs, using the tune of "Afton Water" ((Flow Gently---), were made. One, in the Bodleian Library, is called "The Beautiful Maid of the Valley of Levin," published ca. 1854 (Ballads Catalogue, 2806 c11(155), Glasgow. It starts out "In yon lovely valley, where Levin flows clear, There lives a fair maid, and that maid I love dear; etc.

The best part of the broadside is a description of the River and its locale.


11 Jan 03 - 02:06 PM (#864558)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Q

Also in the Bodleian, with the tune "Flow Gently..." is "Be Kind To Grandfather," by William Miller (overpriced at one penny).

Be kind to Grandfather, a proud man was he
When rosy in childhood ye sat on his knee;
Thy name is his name, when his head is laid low
May his virtues be link'd wi' the name o' his oe.
etc.
Firth b.27(388), 1864. Printed by The Poet's Box, Glasgow.


15 Mar 03 - 08:12 AM (#910604)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: masato sakurai

Two tunes (other than SMM, Spilman, and Hume) are at Levy:

Title: Sweet Afton Water. A Ballad.
Composer, Lyricist, Arranger: By Robert Burns. Music Composed and Arranged by William J. Wetmore.
William J. Wetmore Publication: New York: W.E. Millett, No.329 Broadway, 1838.
Form of Composition: strophic
Instrumentation: piano and voice

Title: Flow Gently Sweet Afton. A Favorite Ballad.
Composer, Lyricist, Arranger: Set to Music & Arranged for the Guitar by Saml. Carusi.
Publication: Louisville: Peters, Webb & Co., 1840.
Form of Composition: strophic
Instrumentation: guitar and voice

~Masato


15 Mar 03 - 01:55 PM (#910782)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: ard mhacha

Masota, The version you gave by Charlotte MacInnes was the only which was ever sang here in the North of Ireland.
I have the Scottish Tenor Kenneth McKellar singing this version with all of the beautiful ornamenation, a really lovely song. Ard Mhacha.


10 Sep 04 - 11:52 PM (#1269033)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

According to my volume of Burns, a Dr. Currie said the poem "Afton Water" was composed in honor of Mrs. Stewart of Stair. Who were these people? Any support for the statement?


11 Sep 04 - 12:50 AM (#1269058)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: masato sakurai

Info is here (Robert Burns Country: The Burns Encyclopedia - Stewart of Stair, Mrs Catherine, d. 1818).


11 Sep 04 - 01:51 AM (#1269074)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Thanks, Masato.

I see advertised on the same website the complete Burns songs (368) on 12 cds (Linn). Various vocalists.


11 Sep 04 - 02:59 AM (#1269082)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Boab

I was born, raised, lived and worked on Afton banks. The tune which is familiar to almost all of the New Cumnock folk is completely different from any which I have run across in any "ither airt". The tune we always used is more in the nature of a slow air. Sorry I cannot immediately supply a sample---I will try to arrange this for a future return to the subject. Also, in reference to the "other Afton" mentioned in the extract from the "Stewart of Stair" article---as far as I am aware, there is no other "Afton" in the known Burns experience other than the river which flows down Glen Afton to Nith. In the text of the second verse" How Lofty Sweet Afton thy neighbouring hills, Far marked by the courses of clear winding rills", the description of Afton Glen is completely "as is". By the roadside, 100 yards east of the Laight Farm mentioned in the article, you will find a cairn in a small park, with a view of the Afton water fifty yards below. This is the spot where Robert Burns is reputed to have composed Sweet Afton.


11 Sep 04 - 06:40 PM (#1269570)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: masato sakurai

Sheet music of Alexander Hume's "Afton Water" (John Blockley, 3 Argyll Street, Regent St, W; London; 1880) is at British Library's Victorian Popular Music.


23 Jan 11 - 02:20 PM (#3080825)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Guest

Hi,

I have recorded and acoustic fingerpicking version of this tune on youtube.

Flow Gently Sweet Afton

Thanks


23 Jan 11 - 04:38 PM (#3080924)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tootler

The British Library have moved their online collection of Popular Victorian music since Masato Sakurai posted his link 7 years ago.

Alexander Hume's Afton Water may now be found here.


