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Origins: Pretty Saro

DigiTrad:
AT THE FOOT OF YONDER MOUNTAIN
PRETTY SARAH (5)
PRETTY SARO
PRETTY SARO (4)
PRETTY SARO 2
PRETTY SARO 3


Related thread:
Lyr Req: Pretty Saro (Doc Watson) (2)


The Sandman 29 Apr 21 - 02:29 AM
GUEST,AFSC (Gail Needleman) 28 Apr 21 - 07:10 PM
Jack Campin 22 Aug 20 - 05:27 AM
leeneia 21 Aug 20 - 08:17 PM
Mrrzy 21 Aug 20 - 02:00 PM
Jack Campin 21 Aug 20 - 11:49 AM
Mrrzy 21 Aug 20 - 10:38 AM
leeneia 21 Aug 20 - 10:11 AM
leeneia 20 Aug 20 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,Ocarina Owl 20 Aug 20 - 08:26 AM
GUEST 12 Aug 20 - 04:36 PM
Jack Campin 12 Aug 20 - 01:46 PM
Noreen 12 Aug 20 - 07:10 AM
Noreen 12 Aug 20 - 07:09 AM
GUEST 11 Aug 20 - 06:32 PM
GUEST,Tannywheeler 17 May 10 - 10:40 PM
GUEST 23 Feb 10 - 02:49 AM
GUEST,here's hoping 21 Feb 09 - 03:51 PM
John Minear 28 Feb 05 - 06:20 AM
Leadfingers 27 Feb 05 - 09:10 PM
Leadfingers 27 Feb 05 - 09:09 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 27 Feb 05 - 07:24 PM
John Minear 27 Feb 05 - 07:48 AM
John Minear 27 Feb 05 - 07:31 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Sep 03 - 02:16 PM
BanjoRay 03 Sep 03 - 03:31 AM
toadfrog 02 Sep 03 - 11:33 PM
GUEST 28 Jun 03 - 02:14 PM
GUEST,Q 28 Jun 03 - 01:45 PM
Stephen R. 31 Mar 03 - 05:55 PM
Desert Dancer 31 Mar 03 - 12:07 PM
Allan C. 30 Mar 03 - 10:32 PM
Stephen R. 30 Mar 03 - 07:09 PM
Richie 03 Dec 02 - 12:37 PM
John Minear 02 Dec 02 - 01:30 PM
michaelr 02 Dec 02 - 12:01 AM
Richie 01 Dec 02 - 11:43 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 01 Dec 02 - 06:27 PM
John Minear 01 Dec 02 - 07:41 AM
michaelr 30 Nov 02 - 01:57 PM
Richie 28 Nov 02 - 10:13 PM
John Minear 28 Nov 02 - 09:44 PM
michaelr 28 Nov 02 - 12:36 AM
harpgirl 26 Nov 02 - 08:11 PM
Art Thieme 30 Aug 02 - 11:47 PM
Art Thieme 30 Aug 02 - 05:42 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 29 Aug 02 - 03:25 PM
John Minear 29 Aug 02 - 08:16 AM
Art Thieme 29 Aug 02 - 12:26 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 02 - 10:31 PM
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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Apr 21 - 02:29 AM

GUEST AFC , that is the reason the 5 string banjo using double c or dgcd tuning where melody and drones are used is appropriate, the same idea as dadgad guitar o orkney guitar tuning dgdgcd


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: GUEST,AFSC (Gail Needleman)
Date: 28 Apr 21 - 07:10 PM

Just wanted to follow up regarding the so/sol pentatonic tone set: it is not that rare in American folk song. We have 21 songs using that scale on our American Folk Song Collection website (http://kodaly.hnu.edu) and more in the pipeline.
Pentatonic tunes in general don't necessarily lend themselves to standard tonic/dominant harmonizations, but like modal tunes, they have their own underlying structures that make harmonization possible, though these may well be more intuitive for a group of singers (as Jean notes) than on chord-based instruments.
Sol-based tunes (mixolydian family) often imply what might be called the "subdominant as dominant," that is, a basic I - IV pattern, going all the way back to Mode 8 of the medieval system ("Hypomixolydian") which has the fourth scale degree as the "dominant" or reciting tone.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Aug 20 - 05:27 AM

"Mixo-" in ancient Greek means English "mixed".

