Brighton Camp

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BRIGHTON CAMP. AKA and see "Girl I Left Behind Me (1) (The)," "Blyth Camps," "Bride in Camp," "Spailpin Fanach (1)." English; Air, Morris Dance (Polka Step), March, or Country Dance Tune (2/2 time). England; North-West, Sussex. G Major (most versions): E Flat Major (Chappell, Scott). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Chappell, Scott): ABB' (Sharp): AABB (most versions). The name Brighton is derived from a compound Saxon name (Beorhthelm's tun, or 'Beorhthelm's farm or village') in which the first part is reduced to one syllable. The town of Brighton is in east Sussex and was originally a fishing village that became very popular in the 1760's with the growing fashion for bathing. While still a prince, George IV visited the spa starting in 1783 and purchased an estate nearby, engaging architect John Nash to transform it into the elegant oriental Pavilion which is today a tourist attraction. William IV also stayed there but Queen Victoria found it vulgar and sold it to the Brighton Corporation in 1850 for £50,000.

English music antiquarian William Chappell (1859) dates the song to 1758, reasoning from the fact that there were encampments on the coast of England in 1758 and 1759 to watch for the French fleet which had been threatening invasion of the island. When the English navy defeated the French later in 1759, the fears which established the watch camps dissipated and then were ridiculed in pantomime and farce in London. The air was printed in a MS. of c. 1770 once in the possession of a Dr. Rimbault, but also appears in march form in MS. collections of military music of that time. Kidson (Groves) says he can only reliably date it to 1797, from a manuscript collection then in his possession. The English novelist Thomas Hardy, himself an accordionist and fiddler, mentions the tune in scene notes to The Dynasts:

A June sunrise; the beams struggling through the window curtains. A canopied bed in a recess on the left. The quick notes of 'Brighton Camp' or 'The Girl I Left Behind Me,' strike sharply into the room from fifes and drums without.

There were military camps at Brighton later in the 18th century as well, and other tunes inspired by them [cf the Thompson's "Away to the Camp". Henry Martin, writing in his History Of Brighton and Environs [1] (c. 1871) notes there were several encampments:

...the first formed August 13, 1793. At three o'clock on the morning pre­vious, the troops composing this camp struck their tents in Ashdown Forest, and from thence, at five o'clock, marched forwards, reaching Chailey Common at half-past eleven, and tents were pitched for the night. The fol­lowing morning at four they were again on the march, and at noon arrived on the hills around Brighton. The artificers and the heavy baggage came by way of Lewes ; but the route of the army in general, consisting of 7,000 men, was over the South Downs, the Prince of Wales meeting them as they came over the hill. By two o'clock the camp was formed, close to the town, in Belle Vue Field, now known as Regency Square, and it stretched in a direct line along the coast. This encampment, which was increased to 10,000 troops, was composed of regulars and militia, and continued till the 28th of October, on account of some apprehension of an invasion by the " new Republic of France." On the first Sunday after the arrival of the army many of the soldiers attended the Parish Church, and among them several officers of the Surrey Militia, then quartered in the town.

Martin relates several long but fascinating incidents connected with the camps. One account is by a minister, Dr. Knox, who preached at a service heavily attended by army personnel, taking as his theme, "Glory to God in the highest: on earth, peace, good-will towards men." His sermon was not well received and as a consequence, when he shortly thereafter attended the theater with his family (to see The Agreeable Surprise) he was hounded from the place by a mob of angry officers who were displeased with his sentiments. Another tale relates the sad execution of two soldiers for mutiny, an event that had impact on the community for decades. They were members of the Oxford Militia, whose members, unhappy with the quality of the bread and flour supplied to the troops, broke into a local mill and pilfered the contents, also destroying the contents of a merchant vessel moored nearby. The two unfortunates received the severest sentence, pour l'encouragement des autres.

Finally, Martin mentions:

Several of the Militia regiments were here for some time after the breaking up of the Camp; the South Glo'ster Militia, commanded by Earl Berkeley, remaining with others many years, and had one of the principal bands attached to it. The Band Master, Mr Woerth, was the author of several musical pieces, among others, "Brighton Camp, or the girl I left behind me" (music which seems inherent to fifes and drums); and the "Nightingale," a military rondo, dedicated to the Prince of Wales, first performed before him at the Royal Pavilion, in 1803.

Perhaps because the tune was so commonly found throughout English musical tradition it was collected from morris dance musicians from many Cotswold villages, including Adderbury, Bampton, Bidford, Eynsham, and Headington. The Eynsham tune is a bit different than the usual (in the very early 20th century collector Cecil Sharp thought the Eynsham team was the most vigorous morris team he witnessed, and was impressed by their speed and high kicks). In modern times the tune is considered a 'beginner's tune' at some English sessions. It should be noted that Irish claims for provenance of the tune are quite robust (see note for "Girl I Left Behind Me (1) (The)").

I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill,
And o'er the moor and valley,
Such heavy thought my heart do fill
Since parting with my Sally.
I seek no more the fine and gay,
For each does but remind me
How swift the hours did pass away
With the girl I left behind me,
With the girl I left behind me.

Researcher Stephen Campbell finds a rare 6/8 setting of the tune in an anonymous early 19th century wind instrument player's manuscript.

The tune was echoed in the arrangement of the Glen Miller Band instrumental "American Patrol," popular in World War II.

Source for notated version: Joe Trafford (Headington) [Bacon & the Carey MSS].

Printed sources: Bacon (A Handbook of Morris Dances), 1974; pp. 10, 34, 62, 143, 197a. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. 2), 1859; pp. 187–188. Scott (English Song Book), 1926; p. 8. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 1. Skillern (Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1799), 1799; p. 7. Trim (The Musical Heritage of Thomas Hardy), 1990; No. 42. Wade (Mally's North West Morris Book), 1988; p. 4.

Recorded sources: Topic TSCD458, John Kirkpatrick – "Plain Capers" (1976).




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