Episode 16 of the Folklife Today Podcast (or Season 2, Episode 4) is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on itunes, or with your usual podcatcher.
We’re also happy to announce that we’re now available on Stitcher as well–use this link here!
In the episode, John Fenn, Stephanie Hall, Jennifer Cutting, and I undertake the second part of our epic journey through the ice and snow of the frozen North–that is to say, we spin some classic songs about winter.
We start out with Stephanie’s look at a field recording of a song that’s also a Bluegrass standard. So standard you can see a licensed video of Bill Monroe’s 1945 version on YouTube, at this link. But as Stephanie points out in the podcast, the version in AFC’s collections is closer to older versions, which were published in Britain both as broadsides (one of which you can find at this link) and as sheet music (which you can read about at Bluegrass Today, at this link). The archival version was sung by Bogue Ford, and is called “Footprints in the Snow.” Hear it in the player below!
Stephanie’s second song is “Ice-Skating Song” by George Vinton Graham. Hear it in the next player:
In the podcast, we mention Onward magazine, where the words to “Ice-Skating Song” were first published. It looks like a fun magazine with lots of folklore content, and you can find it here.
The song I chose to present was a doozy: a ballad called “Young Charlotte” or “Fair Charlotte.” I won’t spoil the plot of this fine old sentimental ballad until you’ve heard it!
We played excerpts of three versions in the podcast. If you’re a completist, you can find the three full versions right here. Warde Ford’s complete version is below:
Charles Ingenthron’s complete version is in the next player:
And Isaac Garfield Greer’s complete version in the next one:
In the podcast, I mention an 1840 article from the New York Observer that seems to have been the basis of the Charlotte ballad. You can find reprints of that in other newspapers in the Chronicling America presentation on the Library of Congress website: here’s one example from the Alexandria Gazette–look at the top of the 5th column.
You can see why I suggest the story might be what we might colloquially call an “urban legend”: like many contemporary legends published as news, the article gives no details through which one could verify the story. The woman’s name is given with charming Victorian discretion as “Miss _________” and the author, who signs simply “W.,” refers to the community only as “up here in the country” and implies that it is somewhere north of New York City. W. seems to be quite purposely vague as to where and to whom the events happened–though the date is given with precision since it is New Year’s Night!I also mentioned a quite recent Washington Post article about Charlotte, the ballad, the story, and porcelain dolls. You can find that story here.
The ballad also became the basis of a dessert called “Frozen Charlotte!” Find a recipe in the second column of this newspaper page from the D.C. Evening Star.
Okay, enough about my song…time to move on! Our final guest was Jennifer Cutting, who brought along two archival versions of a children’s song which you can hear at these links on the Association for Cultural Equity website:
Finally, Jennifer brought along a recording of her band The Ocean Orchestra performing their version of “Time to Remember the Poor,” a song which she found in the archive and arranged for the band. Jennifer mentions finding a text in a book by Frank Kidson, and our friends at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in England have placed that page online here.
Although this blog provides links to all the other songs we talk about, the audio of Jennifer’s band remains exclusive to the podcast. Seriously, we do really want you to listen to the podcast itself! To entice you over there, here’s Jennifer’s description of her arrangement of “Time to Remember the Poor”:
I got really weird with it. I wanted a very eerie, dystopian sound canvas to complement the foreboding lyrics. And to evoke that kind of dark drama in the themes and the era of the broadside, I came up with a kind of fusion of Gothic and Victorian feelings which I combined with 60s psychedelia in the guitar solo. And this is before I knew what Steampunk was, but now Steampunk is how I think of it. And I’m really glad that I persuaded the Grammy-winning acoustic fingerstyle guitarist Al Petteway, who played with my band The New St. George for a while, to pick up the electric guitar for this recording. So it’s very rare to hear Al Petteway on electric guitar in the recording studio. So he’s the guitarist, and the singer is the great Lisa Moscatiello, and the band also features the late Juan Dudley on drums, and my trusty bass player Rico Petruccelli, who is still in my current band today.
With a description like that, how can you not listen? Plus, as I said last time, we love talking about our favorite songs, and we try to tell their stories in an entertaining way. We are fabulous folk nerds, and we want to share that with you! So, just for ease of reference, here’s the link to the podcast one more time!