I don't think anybody knows why the Greek theorists labelled their highest mode as "half Lydian". The mediaeval meaning was different anyway.

As I used it, the word was in the scheme for representing gapped modes I got from Campbell and Collinson (though they didn't invent it). The implication for the tune leeneia referred to is that despite being notated with tonal centre F and a key signature of two flats, there's no major third (the A might as well be flat) and no mixolydian seventh (the E might as well be natural), which together makes it unharmonizable in any conventional triadic chord pattern - I and V are both incomplete. There is an English morris dance tune with the same structure, but other than that the nearest parallel song I could find was from Mongolia. Kodaly seems to imply there are other examples from the Uralic-speaking peoples of the Volga but doesn't actually quote one in anything I've read.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: leeneia
Date: 21 Aug 20 - 08:17 PM

I do wonder if there was a place in the ancient world called Mixolydia.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: Mrrzy
Date: 21 Aug 20 - 02:00 PM

Sounds like a rabbit disease crossed with a harecordion.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Aug 20 - 11:49 AM

The tune is very much stranger than leeneia says. It isn't mixolydian - the third and seventh are both gapped out. Major/mixolydian/dorian pentatonic, which is fantastically rare in tunes from western Europe.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: Mrrzy
Date: 21 Aug 20 - 10:38 AM

Meanwhile, any relation to Saro Jane, about whom there's nothing to do but to sit down and sing?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: leeneia
Date: 21 Aug 20 - 10:11 AM

I was waiting for someone else to post, but nobody has, so here I am again. I have two points to make about this song.

1. If you don't watch out, the narrator begins to sound creepy. I'm not going to write a whole essay on this, but when the verses go on and on, and he starts singing about how she wanted a man with land instead of him, it gets neurotic. It begins to change from a song about a man in love to a song about a man with an obsession. Don't let it.

2. The third tune that I just described is that rare thing, a purely modal tune. It is Mixolydian, using the fifth, rather than the tonic as its home tone. It's in the key of B-flat, but it begins on F, ends on F and has a prominent (both high and long) F in the middle. There's a G which is higher, but it's only an eighth note in a pick-up, so it doesn't count.

When I encounter a "modal" tune nowadays, it tends to start modal and then end on the tonic, to make a hybrid.

I don't know why abcnotation gives a version that is so high, but it's nice for recorder and flute - and perhaps for Vienna choirboy.
If you transpose it to a new key, it will still be Mixolydian modal.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: leeneia
Date: 20 Aug 20 - 11:10 AM

Thanks, Ocarina Owl. I listened to your video, and I like it. My favorite part is the ocarina. I didn't know it could be so lyrical.
==============
abcnotation.com has four tunes for Pretty Saro, and of them all I like the third one best. It is what Ocarina Owl is playing. For whatever reason, it is in the key of B-flat, with the highest note being the G above the staff. Too high for the average singer, I think.

I believe I'll add it to my soprano recorder book.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: GUEST,Ocarina Owl
Date: 20 Aug 20 - 08:26 AM

Hey everyone,

I loved reading up on the history of Pretty Saro. It's such a beautiful tune. Really brings comfort in my life right now. Here is a cover I made on voice, ocarina and piano. I hope you enjoy!

