Saturday, August 31, 2019

Wondrous Love

The Stephen Griffith Folk Song Index site that Texan99 put me onto in the comments of my recent "Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders" post has been a lot of fun to graze around in and taught me a lot I had not known before. Plus some great things to listen to. I never knew this could be a round. Do people sing rounds anymore? I don't recall hearing them, even at the summer camp near where we stay. They're a good way to learn how to sing parts, and hear how notes can fit together.

If you want to hear the Scots-Irish origins in the tune, listen to the sustained lower foundational notes even in the mandolin introduction.  Sounds like a bagpipe, doesn't it?


Texan99 said...

I've never heard it sung as a round, either. The tune is an old ballad called "Captain Kidd."

RichardJohnson said...

I had never heard of this index before. Thanks for digging it up.

AesopFan said...

I have been singing "Wondrous Love" since I was a pre-teen, but never heard anyone perform it before! Thanks for posting this video.

Yes, "Captain Kidd" (written in 1701 at the time of his London trial) has a very similar tune, and is thought to be the original.
They were both in the music book I grew up with ("The Fireside Book of Favorite American Songs" - a very good collection, with historical notes for most songs). However, George Pullen Jackson's transcription of "Love" has a slightly different melody, and mode, than "Kidd."

The melody in the video is not exactly like either one. I suspect it's a tune that varied from village to village as it traveled around.
The harmonies are reminiscent of the shape-note or Sacred Harp tradition; it happens to be a style I really like. It's not sung as a classic round, though; more of a call-and-response arrangement; however, it works very well.

Sacred and secular lyrics often shared the same music, and some still do today, but people don't realize it if they aren't familiar with the other versions (Anybody sung "To Anacreon in Heaven" lately? And how many know the folk song roots of "Love Me Tender"?).

The shifts from country of origin to new ones, some of which happened so far back they can no longer be traced accurately, probably generate the largest variation.
However, I recently was taught a Welsh folk-song, "Ffarwel i Ddociau Lerpwl" (Farewell to the Docks of Liverpool) that is obviously the source of "Oh, Susanna!"

Well, that's probably more than you wanted to know -- I'll check out that index!

AesopFan said...

FWIW, here's the Welsh song. It is sung much slower than the American one.
However, "Captain Kidd" is supposed to be sung "lustily" and "Wondrous Love" much more plaintively, so tempos and style change along with melodies and lyrics.
"Ar Log" is a popular group in the Wales folk-song community.
Ffarwel i ddociau Lerpwl · Ar Log