Heures de Charles VIII | Marie enfant - Maître de Jacques de Besançon
Llibre d'hores de Carles VIII. Nativitat - J. de Bensançon

Last week we listened to I wonder as I wander, a traditional song arranged by Benjamin Britten around 1940, and I told you that he didn't publish or record it. I also told you that I would explain why this week, and here it is. The song couldn't be "made official" because it has been composed by John Jacob Niles in 1933, based, however, on a traditional song. Therefore, it wasn't a work in the public domain, as Britten thought.

Niles was one of the most influential people in the revival of folk music in the United States during the second half of the 20th century. Before World War I he was already collecting songs, taking advantage of his job as a travelling salesman; after the war, he completed his musical training and eventually became known as a singer. He first heard I wonder as I wander in Murphy, a town in North Carolina, in July 1933, sung by a girl named Anne Morgan. In fact, Anne sang only a few verses; after making her repeat the piece eight times to catch it complete, he was able to jot down in his notebook "only three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material--and a magnificent idea." He wrote the song from those notes, published it the next year in Songs of the Hill-Folk. Twelve ballads from Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina, and popularized it himself with his performances.

On the cover of that publication, the volume 14 of the American Folk-Songs series edited by Schirmer, it reads: "collected and simply arranged with accompaniment for piano by John Jacob Niles"; I don't know if it was specified somewhere inside that at least one of the songs, I wonder as I wander, was composed by Niles. In a later edition, in 1944, the song is listed as "adapted and arranged by John Jacob Niles and Lewis Henry Horton". I wasn't able to find any recordings of this original version for voice and piano, and I thought that I could catch you by surprise taking advantage of the Christmastime and make an exception to share a performance that goes beyond the scope of Liederabend: we're listening to I wonder as I wander sung by Niles in a 1957 recording. He accompanies himself with a dulcimer, a string instrument usual in traditional music in some places in Europe that has a variant in the United States, the Appalachian dulcimer.

Next week we'll end this three-part article with one more version of I wonder as I wander; this time, an orthodox one. For the time being, 2020 reaches its end. It has been such a bad year that, more than ever, I wish you the best for the new year.

, a traditional song arranged by Benjamin Britten around 1940, and I told you that he didn't publish or record it. I also told you that I would explain why this week, and here it is. The song couldn't be "made official" because it has been composed by John Jacob Niles in 1933, based, however, on a traditional song. Therefore, it wasn't a work in the public domain, as Britten thought.

Niles was one of the most influential people in the revival of folk music in the United States during the second half of the 20th century. Before World War I he was already collecting songs, taking advantage of his job as a travelling salesman; after the war, he completed his musical training and eventually became known as a singer. He first heard I wonder as I wander in Murphy, a town in North Carolina, in July 1933, sung by a girl named Anne Morgan. In fact, Anne sang only a few verses; after making her repeat the piece eight times to catch it complete, he was able to jot down in his notebook "only three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material--and a magnificent idea." He wrote the song from those notes, published it the next year in Songs of the Hill-Folk. Twelve ballads from Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina, and popularized it himself with his performances.

On the cover of that publication, the volume 14 of the American Folk-Songs series edited by Schirmer, it reads: "collected and simply arranged with accompaniment for piano by John Jacob Niles"; I don't know if it was specified somewhere inside that at least one of the songs, I wonder as I wander, was composed by Niles. In a later edition, in 1944, the song is listed as "adapted and arranged by John Jacob Niles and Lewis Henry Horton". I wasn't able to find any recordings of this original version for voice and piano, and I thought that I could catch you by surprise taking advantage of the Christmastime and make an exception to share a performance that goes beyond the scope of Liederabend: we're listening to I wonder as I wander sung by Niles in a 1957 recording. He accompanies himself with a dulcimer, a string instrument usual in traditional music in some places in Europe that has a variant in the United States, the Appalachian dulcimer.

Next week we'll end this three-part article with one more version of I wonder as I wander; this time, an orthodox one. For the time being, 2020 reaches its end. It has been such a bad year that, more than ever, I wish you the best for the new year.


 

I wonder as I wander

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus our Saviour did come for to die.
For poor or’n’ry people like you and like I,
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow stall,
With wise men and shepherds and farmers and all.
On high from God’s heaven the star’s light did fall,
And the promise of the ages it did then recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing;
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could’ve had it for he was the King!

 

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