Pretty Saro


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Aug 20 - 04:36 PM

Sorry, I saw an earlier post about it being from County Wicklow and mixed the two up. Nonetheless, I don't think Pretty Saro is all that old (comparatively), and I can't find evidence of a version collected in England or even Ireland that is clearly the same song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Aug 20 - 01:46 PM

What about the tune? It's modally very unusual - dorian/mixolydian/ionian pentatonic ("sol-pentatonic" in Kodaly's terminology), with both the third and seventh missing - maybe the only Anglo-American song like that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: Noreen
Date: 12 Aug 20 - 07:10 AM

Strangely, I was thinking of singing Bunclody at the Mudcat Zoom Sing on Monday. Maybe I'll sing it next week.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: Noreen
Date: 12 Aug 20 - 07:09 AM

Why County Wicklow, GUEST? Bunclody is in County Wexford.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Aug 20 - 06:32 PM

On the off chance anyone responds, why do you think that the year 1849 is inaccurate? it was a peak year of Irish immigration, and the only evidence that it was 1749 is from song collector's anecdotes and theorizing. Those song collectors, English and American, held the anti-catholic sentiment of the time and so making it 1749 would imply that the song is English or "scots" (protestant) Irish. They would also have liked for their song to be "old" by their standards. Also, you can find the word "freeholder" on contemporary legal documents in Ireland. I think it's a famine-era ballad related to the older "Bunclody" from County Wicklow. Here is a link to an article about County Wicklow during the famine:

https://www.independent.ie/regionals/braypeople/news/wicklows-suffering-during-famine-times-37953727.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: GUEST,Tannywheeler
Date: 17 May 10 - 10:40 PM

Sorry, T.O.M. Been gone a while. You've been given good info about Elizabeth (& Anne) formerly-Lomax. Elizabeth has always been warm & kind & very smart. Had quite a writing career, I think. This song goes back to before my 4th b'day, so I don't know where my mother(Hally) got her version, but the one I remember I've always associated with Jean Ritchie. Another warm, sweet lady. Never doubt what she says. Even IF she considered making stuff up(lying) George, the great & good, wouldn't let her. Tw


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Subject: RE: Origins: Pretty Saro
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 02:49 AM

Mike Lydiat

Lesley - I noticed your comment about ownership of the Contemplator Carolan site and bemoaning the fact that you cannot find good arrangements with harmonies etc. I spent 2 years on my Carolan Project doing just that work - many / most of the single top line melodies I got (with thanks) from your site. I now have full arrangements of all 213 Carolan tunes for guitar in various open tunings on my own web site:
http://www.docsworkshop.co.uk

Take a look and see if they fill the gap.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,here's hoping
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 03:51 PM

Does anyone know where "Pretty Saro" first came from, and what year it was orginally made?


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 06:20 AM

Jean, thanks so much for your reflections and answers. I guess we can assume that in fact it was you who introduced the "Ritchie version" of "Pretty Saro" into the folk revival. It certainly is a beautiful tune. I tried again last night to see if I could sound out the tune that Sharp collected from Lizzie Gibson from Crozet, VA, which is just a few miles from where I live. It is a beautiful tune as well and quite complicated, at least for me, and it is not the same as yours, in my judgement. I wonder if it was this tune that Elizabeth and Hally sang? Thanks again for your help, Jean.

Does anybody else know about Gladys Jamison, or Berea in the 1920s, and where she might have found this particular version. I've not come across it in any of the other early collections from Kentucky that I know about.

Also, did Guy Carawan pick up his version from Jean and add a few verses from Sharp's collection, or did he learn it somewhere else?
Thanks. T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Feb 05 - 09:10 PM

And this is 100 !!


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Feb 05 - 09:09 PM

I see this thread started in 1999 so this is post 99


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 27 Feb 05 - 07:24 PM

T.O.M., in our family (ten girls and three boys grew up, out of 14), we never sang "Saro" without harmony- just made-up, natural harmonies. It's gorgeous, to use a modern adjective! It's one of those tunes calls for harmony, and almost everything one sings sounds great. I used to sing what we called a "low tenor,"...made a lovely bottom for the song.

To answer some other questions: Elizabeth Harold was Alan Lomax's wife, mother of their daughter Anne Charitakis, now Anne Wood (this 2nd husband no relation to Hally). Alan and Elizabeth were divorced in the early 1940s, I'd guess.The version which Elizabeth and Hally sang was not the Ritchie version.

