Saturday, March 24, 2012

One of Many Pleasures

One of the things I like best about writing and reading historical fiction is looking back at how real people lived in the past. Of course, the big historical events are interesting, but my favorite thing is finding out some small detail about daily life.

I read once in Harriette Simpson Arnow's book Flowering of the Cumberland that people used to sing a lot, and that makes sense. We have others do our singing for us these days via our iPods, but in the early 19th century people would have been their own iPods. So I incorporated singing into a scene in my novel. I found the names of some old ballads I was sure would have been around at that time and worked them into the story.

But until yesterday, I had only looked at the lyrics - I hadn't heard the songs performed. I was stuck at the computer doing some updates yesterday, so I amused myself by looking up the songs from my book on YouTube. It was such an enjoyable experience I decided to share.

One long-lived and well-known ballad is the beautiful Annie Laurie, performed here by the Scottish duo The Corries:

The next song is one I learned long ago in elementary school music (thank you, Mrs. Pauline Stewart!), The Keeper Did a-Hunting Go (performed here by David Holness):

Finally, this was my first introduction to this beautiful song, which I chose only because its name fit what I wanted to do in the scene. What a piece of luck that it was also such a lovely song - Ae Fond Kiss by Robert Burns, performed here by Dougie MacLean:

Sampling these three old songs makes me interested in learning more of them. As much as I enjoy The Script, Journey, and James Taylor, there's something to be said for the days before iPods, when people sang for their entertainment. Go out today and sing something!

1 comment:

Ann Turnbull said...

Oh, I love these! And isn't it great to do this sort of research! The internet is brilliant for finding half-remembered songs. The first two are very familiar to me. The Robert Burns one I only knew as a poem and had never heard it sung. I like to have people singing in my stories too. I read somewhere that all Samuel Pepys' young servants could play musical instruments and sing, and would join in when he held musical evenings at home with friends.