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New Britain: The Roots of American Folksong
Judicii Signum (Anonymous, Southern Europe, 10th century) [2.42] William Hite
The Great Day (The Sacred Harp, Philadelphia, 1860) men
Calenda Maia ( Provence, c1200) [6.19] Anne Azéma
Cuando por el oriente (New Mexico, 1953) ensemble
Rossignolet du bois joli (Québec, 1914) [1.49] Kenneth Fitch
Rossignolet del bos jolin (Borlet, c1400) ensemble
Dans Paris y-a-t-un’ barbière (Québec, 1914) [2.48] Don Saint-Jean
Allons-nous faire la barbe (Loyset Compere, c 1500) instruments
Mon père m’a mariée (Québec, 1914) [2.55] Roberta Anderson Mon père m’a mariée (Anonymous, c 1500) Kenneth Fitch, William Hite, Don Saint-Jean, David Ripley, instruments
Gabriel Nazareth (Canada, c 1900) [3.26] men
Une nymphe jolie (Jean Planson, 1587) William Hite, instruments
C’est en passant par Varennes (Québec, 1914) [2.45] women
Margot labourés les vignes (Jacob Arcadelt, c 1568) Anne Azéma, David Ripley, instruments
Bransles de village (Jean-Baptiste Besard, 1603) [3.07] instruments
Il était une Cendrillon (Québec, 1914) tenors
C’est dans la ville de By town (Québec, 1914/ Amsterdam, c 1620/ Belgium, 20th century) [2.33] ensemble
II est venu le petit oysillon (France, c1475) [2.44] Anne Azéma
An jenem Tag, nach Davids sag (Germany, 1619) tenors
Barbara Allen (England, 1859) William Hite
Barbara Allen (Tennessee, 1937) Herman Hildebrand
Heavenly Dove (Georgia, 1855) chorus
Chevy Chase (Virginia, 1931) [2.15] Don Saint-Jean
The King’s hunt is up (England, c 1550) David Ripley
The English hunt’s up (England, c 1590) Joel Cohen
My love gave me a cherry (Scotland, c 1650) [2.24] Jane Hershey
I gave my love a cherry (Nova Scotia, 1950) Kenneth Fitch
Hey ho, nobody at home (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1611) [0.44] chorus
There were three crows (Texas, 1950) [4.59] Fred Raffensperger
There were three ravens (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1611) Roberta Anderson, ensemble
Lady Cassille's lilt (Scotland, c 1620) [4.52] Mack Ramsey, Marilyn Boenau
Gypsy Davy (Ohio, 1925) David Ripley, ensemble
The Jolly beggar (Scotland, 1790) [0.55] Laura Jeppesen
Billy Boy (Thaunton, Massachusetts, 1934) [1.13] Margaret Swanson
Billy Boy (Northern England, c1920) Joel Cohen, men
Ricercada premara (Diego Ortiz, 1654) [2.55] Laura Jeppesen, instruments
Betty Anne (North Carolina, 1916) Sharon Kelley, ensemble
Singing School (The Social Harp (Georgia, 1855) [2.00] Sharon Kelley, ensemble
Thomas-Town (William Billings (Boston, 1794) [2.37] tenors
New Britain (Amazing grace) (The Sacred Harp (Philadelphia, 1860)) [4.19] ensemble
Parting friends (The Social Harp) [3.19] Roberta Anderson, William Hite, Don Saint-Jean, David Ripley, instruments
Hallelujah (The Social Harp) [3.36] ensemble
Boston Camerata: Roberta Anderson. Anne Azéma, Sharon Kelley, Margaret Swanson (sopranos); Kenneth Fitch, Fred Raffensperger (counter-tenors); William Hite, Don Saint-Jean (tenors); Herman Hildebrand (baritone); David Ripley (bass); Marilyn Boenau (dulcian/krumhorn/recorder/shawm/bassoon); Mark Ramsey (alto horn/sackbut/flute/recorder/lute); Jane Hershey (treble and tenor viols/recorder/violin); Carol Lewis (treble & bass viols); Laura Jeppesen (treble and bass viols)
Joel Cohen conductor/baritone/lute/guitar
Recorded in Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 1990
Notes in English, Français, Deutsch. Original texts and English translations.
Originally released on the Erato label.
WARNER APEX 2564 61984-2 [68.01]


The point of the disk is an obvious one, that there is no “American” music except that which was imported one way or another, at one time or another, from Europe. Efforts at restoring genuine Native American First Nations musical styles have made some progress in recent decades, notably in the work of flutist Carlos Nagai, but I am not aware of any Native American tunes or folk-songs in the European sense. It has been commented frequently that songs currently or recently sung in the USA preserve versions of older songs that are no longer sung in Europe, just as some US dialects preserve older English speech patterns which are no longer heard in their native precincts. These singers are all skilled professionals and give evidence of care in achieving original pronunciation of dialects.

An odd feature of this disk is the emphasis on Canadian, particularly French Canadian, folk songs. I don’t think very many on the western shore of the Atlantic, certainly very few in the USA, think of Quebec as included in “America”.

As the listing above is intended to show, several versions of some songs are presented, sometimes the modern version first, sometimes the older original version first. At least one performance of each song is “complete” and others may be one verse or even a part of a verse to show the differences among versions.

My mother had a beautiful alto voice and used to sing songs to me when I was very small. I remember very little about these songs, but she thought of them as American folk songs, or just songs. I later came to realize that one of them was the tune of Edi beo thu hevene quene sung to modern English words, and I have been searching for those words for some years now, with no success. If you know them, please post them on the bulletin board for me. I’m disappointed they didn’t include that song on this disk. Perhaps there will be a volume 2.

Paul Shoemaker







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