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Saturday, 2 March 2019

Our Captain Cried All Hands

Alan introduced us to this song at our last Worthing session. Vaughan Williams collected this in the village of Monk's Gate, near Horsham, and then adapted the tune for the hymn To Be A Pilgrim, which many of us will have heard. Here's a short extract from Andrew Gant's book "O Sing Unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music":

But a fascinating detail emerges from comparing the hymn tune, which they called 'Monk's Gate', with the original folk-song. 'Monk's Gate' repeats its first line, like many hymn tunes. But in the original song it is the second line, not the first, which is repeated - more irregular, but more fun. Vaughan Williams has smoothed it out. He was perfectly unapologetic about this sort of thing: folk-song was a living, oral tradition, and tunes changed between versions, or 'variants', as he called them, from one village to the next. His version is just one more 'variant'.


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