Thursday, August 13, 2020

Term 3, Folksongs for year 2020-2021

 1. Brown Girl in the Ring

2. King John and the Abbot of Canterbury

3. The Saucy Sailor


Brown Girl in the Ring- this is a traditional Caribbean nursery rhyme and  a singing game. 
How to play 1: Stand in a circle with linked hands, one person in the center.  The group sings the song and then pause at 'show me your motions'. The center person performs some dance move. The next verse in this version is 'come and face your partner'. The center girl chooses somebody from the circle, faces her and they dance a bit and then trade places.  Here's a video of Jamaican school children playing this one.

How to play 2: The group stands in a circle like Farmer in the Dell, with one person in the middle. They circle the person in the center singing, and then stop at the end of the verse. The person in the middle chooses somebody in the circle to 'show their motion'- usually this is some personal dance move, but it can really be whatever works for your group- a funny face, the splits, jumping jacks, moon-walking, toe touching- once the designated person shows their motion, they trade places with the person in the middle, and the game repeats.   

You do not have to play it as a singing game at all, of course. You can just have fun singing it together.

The song was popularized in America during the seventies, mostly by a group called Boney M, which had quite a colourful background (the singers mostly didn't sing on the recordings). This video is the Boney M. Soundtrack with just lyrics (their costumes were really quite something).   Others had previously released it as well, but BoneyM is the group that hit the charts with it. 

Jamaican poet and singer Loise Bennet released an album of children's songs from Jamaica in the fifties.  It's faster, and instead of 'she looks like a sugar in a plum' she sings 'for he likes sugar and I like plum.'  Listen here (youtube) or via Amazon streaming if you have prime (it's .99 to download if you don't)https://amzn.to/33UlWFx

You'll find a score and other background material here.

Johnny Cakes:  In the U.S. Johnny Cakes are similar to pancakes. In Jamaica they are more like hush puppies, fried dumplings eaten with seasoned saltfish or cod.

Lyrics to the Boney M. version:

Brown girl in the ring

There's a brown girl in the ring

Tra la la la la There's a brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la la Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum Show me your motion Tra la la la la Come on show me your motion Tra la la la la la Show me your motion Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes

All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes Beng-a-deng Beng-a-deng Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la There's a brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la la Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum Show me your motion Tra la la la la Come on show me your motion Tra la la la la la Show me your motion Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes Beng-a-deng Beng-a-deng Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la See, brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la la Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum Brown Girl in the Ring- Amazon: https://amzn.to/3g0paKo  (this one has some  additional lyrics)-


2. King John and the Abbot of Canterbury

This ballad predates 1695, probably by a few hundred years. 1695 is just the date for the first printed version we have.  There are multiple versions, and the tune itself was popular enough to be used for many other songs as well.  The King John here is the bad King John we know of from stories of Robin Hood. He stayed home while his more popular brother Richard the Lion-Hearted joined the crusades.

 The song follows a common folk-take and ballad theme, a battle of wits between two people, one perhaps more powerful than the other, although that's not necessarily the case here- the Abbot and King John probably had similar power in their own domains- and a riddle to be answered.  In this case both powers are essentially defeated by a commoner, since one of them needs the help of a commoner in order to defeat the king.  That's fairly subversive.

  I suggest reading this through once or twice before singing it in order to be sure to get the joke. It switches to a dialogue at the third verse- King John speaks to the Abbot, the Abbot replies.

I'll tell you a story, a story anon, Concerning a prince and his name was King John. He was a prince and a prince of great might And he held up great wrong and he put down great right. Chorus (repeated after each verse): Derry down, down, hey derry down I'll tell you a story, a story so merry, Concerning the Abbot of Canterbury, Of his housekeeping and high renown Which caused him to go up to fair London town. “How now, Brother Abbot, it's told unto me That thou keepest a far better house than I. For thy housekeeping and high renown I fear you of treason against my crown.” “Well I hope, My Liege, that you hold me no grudge For spending of my true gotten goods.” “If you do not answer me questions three Thy head will be taken from thy body. “When I am set on my steed so high, With my crown of gold all on my head, With my nobility, joy, and much mirth, You must say to one penny how much I am worth. “And the next question you must not flout: How long I'll be riding the world about. And the third question you must not shrink: Tell to me truly what I do think.” “Well these are hard questions for my shallow wit I cannot answer Your Grace as yet. But if you will give me three days space I'll do my endeavour to answer Your Grace.” “Three days space to thee I will give, That is the longest that thou hast to live. If you do not answer these questions right Thy head will be taken from thy body quite.” Well as the shepherd was going to his fold He saw the abbot come riding along, “How now, Master Abbot, you're welcome home What news have you brought us from good King John?” “Sad news, sad news I have thee to give: I have but three days space for to live. If I do not answer him questions three My head will be taken from my body.” “Well, Master, have you never heard it yet A fool may teach a wise man wit? Lend me your horse and your apparel And I'll ride up to London and answer the quarrel.” “When I am set on my steed so high, With my crown of gold all on my head, With my nobility, joy, and much mirth, You must say to one penny how much I am worth.” “For thirty pence our Savior was sold Amongst the false Jews as we have been told Twenty-nine is the worth of thee For I think you are one penny worse than He.” “And the next question you must not flout: How long I'll be riding the world about?” “You must rise with the sun, ride with the same Till the next morning he rises again. Then I am sure you will have no doubt But in twenty-four hours you'll ride it about.” “And the third question you must not shrink: Tell to me truly what I do think.” “Ah, that I can do, it will make your heart merry You think I'm the Abbot of Canterbury But I'm his poor servant, as you may see, And I've come to beg pardon for he and for me.” Well the King he turned him around and did smile Saying, “You can be Abbot the other while.” “Oh no, My Lord, there is no need For I can neither write nor read.” “Then tuppence a week, I will give unto thee For this merry true jest you have told unto me. Tell the old Abbot when you get home You brought him a pardon from good King John.”

