She Moves Through the Fair: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People

August 9, 2011 at 9:08 am (Books, Folk, She Moves Through the Fair) (, )

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.

A preview of Sam Henry’s Songs of the People is available on Google Books.

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.

Our Wedding Day [H534: 24 February 1934]

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.

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She Moves Through the Fair: Áine Ui Cheallaigh

August 7, 2011 at 10:05 am (Folk, She Moves Through the Fair) (, )″

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.

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She Moves Through the Fair: Lyrics to “Out of the Window”

August 7, 2011 at 10:03 am (Folk, Lyrics, Music) (, )

My young love said to me, my mother won’t mind
And my father won’t slight you for your lack of kind,
She stepped away from me and this she did say:
It will not be long love until our wedding day.

She stepped away from me and she moved through the fair
Where hand-clapping dealers’ loud shout rent the air,
The sunlight about her it did sparkle and play:
And it will not be long love until our wedding day.

When dew fills the meadows and moths fill the night
When glow of the ashes on earth throws half light
I’ll slip from the casement and we will run away:
And then it will not be long love until our wedding day.

According to promise at midnight I rose
But all that I found were down-folded clothes,
The sheets they lay empty, it was plain for to see
That out of the window with another went she.

If I were an eagle and had wings to fly
I would then to my love’s castle and it’s there I would lie
On a bed of green ivy I would lay myself down –
And it’s with my two fond wings I would my love surround.

Transcribed from the CD booklet from Áine Ui Cheallaigh’s album Idir Dha Chomhairle (In Two Minds). Any mistakes in the transcription are mine.

The CD booklet also contains the following notes:

In Sam Henry’s Songs of the People two similar songs are listed, ‘Our wedding day’ and ‘Out of the window’ the latter probably being the text which Padraic Colum reworked to form his popular ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. The version which Áine sings here is from the singing of Paddy Tunney and, with the exception of the last ‘floating verse’, it appears in The Stone Fiddle under the title ‘My Young Love Said To Me’. This surely is an example of a song where simplicity is strength.

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She Moves Through the Fair: John Martyn

August 5, 2011 at 2:52 pm (Folk, She Moves Through the Fair) ()″

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.

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August 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm (Housekeeping, She Moves Through the Fair)

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!

She Moves Through the Fair: Home Page and Contents

As this is a page rather than a post, there is also a permanent link to it on the right hand border.

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She Moves Though The Fair: Marianne Faithfull

May 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm (Folk, Music, Rock, She Moves Through the Fair) ()″





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.

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She Moves Through the Fair: Trees

May 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm (Folk, Music, Rock, She Moves Through the Fair) (, )″

Trees, “She Moves Through The Fair” (1970).

This, another folk-rock version, is roughly contemporaneous with Fairport‘s version. However, the arrangement is distinctly different; there is a lot of acoustic guitar, a few drums quite a long way back in the mix, and this version is nearly twice as long as Fairport’s.

Tress make use of Colum’s lyrics, with many of the noted variations in place, including Mother/Father, hands being laid on and young loves visiting in the night (not as dreams).  Although the song retains its title, “She moves…” Celia Humphris actually sings he. In verse two, she sings, “so sadly I watched him” (this is more often the original fondly), and verse 3 is omitted, replaced with an instrumental break.

I originally bought this album because I was interested in the original version of the title track, “The Garden of Jane Delawney” – ably covered by All About Eve on a B-side – and was delighted to find “She Moves Through the Fair” here as well. In fact, I am fond of the whole album, as well as its follow-up, On the Shore.

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She Moves Though the Fair: Fairport Convention

May 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm (Folk, Music, Rock, She Moves Through the Fair) (, , , )″

Fairport Convention, “She Moves Through the Fair” (1969).

This is quite possibly the best known version of the song.  Fairport Convention – folk-rock pioneers – are widely credited with extricating the song from the folk ghetto. Their arrangement puts rock instruments: guitars and drums – to the fore. Sandy Denny, the vocalist, learnt the song from Anne Briggs‘ version and had also recorded it solo. Denny’s solo version (a home recording) is currently available on the box set A Boxful of Treasures.

Denny’s solo demo is also available on Youtube:

Denny sings the most popular 3 verses of Colum’s version, with many of the noted variations from the original. Her clear, pure vocals are supported by the music.

Fairport continue to record the song live at their annual Cropredy Convention, usually with guest singers.

Richard Thompson, a founder member of Fairport (and the guitarist whose work is heard behind Denny in the full band version streamable at the top of this page) who has since left for a successful solo career, has also been known to sing the song live. To my knowledge, he has not made a formal recording, but this rather lovely version is available on Youtube:

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She Moves Through the Fair: Hazel O’Connor

April 29, 2011 at 8:16 am (Music, Rock, She Moves Through the Fair) ()″

This comes from O’Connor’s 1995 album, Private Wars, which was only released in Germany. The album  is apparently quite difficult to get hold of now, but fortunately the song also features on the 2003 anthology, A Singular Collection (less fortunately, A Singular Collection is also out of print and seems to have risen in price since I acquired my copy).

Hazel O’Connor is an actress, a singer, a musician and a songwriter. She first came to prominence in the 1980 film “Breaking Glass”, which she starred in and also wrote and performed all the music for. Although labelled with a ‘post-punk’ tag, she has recorded music in a variety of styles. The album Private Wars is often described as being a return to her Irish roots (she was born in Coventry, England, but her father was from Galway, Ireland).

Her version of “She Moves Through the Fair” is an unusually muscular one. It features drums quite heavily, but also fiddles and, I think, tin whistles; all traditional instruments, but there is a ‘rock’ feel to the energy with which they are played. O’Connor’s voice is strong and high in the mix. This is no airy fairy atmospheric evocation of Olde Ireland!

O’Connor sings all four verses of the modern version. She is quite close to Colum’s original words, for all that she sings “mother/father” and “dead love”.

In addition to the noted variations, O’Connor also sings “move here and move there” (as opposed to “go”) in verse 2. In verse 3, she sings “And I watched as she went with her goods and her gear”. Verse 4 runs:

I dreamt it last night that my dead love came in
So softly she moved that her feet made no din
She came close beside me and this she did say
“It will not be long love ’til our wedding day”

O’Connor then repeats the last line and we are left with a lengthy instrumental playout.

All in all, this is a wonderfully entertaining version. It isn’t played as an atmospheric ballad like may of the other versions; it isn’t trying to be overtly traditional, nor does it have a classical leaning. It stands in a class of its own.

I’m very fond of this version; I would never have discovered it if I hadn’t started this project.

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She Moves Through the Fair: Odetta

April 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm (Folk, Music, She Moves Through the Fair) ()″

Odetta, “She Moved Though the Fair” (1963). Youtube.

Odetta Holmes (1930-2008) was a classically trained singer who became a key figure in the American Folk Revival of the 1950s and 60s. She brings a welcome outside perspective to the song, infusing it with American blues-folk. Her classical training tells in the way that she sustains the long, slow notes. It’s very much a vocal-led interpretation, with an acoustic guitar in the background.

Odetta sings a fairly standard variant on Colum’s lyrics, albeit with a gender change (the brothers are absent, hands get laid on but her own love is both like and as the swan). She sings verses 1, 2 and 4, and starts by calling him My own love in the first verse, but he is My young love when he comes in in the last verse (no dreaming, and no ghosts).

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