Our tune seems very simple, but has a quality that captures and holds the heart (sounds silly but I can't express it any other way). At a Kodaly music-teachers' convention where I recently sang, one of the leaders called it, "the perfect melody." what he meant I do not know, but he wept when it was sung.

My older sisters who went to Berea College in Kentucky, Edna, Patty, Kitty, Mallie, were all in the Glee Club for years, led by Gladys Jamison. She collected traditional songs of the region, in a personal way- did not publish nor do scholarly studies. I think she was the one who brought "our" version of, "Pretty Saro" to the Glee Club, and from there the girls began singing it at home. This would be about 1925-26, with Kitty and Patty who were older and were at Berea first. And I was born at the end of 1922, so you see have known this song ALL my singing life. I guess that's why people think of it as a Ritchie song. I wish Miss Jamison had shared more on her song sources, but she never did, as I know.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 27 Feb 05 - 07:48 AM

I meant to add that the latest version I know of Jean Ritchie's "Pretty Saro" is that by Elizbeth LaPrelle on her recent CD, RAIN AND SNOW (Old 97 wrecords #004), with a very nice fiddle drone in the background. Also, one of the finest versions of Jean's "Pretty Saro" that I know of was done by my friends Dick Harrington and Victoria Young on their album LOVER'S RETURN (Fiddletop Productions). The tune is the Ritchie tune but Vickie's harmony takes it a whole nother place. T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 27 Feb 05 - 07:31 AM

The first time that I ever heard "Pretty Saro" was back in 1961, at the Highlander Folk School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Guy Carawan was the musician in residence at Highlander then. His singing each weekend there was what really introduced me to folk music. I loved it. And I especially loved his "Pretty Saro". He went on to record it on his Folkways Alblum GUY CARAWAN SINGS SOMETHING OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE (FG 3548 - still available), his GREEN ROCKY ROAD album (June Appal 021), and reissued on his wonderful CD, SPARKLES AND SHINES (Ponder Productions).

    Later, I found a shorter version of "Pretty Saro" in the REPRINTS FROM SING OUT!, Vol. 5, p.25, where the headnote says:

    "Here is Pretty Saro, pretty much in the version popularized by Jean Ritchie. Jean says that her sister Edna brought it home to Viper Kentucky, some 30 years ago, after having learned it from someone in Berea Kentucky."

    I don't know when "Pretty Saro" was orginally published in SING OUT! The Reprints was published in 1963, so Jean's reference had to go back thirty years prior to that and would be somewhere back before 1933. This version of "Pretty Saro" is what is printed in Jean's Dulcimer book and in her FOLK SONGS OF THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS (2nd ed.) It is also the version printed in Pete Seeger's THE BELLS OF RHYMNEY song book (1964).

    Alan Lomax, in his headnote to Guy Carawan's version on his Folkways album says, "This version from Sharp's ENGLISH FOLK SONGS OF THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, VOL. II, page 12, was popularized among city singers frist by Elizabeth Harold and Hally Wood." The version printed by Sharp on page 12 of EFS is the one by Lizzie Gibson of Crozet, Virginia, April 26, 1918. The Gibson version is also the version that Lomax publishes, with some additional verses from somewhere, in his PENGUIN BOOK OF AMERICAN FOLK SONGS. However, I can't see that the Lizzie Gibson/Sharp version has much to do with either Guy's version or Jean's version in terms of the tune or the text.

    What intrigues me is the tune of the "Ritchie version". I didn't hear the Madison County, NC, version from Mary Sands (by way of Cas & Doug Wallin, Sheila Adams, Iris Dement, Jim Taylor, et. al.)until just a few years ago. It may be older. I don't know. It is longer and the tune is significantly different from what I'm calling the "Ritchie version". But I've always thought that the Ritchie version tune is unique. It has its own integrity as a tune. I can't talk about it in technical musical terms, but it sounds old. I've never heard anything else like it. Where did it come from?

