Sheet Music of the Week: Roses of Picardy

"Roses of Picardy" by Haydn Wood and Fred E. Weatherly, published in London in 1916. Music Division, Library of Congress.

I’m sure there are plenty of In the Muse readers who share my love for the hit series Downton Abbey airing on PBS (am I right?). Every week I tune in to the addictive British period drama and a couple of weeks ago I swooned during that wonderful closing scene where Lady Mary sings “If You Were the Only Girl in the World” at the benefit concert. After humming the tune in my head repeatedly for days after the episode aired, I just had to pull the song from our stacks and play through it on the piano. The song, with music by Nathaniel D. Ayer and words by Clifford Grey, was featured in The Bing Boys Are Here, a musical revue that premiered in London in 1916 and provided the British public with the kind of uplifting entertainment needed during difficult times.

After satisfying my musical craving by playing through the song, I began to wonder what other songs Lady Mary might have performed with Lady Edith at such a benefit concert in England during the Great War? Other hit shows of the World War I period include The Maid of the Mountains (1917), Chu Chin Chow (1916), and Yes, Uncle! (1917). These shows introduced much-loved songs such as “Love Will Find a Way” and “Paradise for Two” from The Maid of the Mountains and “The Cobbler’s Song” and “Any time’s Kissing Time” from Chu Chin Chow. You can browse our holdings for sheet music selections from shows by searching the wonderful It’s Showtime! Sheet Music from Stage and Screen database on the Performing Arts Encyclopedia.

This week’s Sheet Music of the Week features not a selection from one of these musical comedies and revues, but a separate wartime ballad that was published in London in 1916 – “Roses of Picardy” with music by Haydn wood and lyrics by Fred E. Weatherly. “Roses of Picardy” was a favorite of British soldiers, particularly those who fought in Picardy (like Matthew Crawley – remember, he was in Amiens at the beginning of the most recent episode!). Take a look at the music and listen to the Irish tenor John McCormack’s 1919 recording of the ballad, one infused with nostalgia, longing, and ever-steady love just as Lady Mary conveyed with her performance at the benefit concert!

 

5 Comments

  1. Cynthia
    February 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    What fun! I couldn’t get “If You Were…” out of my head all last week either. This post was a real treat, thanks for filling out the period in which Downton Abbey is set. Cheers.

  2. bill kennick
    May 15, 2012 at 1:22 am

    wow!
    This tune started haunting me in Feb 2012 after I heard a George Shearing recording. But it was not named. It was a little thng he did with block chords. I guess everybody knew the song in the 1940s.

    Anyway I downloaded it off of Youtube on Feb 21, 2012 when I finally put it all together. The name of the tune just came to me so presumably I heard it once. I know I heard it mentioned once by Rusty Mason, a jazz musician born in the 1920s.

    I just mention it because the song must have reentereed the collective consciousness about the time you published it.

    Thanks,
    Bill Kennick

  3. David M. Cox
    December 27, 2012 at 5:50 am

    Roses of Picardy.

    A favourite haunt of Kings,Queens,Rich, and Famous alike was the
    luxurious Picardy Hotel which was located in France.
    It was demolished in the early 1960′s and nothing remains of it today.

    It boasted the finest Rose Garden ever brought under cultivation hence
    the ” Roses of Picardy ” love song.

    Made ever more popular when it was revived in the 1947 film ” The
    Courtneys of Curzon Street ” sung by Anna Neagle and set in the
    trenches of WW1.

    The song has never gone away, and was always in big demand in
    Vaudeville and Music Halls and Tallent shows.

    David M. Cox

  4. RICHARD FITZGERALD
    October 29, 2014 at 11:22 am

    IS THERE ANY WAY YOU COULD PROVIDE ME WITH A SHEET MUSIC COPY OF GEORGE SHEARING’S FAMOUS RENDITION OF “ROSES OF PICARDY”? I’M DESPARATE. HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR OVER TWO YEARS.

    IF NOT, COULD YOU RECOMMEND ANOTHER SOURCE?

    THANK YOU

  5. Cait Miller
    October 29, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for your question, Richard. Please submit it to our reference librarians using our Ask a Librarian online form at http://www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-perform2.html — it’s the best way for us to respond and keep track of your question!

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