24 Jan 11 - 08:51 AM (#3081343)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia

Thanks for the link, Tootler.


24 Jan 11 - 10:18 AM (#3081399)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Jim McLean

I don't know about the 'popular' version (Alexander Hume's) being 'popular' but the melody in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum #386 quoted above is the most popular version I know. I remember my mother singing this version over 65 years ago.


24 Jan 11 - 02:42 PM (#3081566)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh

I think I've read somewhere that RB also thought of "The Yellow-Haired Laddie" for these verses, but beyond a remark in one of his letters that this air was deserving of fine words, I've never found evidence of this choice in any letter &c. Anyone know more?


25 Jan 11 - 08:56 AM (#3082040)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,leeneia

Guest, guest, thanks for posting the link to your video. That's a new melody for me.


25 Jan 11 - 07:35 PM (#3082435)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,John (Gordon) McLachlan

If you are Jim McLean from Paisley, Scotland and your father was Robert D McLean, and if you had a brother called Robert please e-mail me.

itsjustjohn@tampabay.rr.com


05 Feb 11 - 08:16 PM (#3089510)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Angrybean

leeneia , only just joined the forum.

Thanks for your kind words.

Ang


02 Jul 11 - 05:52 PM (#3180418)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Ian Blue

I come from Paisley where Kenneth McKellar was brought up. I have always known Afton Water to be sung in the same version that he recorded ( hear it on Ebay) Its a beautiful melody.
This other tune from Alexander Hume or Spilman cannot compare.


02 Jul 11 - 06:21 PM (#3180430)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: dick greenhaus

Linn has released its magnificent 12-volume Songs of Robert Burns at a
ridiculouly low price--CAMSCO sells it for $55. Notes are, unfortunately, skimpy. Sound is spectacular...song by folksingers, and IMO a considerably improvement over the over-arranged set by the immortal Jean Redpath.


02 Jul 11 - 06:40 PM (#3180438)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

I know of two tunes for it, both, I would say almost equally used and popular in Scotland, but the one used by Chris Thlle and Nickel Creek and guitar-picking guest (and other American recordings on Youtube) seems quite different from either of these.

Here's kenneth McKellar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzT4g9ahLvU&feature=related

And the other tune (nicely played on ukelele): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgvBq9XuydE&feature=related


06 Aug 11 - 04:16 PM (#3202872)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Ian Blue of Paisley Scotland

Thank you Tootler for that link to the Sheet Music. I wish I had been more observant. I love that front cover isn't so romantic , old sheet music has such atmosphere!
Anyway I have been trying to get hold of this song and the version by A Hume and now I have it. It is out of print of course but I was able to locate a copy of Kenneth McKellar's Book of Scottish Songs and there it is, note for note and in the same key as the link which you provided.
Also well done Tattie Bogle for your link to Kenneth McKellar.
Maybe since I come from Paisley we Paisley folk grew up only knowing the tune which he sang.


07 Aug 11 - 12:52 PM (#3203323)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Jim McLean

I'm from Paisley also, Ian Blue, and the tune we knew was printed a good 100 years before Hume's setting. Being in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum would prove it's the tune Burns set his lyrics to.


16 Dec 16 - 07:08 AM (#3826829)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,Joe

I remember this song well from school. It used to be very popular in the 1980s.


16 Dec 16 - 08:50 PM (#3826996)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

I have come across THREE different tunes, one of which seems to be mainly used in America: as a lot of the above links are not longer working, I'll try to post links to recordings or YouTubes of examples of all 3....but not tonight!


17 Dec 16 - 08:21 PM (#3827148)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

Doh! Call me forgetful or what! The links I posted above in July 2011 still work, and you can still get Chris Thile's version on YouTube: so that's all three tunes.
And the link posted by Tootler in Jan 2011 still works for the score of the Hume version (as sung by McKellar in the link I gave) : you can get it page by page by clicking on the various numbers.


30 Dec 18 - 01:58 PM (#3968899)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

Following on........ 2 years later, and just gearing up for our next folk club Burns Night, my concertina-playing friend and I (button accordion) usually get asked to do tunes as there are a good number of other singers (indeed we are both singers too, but on this occasion, it's tunes we do - hopefully not a verdict on our singing!)
So our idea is to play, as a medley, all the Sweet Afton tunes we know: That's up to 4 now, if we include "Yellow-Haired Laddie", mentioned higher up the thread, and supposedly the first tune ever used.
Btw, I believe Kenneth McKellar recorded BOTH the Hume version and the other "Paisley".