    That's my question: Where did the tune of the Ritchie version of "Pretty Saro" come from? Jean, I hope you can help us with this. Also, is Lomax right about it being introduced to the folk revival by Elizbeth Harold and Hally Wood? Who is Elizbeth Harold? And do we know any more about Hally Wood's involvement in this? Tannywheeler, do you know about this?   Also, where did Guy Carawan learn his version? Perhaps Frank Hamilton can help us with this question.

    Thanks for whatever help we can get on this. T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Sep 03 - 02:16 PM

Cowie sounds like (?) the Coola Shore mentioned by Malcolm far, far above.
The version with 'on the banks of old Cowie,' from Brown, with the line 'mountain's sad brow'(?) posted by Rich R near the top of this thread, is a fragment that calls for completion, but the rest is probably lost.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: BanjoRay
Date: 03 Sep 03 - 03:31 AM

I don't know about Old Cohee, but the Ocoee river is 20 miles East of Cleveland in Tennessee. I wonder if there's a Said Mount (or Sad Mount?) somewhere near.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: toadfrog
Date: 02 Sep 03 - 11:33 PM

Sheila Kay said the "very best" verse was about
"From the banks of Old Cohee (or 'Cowee'),
To the mount (or 'mound') of said brow . . ."

Because nobody she knew had any idea what those words meant, or if they were the original words. So it has to be the song is very old.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jun 03 - 02:14 PM

John Doyle does a version of Pretty Saro on his CD Evening Comes Early, giing credits to Lomax's North Carolina booklet from 1911, Dorothy Scarborough, and the resemblance to Bunclody. It's very lovely.--Sidney


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 28 Jun 03 - 01:45 PM

Refresh in relation to thread on "Red River Shore." The songs, at least in some versions, are close.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Stephen R.
Date: 31 Mar 03 - 05:55 PM

I expect the connection must be the stanza about If I were a blackbird with a bottle of gin, I'd follow the vessel my love's sailing in, and in the top rigging I'd there build my nest, and I'd fly down the cleavage of her lily-white breast. Well, ok, I don't remember the exact words, but you know what I mean, and a similar stanza shows up in a number of versions of Pretty Saro. Trouble is, it shows up in The Prisoner's Song and a number of others. This is a fine example of floating lyric.

Stephen


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 31 Mar 03 - 12:07 PM

Allan, aside from the sentiment, what relationship do you see?


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Allan C.
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 10:32 PM

This is one of my most favorite of songs. I have fallen in love with virtually every version I have ever heard. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned, If I Were A Blackbird which must certainly be a relative.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Stephen R.
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 07:09 PM

At this point it appears to me that "Pretty Saro" and its doppelgaenger "At the Foot of Yonder Mountain" are mostly derived from "The Streams of Bunclody." The 1749 date suggested above looks good too. I have read, but so far cannot document, that there is a local tradition that "The Streams of Bunclody" was written from America by an immigrant from County Wicklow and sent back to Ireland. If this immigrant or a son or daughter or someone who had the song from him was among the early European settlers of the Appalachians, the American versions could easily have been adapted from the immigrant's song. On the other hand, while songs passed freely from America to Ireland as well as in the reverse direction, I don't think that this included Appalachian songs, and the ones we are here concerned with are definitely Appalachian/Ozark songs, not traditionally known elsewhere. In this case, 1749 could be the date of the immigrant's arrival in America, although the stanza with the date did not go back to Ireland or was dropped there. Of course, there is a lot of floating lyric here, and John Moulden has some excellent observations on the dangers of taking such material as a basis for identifying oral texts as versions of the same song (I don't have the reference handy, see his edition of Sam Henry's songs). What one must look for is distinctive stanzas; otherwise there would be just one song of which "Pretty Saro," "On Top of Old Smokey," "It was in the Month of January," "The Wagoner's Lad," and countless others would be examples. But these do have distincive content and I think the filiation is that "Streams of Bunclody" begat "Pretty Saro."

Stephen


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Richie
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 12:37 PM

Turtle Old Man,

Here's another version from Avery Co. NC collected in 1930.

