Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Occasional Folk Songs
Rydale Waltz/Anna's Jig

Two tunes of my own composition. Rydale waltz is named after Rydale a valley at the South Western end of the North Yorkshire Moors. The River Rye passes through Helmesley and eventually joins the River Derwent. The Derwent itself rises at the South Eastern end of the North Yorkshire Moors and then flows in a Westerly direction to the south of the Moors  eventually flowing into the Humber. The pictures in the video are of Rievaulx Abbey, a former Cistercian Monastery which is in Rydale. The Cistercian Monks changed the course of the River Rye several times in order to ensure an adequate water supply for various activities carried out by the Monastery.

Anna's Jig is named after my younger daughter and originated in a tune a wrote for a poem about Christmas she wrote for me when she was about 10 or 11. I was taking a music course at the time and had been set the task of setting some words to music. The tune as originally written only had the A and part of the B music so I slightly modified and extended the B music to created two eight bar sections of a conventional jig.

The tunes are played on a Mollenhauer "Dream" tenor recorder. 

Occasional Folk Songs
The Lyke Wake Dirge

The Lyke Wake Dirge relates the journey of the soul after death through a series of trials the outcome of which are dependant on actions in life. The imagery is very much that of medieval Christianity though much of it is thought to be of heathen origin.

In times past, the body of the dead had to be taken to consecrated ground for burial and parishes were much larger in area than they are now so there were recognised routes to the parish church along which coffins were carried to the church. Such routes were often known as "coffin trods". The term "Lyke" means a dead body and survives in "Lych Gate" which is a roofed over gate at the entrance to the church ground. It is here that the coffin would rest until the time came for it to enter the church for the burial service. The opening verse refers to "Fire and fleet and candle light", namely to the essential comforts of hearth and home. The soul then met trials at Whinny Moor where if they had given a gift of shoes and stockings they could avoid being prickled by the whinnies, namely gorse, as the passed across the moor, then to the "Brig o' Dread" where if they had given alms (silver or gold) they could pass over the bridge (Brig = bridge) and finally they came to the flames of hell. If they had given food and drink in life they would not be touched by the flames and would pass to heaven. If they had failed to give alms (at Brig o' Dread) or food and drink, then the sould would burn in hell.

The song is in North Yorkshire dialect and is of considerable age. The earliest known version was collected by a 17th Century antiquarian, John Aubrey in 1686 and he records that it was known at least as far back as 1616 though it is likely much older. It seems the song continued to be sung over dead bodies in the Cleveland Area of North Yorkshire until the early years of the 19th century. More recently the song has become associated with the Lyke Wake Walk, a 40 mile treck across the North Yorkshire Moors from just above Osmotherley to near Ravenscar on the east coast. The words I sing are essentially those on the Lyke Wake Walk website.

There are a number of recordings of the song. Best known are probably those by The Young Tradition, Pentangle and Steeleye Span. Unlike the words, the tune used now is thought to be fairly modern - of late 19th or early 20th century origin.
There are number of references and descriptions of this song on the internet, including different sets of words. There is some useful background material on Wikipedia and on the Yorkshire Garland websites. There are a few Mudcat discussions on the song including here and here.