The Two Colonial Folksongs, commissioned by the Williamsburg (VA) Choral Guild, are the inaugural pieces in Dan’s ongoing choral cycle, “Folk Songs of America”, which seeks to combine commissions of folk song arrangements from various states/regions of America into a larger cycle that will eventually be suitable for concert use.
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Two Colonial Folksongs- Program Note:
Most colonial music has clear ties to the Old Land- Britain, Ireland, Scotland- but even in this early era of American history, there was something of a New Land spirit starting to form. The texts and tunes of both of these colonial folksongs have ties to 17th century England, but were brought to the New Land, where multiple variants formed and became quite popular. Both songs sing of a soldier- in the first, a “brave volunteer” whose fiddle enchants a fair lady, and in the second, a blustering soldier whose professions of love are rather belied by his jaunty fife tune and his tales of soldiering. (This paradox is the basis for a rather cynical treatment in this setting, which almost pokes fun at him.)
The Nightingale is an American variant of the English folk song, “The Bold Grenadier.” The haunting pentatonic tune is included in Sharp and Karpeles’ “80 Appalachian Folk Songs,” and the roots of the text can be traced to 17th century England.
The Girl I Left Behind Me is of debated origin (English or Irish). Some sources claim it was popular in colonial America, while others claim that it didn’t cross the Atlantic until some time later. Either way, it became popular in the New Land, and one can easily sense that its narrative style and light-hearted fife tune would be quite at home in colonial America.
Commissioned by the Williamsburg (VA) Choral Guild for their 35th anniversary, these settings celebrate the common idea of a soldier in the Colonial/Revolutionary era, the Appalachian folk song tradition, and also the most timeless of folk song subjects: love. What a satisfying tribute to the musical heritage of America, that choirs and audiences today can enjoy the same songs as early American immigrants did, hundreds of years ago.
Tags: American, Folk, Folk Songs of America
Instrumentation: Piano 4-hands, Violin