31 Dec 18 - 04:40 AM (#3968978)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: GUEST,kenny

Version by Dick Gaughan :
https://youtu.be/dIEpmrsPYAc


01 Jan 19 - 04:38 PM (#3969277)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

Thanks Kenny: yes, that's the "other tune", and beautifully sung too.


03 Jan 19 - 01:43 PM (#3969618)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

Doh: getting myself in a muddle now! A friend has just sent me the score of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir version which uses the Hume tune - which is the one the DG sings there, written in the mid-1800s.
So the older tune is perhaps the best known/now most used in Scotland.
And "Yellow-Haired Laddie" has words by Allan Ramsay - just maybe why it wasn't used for "Sweet Afton"?


03 Jan 19 - 10:46 PM (#3969716)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: leeneia

Hi, Tattie Bogle. I've been working on a medley too. But if you don't mind a suggestion, I think it would be fun for you to play various unrelated tunes, then play Flow Gently using a different tune each time. That way you don't have to compose bridges between the versions in different keys.

I have written down the tune by Samuel Carisi (American c. 1840), and I think it's a nice one. The Yellow-haired Laddie and the tune by Wetmore in the Levy Collection don't appeal to me, so I've done nothing with them.

If you would like to have the sticks and dots for the Carisi tune, PM me.


04 Jan 19 - 10:48 AM (#3969785)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

Thanks for the suggestion, Leeneia. The medley is for a Burns' night soon, so really need to stick our remit/stated goal of playing the various tunes used for the one poem, and not put in unrelated tunes, though it might do for another occasion. The American version I have was composed by Kentucky lawyer and minister, Jonathan Spilman in 1837, so pre-dates the Hume tune (1850).
I'll pm you about the Carisi tune.


04 Jan 19 - 12:43 PM (#3969808)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: leeneia

I've sent the MIDI of Carusi's tune to Joe for posting here. I forgot to slow down the tempo from MIDI's default of 120, so if you like it, slow it down yourself.

The spelling Carisi is a mistake. It's Carusi, and the music was published in Louisville KY in 1840, according to the Lester Levy site. It was for guitar and is in 3/4 time.

It's in the key of A, but in the second part he adds chromatic notes. At first they are D#'s, but then he puts in an F natural. I don't like the F natural myself, and I believe that if I played the song, I would omit it. It may have been a fad of the time.

If you don't read music and are sounding out the chords, then I would try a B when a D# arrives.


Click to play (joeweb)


04 Jan 19 - 02:43 PM (#3969843)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Joe Offer

Leeneia's MIDI posted in her message above. Please let me know if you have trouble downloading it. It's in a new directory/folder on my Website, and I may not have the permissions set right.
-Joe-


04 Jan 19 - 03:30 PM (#3969852)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: leeneia

Thanks, Joe. It seems fine. I played it and it went into Noteworthy perfectly.


26 Sep 21 - 06:54 PM (#4121057)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Joe Offer

Here's a YouTube of an interesting version by Nickel Creek? I swear the tune sounds like "Puff the Magic Dragon." A post above says the tune was written by mandolin wizard Chris Thille.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJXDbR2zKy4


27 Sep 21 - 07:11 AM (#4121079)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Tattie Bogle

As a postscript to that Burns Night in 2019, where we played the 4 tunes, one of our audience, who comes from Glasgow (or maybe Paisley??) stated very firmly that "the original tune" was best - by which he meant the Hume tune: he just wouldn't have it that that wasn't the original!!


27 Sep 21 - 07:35 AM (#4121080)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: Georgiansilver

https://youtu.be/CIA44GI_3T8    Nelson Eddysings 'SweetAfton'


27 Sep 21 - 11:49 AM (#4121091)
Subject: RE: Sweet Afton - which tune?
From: leeneia

Thanks for the links. Joe, that's a pretty tune. The beginning of it does sound like the second line of Puff. "Little Jackie Paper..."