Mudcat Café message #3240442 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #87026   Message #3240442
Posted By: Mick Pearce (MCP)
17-Oct-11 - 04:53 PM
Thread Name: Barbara Allen earliest version?
Subject: RE: Barbara Allen earliest version?
Simpson in his introduction to The British Broadside Ballad and its Music says (xi) "And the onset of the eighteenth century saw the gradual disappearance of the tune direction from ballads old and new, depriving us of the links between printed ballad and singing traditions".. He then adds in a footnote to this: "Among other casualties, we must regret the absence of tune directions from versions of such familiar traditional ballads as "Barbara Allen" and "Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor" which appeared in print during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Lacking such information we cannot determine the continuity, if any, between tunes used then and now".

Chappell in PMOT gives the tune "from tradition".

Kidson in Traditional Tunes has the following to say in his notes to the song: There are two different tunes to Barbara Allen commonly printed, the best known first appearing in Chappell's National English Airs, 1838, and the other being found in Scottish song collections. The earliest copy of this I have seen is in Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book II, circa 1750, and after this period in a samll collection of Macgibbon's. It is also in Johnson's Musical Museum, and in later works"..

There is a copy at of Caledonian Pocket Companion, containing fifty of the most favourite Scotch tunes several of them with variations, all set for the German flute, dated 1747. (This is vol2 containing Barbara Allan on p27 (page 37 of djvu/pdf)).

If Kidson is correct, this may be as early a tune as you can get.