God Save the King

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GOD SAVE OUR (LORD THE) KING. AKA - "America (4)," "God Save America," "King’s Anthem (The)," "My Country Tis of Thee." English, Air (3/4 time). G Major (Chappell): D Major (Ashman): C Major (Evans). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Evans): AB (Chappell): AABB (Ashman). See Chappell, 1859, vol. 2, pp. 194-200, for an extensive essay on the origins of this tune, the British national anthem, which dates from around 1742. Pulver (1992) credits the Scottish composer James Oswald (1710-1769) with at least being the first to harmonize it in its present form; "it was always a wretched tune, rhythmically unimaginative, as square as a box and accompanied by words insulting to half of the land mass to which is is supposed to apply." Una Hunt ("The Harper's Legacy: National Airs and Pianoforte Music", 2010) relates the playing of an odd rendition of the air:

Ferdinand Charles Panormo (c. 1793-1826), a pianist-composer resident in Dublin, was a virtuoso whose performance of Steibelt's "Storm" concerto had apparently electrified his audience. In one enthusiastic review his imitation of the howling of the tempest was considered to be "the nearest to nature of anything...heard" and his talents were declared 'unrivalled'. Panormo was fond of using Irish airs as thematic material...These include a medley, preserved at the National Library of Ireland, that features, shortly before the end, "God Save the King" played first in the right hand against the Irish air "St. Patrick's Day" in the left, and then vice-versa. A performance of this work received a mixed review criticizing the coupling of the two airs:

"The piece shows great verve and wonderful execution in the performer, but has no further merit, evincing a sacrifice of taste, as it is impossible that two airs so diametrically opposed to each other in time, style and accent should blend well."

The melody (as "God Save the Congress) appears in the music manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery's invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Quebec from British control. An important land-owner in the Hudson Valley, and a member of the powerful Livingston family, Henry was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. He was also a poet and musician, and presumably a dancer, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly's dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York. The air, with a similar title to that of Livingston, "God Save America", was entered into the c. 1776-1778 music copybook of fifer Thomas Nixon Jr. [1] (1762-1842), of Framingham, Connecticut. Nixon was a thirteen-year-old who accompanied his father to the battles of Lexington and Concord, and who served in the Continental army in engagements in and around New York until 1780, when he left service to return to Connecticut.

One of the oddest appearances of the tune is on the barrel organ from the polar expedition of Admiral Parry of 1819. In place of a ship's fiddler (common in those days), Parry introduced a mechanical barrel organ on board ship to provide entertainment and a vehicle to which the men could exercise (i.e. by dancing). "God Save the King" was one of eight tunes on barrel no. 4.

Source for notated version: a c. 1837-1840 MS by Shropshire musician John Moore [Ashman].

Printed sources: Ashman (The Ironbridge Hornpipe), 1991; No. 54b, p. 21. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 2, 1859; p. 194. Jones [Ed.] (Complete Tutor Violin), c. 1815; p. 1.

Recorded sources: The earliest sound recording of the tune is on the 3rd Barrel, 1st tune, of a mechanical Chamber Barrel Organ [2], hand-built by John Langshaw (1718-1798), Organ Maker, Lancaster, c. 1785. The organ is one of three surviving Langshaw organs. Saydisc SDL 234, Parry's Barrel Organ (vol. 11 in the Golden Age of Music).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]




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