|The World Turned Upside Down - Liner Notes
Legend has it that as Cornwallis' troops surrendered their arms at Yorktown in 1781, they played a march popularly known as The World Turned Upside Down. The tune was first published in 1643 in the British Isles as When the King Enjoys His Own Again -- a favorite among anti-Cromwell Royalists who were the revolutionaries of their time. The melody soon crossed the Atlantic under several titles, including Derry Down, The Old Women Taught Wisdom and The World Turned Upside Down. Though scholars and historians continue to debate among themselves, no one can now confirm or refute the time-honored reports of the redcoats actually playing the tune at the battlefield ceremony. In any event, to the once-proud army of the mightiest empire in Europe, it certainly must have seemed as if The World Turned Upside Down. This version was taken from Chappell's Popular Music of the Old Times.
Music and dancing, as in most societies, were part of the very fabric of life in England and Northern Europe. Settlers emigrating to the New World naturally brought their pastimes with them. Though much has been written of the influence of the Puritans, dancing in the colonies was never forbidden except perhaps on the Sabbath, though some theologians were notorious for their opposition to any expression of pleasure, no matter how innocent. The fiery sermons of zealots like Cotton Mather, and the terror of the infamous Salem witch trials and other persecutions have perhaps crowded the equally authentic images of village folk dancing and making music from our perception of early American life.
Much spontaneous dancing and merriment took place in homes and taverns, in parlors and out of doors, and on any festive occasion. Many of the settlers' dances were from the well loved book The English Dancing Master by John Playford (1651). These group dances were similar to our modern square and contra dances and were simple to perform. There were in the Boston area a number of "dancing masters" who gave a more professional level of instruction. From the formal gavotte, minuet and bourròe to the circle and squares for eight, dancing was always popular among all classes of people in the colonies. Just as the basic dances were imported from the old world, so were the lively tunes to which they danced.
Books were not always easy to come by in the New World and many colonists wrote out their own collections of tunes, lyrics and dance instructions in journals and commonplace books which are now a rich treasury of historical documentation of life in those times -- and an invaluable source of material for our album.
Love In A Village is named after the highly successful English opera of the same name by Thomas A. Arne and Issac Bikerstaffe (1762), though the melody is actually taken from an English tune known both as New Bath Whim and Trip to Bedford House. Henry Beck included it in his American Manuscript Collection of Tunes, along with instructions: "...four hands across, halfway round and back, first & third couples draw, lead down two couple, cast up one, right and left on top." Love Forever was another popular dance tune of the era. These similarity of these two tunes make them a perfect medley.
The title of the traditional Irish melody The Rights of Man honors Thomas Paine (1734-1809). Paine arrived in America from England in 1774, and wrote the famous pamphlet Common Sense in 1776 while acting as an editor for Pennsylvania Magazine. It became an inspirational call for democracy in the colonies. During the American Revolution he issued a 16 part series entitled The Crises which was distributed to the rebels to boost morale. He is also credited with writing the song The Liberty Tree. His famous work The Rights of Man was a passionate defense of the French Revolution written in England, which led to his indictment for treason, whereupon he fled to France. Ironically, he was there reviled for pleading for mercy on behalf of Louis XVI, and, disillusioned, returned to America where he died in poverty.
William Billings (1746-1800) was trained as a tanner, a trade he gave up to devote his life to music. He became a very respected singer, teacher, composer and conductor who in concert was often heard to exclaim "Great art thou, O music...and with thee there is no competitor..." Billings was a true musical innovator of his day, glorying in his musical independence and lack of formal training. He attributed the inspiration for his compositions to nature, and he was prolific, publishing half a dozen collections of psalm tunes, anthems and canons. When Jesus Wept is a lovely round for four voices from his first book, The New England Psalm Singer (1770), which was engraved by his fellow Bostonian, Paul Revere.
Three more of Billings' choral compositions are arranged here for recorder consort with continuo: Kittery (from Suffolk Harmony, 1786), Morpheus (from Music in Miniature, 1779), and Broad Cove (from The Continental Harmony, 1794), which is also known as Swift As An Indian Arrow Flies.
The Dutchess of Brunswick comes from the Aaron Thompson Manuscript (1777-1782) which was a book of fife tunes also containing melodies, dance steps, songs and diaries.
The Young Widow comes from the Horace Vincent manuscript tune book. The Black Joke was a very popular and extremely vulgar and bawdy street song in England, and was a huge success in the New World as well. It was played as a dance tune as early as 1734 when it appeared in the Henry Carey's burlesque stage piece Chrononhotonthologos. The tune (with varied melody) started appearing in American collections (with dancing instructions) in the 1780s. This version is from Henry Beck's book, dated 1786.
New German Spa came to America from the very popular English book Twenty Four Country Dances for 1788. Soon after it was published, the tune appeared in many American collections. This version is from Joshua Cushing's The Fifers Companion No. 1.
Pretty Little Horses is a lullaby, which, according to tradition, comes from the South and is of African-American origin -- a slave nurse would rock her young master master to sleep singing: "Hush-a-by, don't you cry/Go to sleep little baby./When you wake you'll have cake and/All the pretty little horses./Paint and bay, sorrel and gray,/All the pretty little horses..."
The very popular Fisher's Hornpipe is attributed to James A Fishar, musical director and ballet master at Covent Garden during the 1770s. It first appeared in America in a 1788 collection by John Griffith, and has become a standard in the American fiddle tune repertoire. This version is based on John Greenwood's 1783 German flute manuscript. Patterson's Hornpipe was originally a Scottish reel called The Cairin O'T. This version is from an American manuscript begun by Robert Bolling (1738-1775), whose family, fortunately for posterity, continued his collection.
Sweet Richard is another sprightly country dance performed here in versions from both sides of the Atlantic: first as written down by American Aaron Thompson, and second as it originally appeared in Johnson's Wright's Collection in 1742.
Rights of Conscience was written by the distinguished Shaker Issachar Bates, who served as a fifer boy at the battle of Bunker Hill. Years later, he took the melody of a fife tune called The Presidents March for the Shaker hymn Rights of Conscience in which he expressed his and his pacifist brethren's misgivings about serving in the American - or any - army. The Skakers did fight for freedom from the English crown, but declined all soldiers' pensions offered by the American government and never again served in the military.
A Brief Bibliography
Bolling, Robert, (Ms. tune book started around 1760), UNC Chapel Hill.
Chase, Gilbert, America's Music. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1955.
Keller, Kate Van Winkle & Sweet, Ralph, A Choice Selection of American Country Dances of The Revolutionary Era, The Country Dance Society, New York 1976, (James E. Morrison, ed.).
Lambert, Barbara, ed., Music in Colonial Massachusetts, Vol. 1, The Colonial Society of Massachetts, Boston 1985.
Morrison E. James ed., Twenty Four Early Country Dances, Cotillions & Reels for the Year 1976, The Country Dance Society, New York 1976.
Patterson, Daniel, The Shaker Spiritual, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1979.
Tuchman, Barbara, The First Salute, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1988.
Ward, William, The American Bicentennial Songbook, Vol. 1, Charles Hanson Music & Books. New York 1975.
Return to The World Turned Upside Down.