At some point in the past a bloke called George supposedly killed a dragon, which is - understandably - a big deal. And despite suspicions this may or may not have actually happened in what is modern day Turkey, the English have adopted dear George as their patron saint. So, with St. George's day arriving, we're celebrating some of the nation's most enduring musical heritage with out English Folk Songs playlist. The English folk tradition stretches beyond written history, with the earliest songs passed between sailors and travellers to while away long hours of tedium. England, as the seafaring giants they once were, produced some of the longest lasting sea shanties the folk tradition has known.
16th and 17th Century Music
The folk music of England is a tradition-based music, which has existed since the later medieval period. It is often contrasted with courtly, classical and later commercial music. Folk music has been preserved and transmitted orally, through print and later through recordings. The term is used to refer to English traditional music and music composed, or delivered, in a traditional style. English folk music has produced or contributed to several important musical genres, including sea shanties , jigs , hornpipes and dance music , such as that used for Morris dancing. It can be seen as having distinct regional and local variations in content and style, particularly in areas more removed from the cultural and political centres of the English state, as in Northumbria , or the West Country.
Traditional Folk Songs
I am inclined to agree that the two versions are quite distinct. It is true that in Songs of the West, Henry Martin receives his death wound, but, as Child points out, this incident does not square with the rest of the story and may, therefore, be an interpolation. Unlike so many so-called historical ballads, this one is really based on fact. In the latter part of the 15th century, a Scottish sea-officer, Andrew Barton, suffered by sea at the hands of the Portuguese, and obtained letters of marque for his two sons to make reprisals upon the trading-ships of Portugal. The brothers, under pretence of searching for Portuguese shipping, levied toll upon English merchant vessels. King Henry VIII accordingly commissioned the Earl of Surrey to rid the seas of the pirates and put an end to their illegal depredations. The earl fitted out two vessels, and gave the command of them to his two sons, Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard. They sought out Barton's ships, the Lion and the Union, fought them, captured them, and carried them in triumph up the river Thames on August 2, I have noted down in different parts of England no less than seventeen variants of this ballad, and from the several sets of words so collected the lines in the text—practically unaltered—have been compiled.
Click on the link or the drop-down menu above to take a listen. When we first came to traditional folk music, we stood at the foot of the mountain and wondered at the sheer size of what loomed ahead. You might find it by chance — a centuries-old song that grabs you and sticks with you and makes you wonder what else might be out there — or you might find that someone offers you a leg-up. After all, each have tales about some chap in some pub somewhere who can play the hind legs off all the donkeys, but chose not to make a career out of it, or someone legendary who passed away years ago but, boy, you shoulda heard them play the spoons. We hope you find it useful. To get the latest from the series, make sure you sign up to our mailing list. Bookmark it, make a mental note… just remember to pop back from time to time to discover a little more about some of the best folk songs in the British tradition, as dictated by those that play them and keep them alive. As chosen by Jim Moray. Folk singers sometimes have a habit of thinking that singing something slowly makes it more profound when, actually, it just makes it take longer to get to the important bit.