When I started to draw songs, She Moved Through the Fair was the first one that I drew.
Alan Stivell, “She Moved Through the Fair” (1973).
Stivell is a French harpist and singer. His version has beautifully simple music (harp and something drone-y in the background) and a slightly slurred vocal. He sings verses 1, 2 and 4 of the modern lyrics, following most of the common variations (i.e. “Mother/Father”, “Dead love” etc.).
You’ll also find Stivell on this live version with Jim Kerr (of Simple Minds) on the mic.
Sam Henry‘s Songs of the People is one of a number of source books for folk music of the British Isles. Others include Herbert Hughes’ Irish Country Songs (Hughes collected the tune used in the modern version of “She Moves Through the Fair”) and, of course, Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, which is often described as the definitive source for songs from Great Britain (many traditional songs have a “Child Ballad” number associated with them; “She Moves Through the Fair”, being Irish, is not included).
Henry and his fellow collectors would go out into “the field” (possibly literally a field on occasion, but just as likely to be someone’s kitchen, or a public house, say) and listen to traditional singers. They would write down the tune, the lyrics, and anything else that they saw fit to record for later publication in book form. Later collectors, such as Alan Lomax (who recorded Margaret Barry), carried audio recording equipment, and much of their original field recordings still exist – some are even available on retail CD.
I don’t own a copy of Songs of the People, but I’m going to try and request it from my local library.
Previews are not available for all songs relevant to “She Moves Through the Fair, but the listing for “Our Wedding Day” [H534] is available; this is actually a version of Colum’s song, and not the traditional song referred to in my post.
The following is extracted from the preview of p454.
o: “She Moved through the Fair”; k: “Lovely Molly.”
Source not given.
s: This simple little song is the expression of one happy thought. It should be sung slowly and with wistful happiness.
1: Text reworked by Padraic Colum from an “old ballad” to a Donegal air collected by Herbert Hughes (1, 1909). James Healy says, “This is one of the few cases where the now [new?], more scholarly edition could be considered better than the old” (1977: 79). But Healy himself prints a version somewhat transformed by the “folk process,” with a different 2d stanza and the 3d in transition (“my dear love came in”) between Colum’s original, ghostless stanza (“she came softly in”) and Margaret Barry’s haunting one (“my dead love came in”).
Henry’s is the only version among those cited that mentions “kine” (cattle) for Colum’s “kind” (standing or property inherent by birth).
“Out of the Window” [H141] is missing from the preview, but the latter part of the entry can be seen can be seen on p396. This comprises of the tune and lyrics to “Our Wedding Day” (my “alternative” version of “She Moves Through the Fair”, also listed as [H141]). However, Wikipedia tells me that “Out of the Window” was collected by Henry from one Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Northern Ireland, around 1930.
Áine Ui Cheallaigh, “Out of the Window” (1992).
From the album Idir Dha Chomhairle (In Two Minds), this is one of only three tracks in English. The rest, naturally, are in Irish Gaelic. The CD booklet says that, “The English songs on this recording come from the Ulster singing tradition”.
“Out of the Window” is clearly related to “She Moves Through the Fair”; the lyrics of the first verse are practically identical to Colum’s poem. However, the tune does not appear to be the same. The full lyrics of this song are printed in the CD booklet; I have transcribed them here. Áine sings them unaccompanied, and it is a beautiful rendition.
A short biography of Áine Ui Cheallaigh, born Ann McPartland in Belfast, is also included in the CD booklet. It has been transcribed at the Dutch site Gaelforce.
As noted in the post on the lyrics to this song, Paddy Tunney may also have recorded this. However, I have been unable to track down a copy, which may be known under this title or as “My Young Love Said To Me”.
Note: I discovered the existence of this song via this Mudcat thread. Mudcat is a discussion site dedicated to traditional music; the discussions often range far and wide but nuggets of valuable information are frequently to be found on the site.
John Martyn, “She Moved Through the Fair” (1967).
A bonus track (from the original studio sessions) available on the rerelease of Martyn’s first album, London Conversation. Martyn was very impressed by Davy Graham‘s guitar skills and it may be that he chose to record this song because of Graham’s influence.
Martyn sings the modern lyrics.
The “She Moves Though the Fair” project has got quite large, and I realised that some sort of contents page would be required. So, here it is!
As this is a page rather than a post, there is also a permanent link to it on the right hand border.
Marianne Faithfull “She Moved Through the Fair” (1966, 1990).
Faithfull’s two versions appear on the albums North Country Maid and Blazing Away. The first is a pretty girl-singer version with more than a hint of Davy Graham’s Indian influence in the musical backing; the second is an a capella live version from a woman whose voice has changed beyond all recognition. It’s hard to credit that it is the same person, but both versions are lovely – although I think that the deeper-voiced, unaccompanied version is the more affecting of the two.
In both versions, Faithfull sings variations on Colum’s lyrics (verses 1, 2 and 4), keeping the original poem’s brothers, but it is the father (not the parents) who won’t slight you. In verse two, it is the young love’s progress that is described, not the watcher’s reaction thereto: “And I watched her so swiftly move here and move there”. In the last verse , she dreams that her dead love came in, which is a fairly standard variation, albeit one more associated with earlier recordings such as McCormack’s than with the rock-influenced 1960s. Her use of Moved in the title rather than Moves is also indicative of this (it seems that Anne Briggs changed that d to an s, from the evidence I have).
Some light is shed by Faithfull’s liner notes in Blazing Away. First, she credits Padraic Colum as the author. Then she tells us,
I’ve loved it since I was 16, sung it all through these years with their twists and turns of fate.
She was 16 at the end of 1962. I suspect that Faithfull’s source, whatever it was, would have drawn upon the song as sung by John McCormack.