I'd send it by the waters, and the isle overflow,
And think of Pretty Saro wherever I go.

From Melinger Henry FSSH

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 01:30 PM

Jean, I like the way your version resolves the question of the waters overflowing. It reminds me of Spring runoff and the danger in the mountains of flashfloods -

    "I'd write it by the river where the waters o'erflow..."

And, it is always a fine balance between "making sense", "corruptions", and "its all pretty". I could never say that just because I may not be able to make sense out of something I don't enjoy hearing it or singing it. When you go back over all of the versions that have been posted here, there are many subtle changes and shades of meaning with just this one phrase. For instance, between your version and that posted by Richie, which says,

    "I would send it by the river where the waters overflow."

There is a difference between "writing by the river" and "sending it by the river". And as Michael has pointed out, in Mary Jane Queen's version, the waters "don't overflow". As I tried to read carefully back through this thread, I found this explanation from GUEST Terry McDonald, back on April 29, which is interesting:

"I've interpreted the version I know as fitting in very neatly with the emigrations from Wiltshire and Somerset to Upper Canada in the 1820s and 1830s. Many of these emigrants, whose passage was paid for by the parish were ex soldiers, and their letters home were published at the time in order to encourage other poor people to emigrate.

In 'my' version one of the verses is

'I wished I was a poet and could write a fine hand
I'd write my love a letter, so she'd understand
I'd send it by the islands, where the waters overflow,
And I'd think on Pretty Saro, wherever I go.'

Letters out of Upper Canada (like the emigrants who came in) would have been carried thought the St lawrence and through its rapids and the many islands between Quebec, Montreal and Kingston"

Terry, if you are still in touch, do you have specifically Canadian versions of this song? Can you say more?

But even here, it it is the waters rather than the islands that are overflowing. I'm still curious about islands overflowing. Even when a line gets changed, it then gets repeated over and over. I wonder what kind of images come to mind when you hear about "islands overflowing".


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: michaelr
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 12:01 AM

kytrad, just curious -- do you know Mary Jane Queen? I keep watching this video, and she is just awe-inspiring.

Regards,
Michael


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Subject: Lyr Add: PRETTY SARO (from Bluegrass Messengers)
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 11:43 PM

For the last verse I sing:

"I would send it by the river where the water's overflow,
And I'll dream of Pretty Saro, where ever I go," on our last CD.
You can listen to it here:
http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/songlist.html Click on Pretty Saro; I got the lyrics from my grandfather's collection. Doesn't sound much like bluegrass though.


PRETTY SARO
Bluegrass Messengers from "Farther Along"

(Guitar)

Down in some lonesome valley, in such a lone place,
Where the wild birds do whistle, their notes to increase;
Farewell Pretty Saro I bid you adieu,
And I'll dream of Pretty Saro, where ever I go.

I came to this country in eighteen forty-nine,
I saw so many lovers, but I never saw mine;
I looked all around me, and I saw I was alone,
And me a poor stranger, a long way from home.

(Fiddle Solo)

My love she won't have me, so I, I understand,
She wants a freeholder who owns house and land,
I can not maintain her with silver and gold,
Or buy all fine things a big house can hold.

I wish I were a poet and could write some fine hand,
I would write her a letter that she'd understand;
I would send it by the river where the water's overflow,
And I'll dream of Pretty Saro, where ever I go.

(Guitar)

Farewell Pretty Saro I bid you adieu,
And I'll dream of Pretty Saro, where ever I go.

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 06:27 PM

...I'd write my love a letter that she'd understand;
   I'd write it by the river where the waters o'erflow...Ritchie vsn.

The differences here may be just a matter of natural changes over the years- someone filling in a gap when he/she cannot remember just how the words lay, or something like that. A "corruption" in the wording, the scholars describe it. But who knows what the "original" poem said? And it's all pretty...


