Round About Our Coal Fire

First, a couple of news items:

Now on to the main event, yet another song connections post! Last Friday I went to the UCLA Early Music Ensemble’s fall concert, which was entitled The City Cries: 300 Years of English Joy and Sorrow. There was Purcell, Dunstable, Byrd, Jenkins, Morley, and…Playford! Playford, publisher of The Dancing Master, a 17th century collection of dances and dance tunes for English country dancing. One of the tunes, performed on violin, viola, and viol, was “Old Simon the King,” and upon hearing it I 1) detected that it was in 9/8 and 2) thought it sounded rather like another English country dance tune I knew.

I thought that tune was “Old Wife Behind the Fire,” but when I looked that up I discovered I was wrong, so I went back to the program for the 42nd Annual English-Scottish Ball, my last folk dance ball at Swarthmore. We had danced to the tune I was thinking of at that ball, and the next morning several of us had it stuck in our heads. The program told me the tune I wanted was “Round About Our Coal Fire” (so I had the bit about fire).

It would seem I’m not imagining things because I uncovered some evidence that the two tunes are related.

The song that has stuck with me most since that concert, however, is Henry VIII’s “Hélas Madame” (which I fancy bears some vague resemblance to my other favorite Henry VIII song, “Pastime With Good Company”). I’ve been enjoying the Québécois early music ensemble Skarazula’s recording.

 

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