Castles in the Air

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X:1 T:Castles in the Air M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel K:G (3DEF | G2 GB D2 (3DEF | GFGA B2 BG | cBce dBAG | ABAG E2D2 | G2 GB D2 (3DEF | GFGA B2 BG | cBce dBGA | BcBA G2 || (3Bcd | e2 eg d2B2 | cBcd B2 GB | cBce dBAG | ABAG EcBA | G2 GB D2 (3DEF | GFGA B2 BG | cBce dBGA | BcBA G2 ||

CASTLES IN THE AIR. AKA and see "Wee Willie Winkie/Winkle." English, Scottish, Irish; Barn Dance, Hornpipe, Reel, Schottische or Slow Strathspey. A Major (Roche): G Major (Raven): E Flat Major (Hardie). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Hardie, Kennedy): ABB (Roche): AABB (Cole).

"Castles in the Air" was a Scots dialect poem by James Ballantine (1806–1877, set to the air of the older song Bonny Jean of Aberdeen. First verse:

The bonnie, bonnie bairn, who sits poking in the ase,
Glow'ring in the fire wi' his wee round face,
Laughing at the fuffin' lowe – what see he there?
Ha! the young dreamer’s bigging castles in the air.

A different set of standard English lyrics, praising Shakespeare, Burns and Moore, was performed on the variety stage in the U.S. in the 1860's and printed in various songsters, including John Foster’s Favorite Clown Songster (New York: De Witt, 1872), which includes the note "As sung by Gus Williams" (a popular "Dutch" comic singer and actor). The tune was also adapted for minstrel-style "jig" dancing, as evidenced by its inclusion in the section of Ryan's Mammoth Collection (1883) devoted to this class of tune.

The tune also is associated with the children's rhyme "Wee Willie Winkie/Winkle." James Dickie transformed the song into a slow strathspey, printed in Hardie's Beauties of the North. The Musical Times, vol. 27 (1886, p. 330) gives that "Castles in the Air" was a popular children's song in the North of England, which one correspondent recognized as "Down the Burn Davie Lad," and another as the air to a temperance song called "The Drunkard's Ragged Wean," beginning:

A wee bit ragged laddie
Gangs wanderin' thro' the street,
Wadin' among the snaw
Wi' his wee hackit feet.

"The Ball of Kirriemuir," a bawdy Scots song ("Four and twenty virgins came down from Inverness, etc.") is set to the first strain of "Castles in the Air."

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - James F. Dickie (Scotland) [Hardie].

Printed sources : - Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940, p. 81. Hardie (Caledonian Companion), 1986, p. 44 (strathspey version). Kennedy (Fiddler's Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1951, No. 44, p. 22. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984, p. 176. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 3), 1927; p. 47, No. 145. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 114.

Recorded sources : - Fretless Records 119, Rodney and Randy Miller – "Castles in the Air." Gennett Records 5731-B (78 RPM), The Four Provinces (1st tune in "Irish Barn Dance").

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index [1]

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