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 07:41 AM

Right you are Michael! I got "waters" and "overflow" and skipped a beat. Neither version makes much sense to me and I've not heard any good explanations of "islands overflowing". I wish we had a source on Mary Jane Queen's version. I would suspect that her's, along with the Madison County, NC versions are all variations of a common source.
Best, T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: michaelr
Date: 30 Nov 02 - 01:57 PM

T.O.M. -- all the versions you posted say "I'd send it by the waters where the islands overflow" which is slightly but noticeably different from "I'd send it by the waters that don't overflow".

As to the provenence of the song, would it be fair to say that while it is related to "Bunclody" et al, "Pretty Saro" in the versions we've seen, is an American song?

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Richie
Date: 28 Nov 02 - 10:13 PM

We do a version with the same lyric here:http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/songlist.html
click on - Pretty Saro.

Another good version is by John Dolye on his last solo CD.

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 28 Nov 02 - 09:44 PM

Michael,

Check my several postings for August 14 above. You will find the phrase that you mention about "sending it by the waters that don't overflow" in the following versions by:

1. Sheila Kay Adams, who learned it from
2. Cas Wallin, and
3. Doug Wallin, who both traced their versions back to
4. Mary Sands, whose version was collected by Cecil Sharp.

Mary Jane Queen is still a powerful ballad singer, and a good friend of Sheila Kay Adams. I don't know the source of Mary Jane's version. It is on her CD "Songs I Like", but she doesn't give any information on her source.

Turtle Old Man


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: michaelr
Date: 28 Nov 02 - 12:36 AM

Thanks, harpgirl, for refreshing this thread, as it reminded me to pull out a video tape a friend shot in `99 and sent to me. It shows (among a bunch of other great mountain music) Mrs. Mary Jane Queen of Cullowhee, N.C., singing "Pretty Saro".

Mrs. Queen, who is approaching 90, is the matriarch of a large musical family, and is one of the last living recipients of the oral song tradition in the Southern Appalachians. She and her grandson, Henry Queen, are named in the credits of the "Songcatcher" film.

Tonight I put on that tape and, for comparison's sake, wrote down her rendition of "Pretty Saro". Turns out it's very close to the first text Rich R posted from the Frank C. Brown collection, except she omits verses 2, 5 and 8.

The one difference that stands out is that in verse 3, line 3, Mrs Queen sings "I'd send it by the waters that don't overflow". I haven't seen that phrase in any of the versions posted.

I get chills hearing her sing.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: Lyr Add: PRETTY SARO (Mississippi)
From: harpgirl
Date: 26 Nov 02 - 08:11 PM

Here is a variant collected by AP Hudson in Mississippi: It was secured by Mr. George Swetnam from the singing of his mother, Mrs. F.S. Swetnam, Vaiden. Compare Campbell and Sharp, No 76.

I came to this country in eighteen and forty nine;
I saw many true lovers, but I never saw mine.
I looked all around me and saw I was alone,
And I a poor soldier, and a long way from home.


Farewell to my father likewise mother too;
I'm going to travel the wilderness through.
And when I get tired I'll sit down and weep,
And think of my pretty Saro, my darling and sweet.

"Tis not the long journey I am dreading to go,
The country I'm leaving, nor the debts that I owe:
There's one thing that grieves me and bears on my mind:
It is leaving pretty Saro, by darling, behind.

Pretty Saro, pretty Saro, I must now let you know:
How truly I love you I never can show.
I wish I was a poet, could write some find hand;
I would write my love a letter, that she might understand.
I would send it by the waters, as the Ireland doth flow,
And think of pretty Saro, my darling and sweet.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 30 Aug 02 - 11:47 PM

I just saw that other "Red River Shore" thread from 1999. It seems I posted this over there back then. I don't even remember participating in that thread. Sorry for being so redundant.

