The Seven Rejoices of Mary

THE SEVEN REJOICES OF MARY

I try to research the traditional folk songs I choose to sing, partially because I am fascinated by history and because I feel it makes my performance better to know as much about a song as possible. I’m often quite surprised at the different versions and variants I find for many of the songs. A case in point is The Seven Rejoices of Mary which is sung to the tune of an Irish favourite Star of the County Down.
The lyrics to Star of the County Down were written by Cathal McGarvey, himself from County Donegal, probably in the late nineteenth century. The story is from the point of view of a farmer who, “one morning last July”, meets a charming lass by the name of Rosie McCann, called the “star of the County Down”. From this brief encounter the farmer’s infatuation/lust grows until, by the end of the ballad, he contemplates wedding Rosie. Here’s a nice version of Star of the County Down performed by Lizzy Hoyt.
The tune, however, is similar to that of several other songs; an old Irish folk song called My Love Nell (a definite forerunner of Star, with Nell also being from County Down),the English folk tune Kingsfold, the hymn Led By The Spirit and Dives and Lazarus, one of the songs included in Ralph Vaughn Williams English Folk Song Suite. Here's a video of Maddy Prior performing Dives and Lazarus.
Music and lyrics to The Seven Rejoices… are attributed “English Traditional Folk Carol, collected by Mrs. Milligan Fox” in the book Two Hundred Folk Carols  (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #26, pp. 46-47. The lyrics are a polar opposite to the more earthy Irish song, being heavy with Christian religious symbolism, but then that’s why it’s considered a “carol”.
The most well known contemporary version of The Seven Rejoices is by Canadian musician Loreena McKinnett from her album Midwinter Night's Dream, released in 2008.

Dougie MacLean

Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean (born 1954) has been sharing his distinctively personal songs with audiences since the mid-1970s. Originally a member of the Tannahill Weavers – named after Scottish poet Robert Tannahill, known as the “Weaver Poet” – he was also briefly a part of Silly Wizard, contributing to their fourth album, Wild & Beautiful. In addition to guitar, he plays fiddle, mandola, bouzouki, bass, harmonica and banjo.

Dougie+MacLean

Dougie began his career as a solo artist in 1981, although his classic song Caledonia (considered by many the unofficial Scottish national anthem) was recorded in 1978 and credited to Alan Roberts and Dougie MacLean. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Caledonia is a song that resonates with Scots the world over. For those far away it is a reminder of strong bonds, full of the promise of return.” Caledonia is being used by the Scottish Tourist Board to promote “Homecoming Scotland 2014”.

From the Dougie MacLean website: “From his home base in Butterstone near Dunkeld in the beautiful Tay Valley in Perthshire Scotland, MacLean tours the world with his unique blend of lyrical, ‘roots based’ songwriting and instrumental composition.”

Phil Thomas, writing in Living Tradition Magazine said, “Dougie MacLean must be near the top of the pretty short list of folk performers who can boast a truly ‘global’ reputation.” And its the songs that have built that reputation – songs which, though told from a quintessentially Scottish point of view, are universal in their appeal. From a song inspired by his “Uncle Fergus, a crofter fisherman” (Ready For the Storm) to a story/song about his father teaching him to use a farm implement (Scythe Song) to songs of love and longing (This Love Will Carry and Caledonia), Dougie MacLean touches the hearts of his listeners.

Dougie indeed performs worldwide – from the UK to America and Australia – making new fans and thrilling old ones. You know you’ve had an impact as a songwriter when just about every member of the audience tends to sing along with every song in your set list – a commonplace occurrence at Dougie MacLean shows as documented on his album Live: From the Ends of the Earth and on the two live videos included here.

His recordings – over 20 albums to date – include not just the songs, which can be “wistful and melancholic, and at other times are blissfully uplifting and rejuvenating”, but also instrumental and orchestral pieces such as Perthshire Amber. This last album has lent it’s name to an autumn music festival, now in it’s tenth year, at various venues in and around the MacLean hometown of Dunkeld. He is such an institution in Scotland that he even has his own Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky called Dougie MacLean’s “Caledonia”!

dougie portrait

Dougie MacLean was awarded the 2009 Tartan Clef Award for his song Caledonia. In 2011, he was invested as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth, and this year he was awarded the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Lifetime Achievement for Contribution to Songwriting.

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The Child Ballads

The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 folk songs from England and Scotland which were compiled by Francis James Child in the mid to late 1800’s. In researching “folk songs of the British Isles” to be included in my performing repertoire, I found that I already knew (and played) a great many of them. Not surprising, in that they are the “standards” of the genre.

I’m preparing a new album, and inquired of the friends on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MartynWyldeMusic) if any of them had suggestions for material. One friend recommended four songs – three of which were Child Ballads. My own selections for the album already included three others.

So I have now taken a slight detour from the album I had planned to make, and am in the process of recording several of the Ballads, probably to be released on their own. These are the songs I’ve selected:

Broomfield Hill, Willie’s Lady, Fair Annie, The Daemon Lover, The Wife of User’s Well, Willie of Wimsbury, Jock O’Hazeldeen, Tam Lin.

In addition, my band Celtic Mayhem, have already recorded a Child Ballad (Twa Corbies) for our new album!

Part of my research of the Child Ballads led me to a CD by the duo of Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, who earlier this year released an album titled Child Ballads. The seven songs are simply arranged primarily with two acoustic guitars and little other instrumentation, but with wonderful two part vocal harmony. This is one of my favourite albums of the last several years.  Here’s a link if you’d like to give it a listen (while waiting for me to finish my album): Child Ballads.

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