Youtube: https://youtu.be/HvKzLpim4XI sung by John Foster
Amazon version for purchase, by Simply English- this one is sung very, very fast: https://amzn.to/3izJCCS


 3. The Saucy Sailor

A sea song along a theme we've seen in a previous song- the poor ragged lad proposes, he is refused quickly, and then it's revealed he has money, and the lass who spurned him wants to take back her refusal.  That doesn't work out well for her.

Jack or Jacky Tar was a common name for sailors with the Royal or Merchant Marines. It was not by itself an insult. The Navy lads themselves used the term and loved it.  Jack was a common name for a common man.  Tar was used on hemp ropes on the ship to keep them from rotting, and on sailors clothes to waterproof them, and sometimes high grade tar was dabbed on long ponytails to keep them out of the way, so probably sailors did smell of tar.

The Saucy Sailor Come, my own one, come, my fairest, Come and tell unto me, Could you fancy a poor sailor lad, Who has just come from sea? You are ragged, love, you are dirty, love, And your clothes smell much of tar. So begone, you saucy sailor boy, So begone, you Jack Tar! If I'm ragged, love, if I'm dirty, love, And my clothes smell much of tar, I have silver in me pocket, love, And of gold a bright store. When she heard those words come from him, On her bended knees she fell. I will marry my dear Henry
For I love a sailor lad so well. Do you think that I am foolish, love? Do you think that I am mad? That I'd wed with a poor country girl Where no fortune's to be had? I will cross the briny ocean I will whistle and I'll sing; Since you have refused the offer, love, Another girl shall have the ring. For I'm young, love, and I'm frolicksome, I'm good-temper'd, kind and free. And I don't give a single penny, boys What the world says of me.
The Maritime Singers are on youtube singing it here acapella: https://youtu.be/t3HeaMCNUzU The above lyrics are mostly the same, with a couple of variations.
Aaron Wilhoft sings it here, and I imagine many of you with lads would appreciate a male voice: https://youtu.be/7t_ZGS1et4Y
Amazon has The Wailing Jennies version for free if you have prime, 1.29 if you don't: https://amzn.to/2PN5aQb

My youtube playlist for all the folksongs this year: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2IR3x_bkyR6OhkIG7ebE_R9TS5SLKE2D

2 comments:

  1. Fun! We actually already know the “Derry Down” tune because we learned it for a Canadian song (actually one used to advertise Nova Scotia to potential settlers in the 1750’s). It goes like this:

    Let's away to new Scotland, where Plenty sits queen
    O'er as happy a country as ever was seen
    She blesses her subjects both little and great
    With each a good house and a pretty estate.
    Derry down, down
    Down, derry down.

    There's wood and there's water, there's wild fowl and tame
    In the forest good ven'son, good fish in the stream
    Good grass for our cattle, good land for our plough
    Good wheat to be reaped, and good barley to mow.
    Derry down, down
    Down, derry down.

    No landlords are there the poor tenants to tease
    No lawyers to bully, nor stewards to seize
    But each honest fellow's a landlord, and dares
    To spend on himself the whole fruit of his cares.
    Derry down, down
    Down, derry down.

    They've no duties on candles, no taxes on malt
    Nor do they, as we do, pay sauce for their salt
    But all is as free as in those times of old
    When poets assure us the age was of gold.
    Derry down, down
    Down, derry down.

    Looking forward to learning these!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for getting all of these picked out and posted Wendi <3

    ReplyDelete