ALSO: The name of the town where Mrs. Minta Morgan, a source for this song, lived was NOT Balls, Texas as I posted here. It should read BELLS, Texas ---- although I kind of like it the new way. Somehow seems to fit. ;-)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 30 Aug 02 - 05:42 PM

Dicho,

Thanks! The version I did was from Lomax' 1910 book I thought. Going through my copy of that book now I can't find it there at all. I DO remember Alan Loimax singing the song----that's how I got the tune.-------------------Anyhow, the notes I wrote for the LP say My version is close to the version printed in 1910 by John Lomax---as sung for him by Mrs. Minta Morgan of Balls, Texas (Cowboy Songs--New York). Alan Lomax also printed the song in his Folksongs Of North America, (Doubleday-1960). When Alan Lomax did it he sang "bronco" where I sing "broomtail". I changed it to broomtail when a woman from Winfield, Kansas told me that 'broomtail' was the way they had sung it as kids. She ought to know; Winfield stands right a-straddle of the old Chisholm Trail.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 03:25 PM

Art, Thanks for your version of Red River Shore. Max Hunter has two versions, collected in Arkansas. The one listed as 0223, sung by Lucy Quigley, is my preference of the two, because the cowboy used his Winchester to kill five and wound seven. A pistol or saber would hardly be up to the job! The broomtail in your version makes it more western and cowboy, however. Red River Shore .
According to the notes, it is related to White River Shore (In Max Hunter), New River Shore (in Brown) and to The Valiant Soldier in Randolph (from the old country).
Lomax put it in his Cowboy Songs (1938 and later eds.), in ten verses- rode a bronco here (only six verses in FSNA).


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 08:16 AM

Art, check my postings above for August 14 for the lineage of Iris Dement's version. She learned it from Sheila Kay Adams, who is one of the Sodom Laurel ballad singers and was the voice and dialect coach for Songcatcher. Sheila learned it from Cas and Doug Wallin and they learned it from Mary Sands, from whom it was collected by Ceceil Sharp. - Turtle


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE RED RIVER SHORE (from Alan Lomax)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 12:26 AM

Just two things:

First: Andrew Calhoun is looking for the version of "Pretty Saro" that contains the line:

And I'd watch them little windows 'til the dawning of day.

I know it was sung by Iris Dement in Songcatcher---but what traditional (N. Carolina maybe?) source did it come from?

Second: Here is a song I recorded on my second LP for Sandy Paton at Folk Legacy---On The Wilderness Road. It came from Alan Lomax's singing and from his book Folksongs Of North America. The verse with "Hard is the fortune of all womankind..." shows up in this cowboy version of the ballad "Earl Brand" (Child #7)

THE RED RIVER SHORE

At the foot of yonders mountain where the fountain does flow,
There's a fond creation where the soft winds do blow,
There lived a fair maiden, she's the one I adore,
She's the one I will marry on the Red River shore.

I asked her old father would he give her to me,
"No, sir, she won't marry no cowboy," said he,
So I jumped on my broomtail and away I did ride,
Leaving my true love on the Red River side.

She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind,
And in this letter these words you will find,
"Come back to me darlin', you're the one I adore,
You're the one I will marry on the Red River shore.

Well, I jumped on my broomtail and away I did ride,
To marry my true love on the Red River side,
But her dad learned our secret and with twenty and four,
Came to fight this young cowboy on the Red River shore.

I drew my pistol, spun 'round and around,
Six men were wounded and seven were down,
No use for an army of twenty and four,
I'm bound for my true love on the Red River shore.

Hard is the fortune of all womankind,
Always controlled and always confined,
Controlled by their parents until they be wives,
Then a slave to their husbands for the rest of their lives.

At the foot of yonder mountain...(repeat first verse)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 10:31 PM

Bodleian broadsides are often difficult to read and copy unless size and contrast are optimized by Adobe, or eq. so that they may be transcribed into clear, printed text. This cannot be done as easily with links as it is to go to the website and lift the images directly. I think you will find that many who are interested in these songs will throw up their hands at links that are difficult to read, and that others wish to have side by side comparisons with versions that they may have. In my view, the more texts the better.
It is important to find the material (the first, most difficult and important step in any search), but it is also necessary to get it into useful and readable form.


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