Muirland Willie

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MUIRLAND WILLIE. AKA - "Moorland Willie." AKA and see "Northern Lass (1) (The)." Scottish, English; Air, Country Dance and Jig. England, Northumberland. G Minor (McGibbon, Seattle/Vickers, Thomson, Wright): E Minor (Kerr, Mulhollan): A Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Mulhollan, Wright): AABB (most versions). A ballad and dance tune with several branches, with vocal and instrumental versions intertwined. Frank Kidson (1890) remarks the original for "Muirland Willie" is said to be a country dance tune by the name of "Lord Frog and Lady Mouse," also known as "Cocky mi Chari, She," popular in several ballad operas of the 18th century. However, in the seventeenth century the tune appeared in John Playford's 1669 and 1687 editions of Apollo's Banquet under the title "Northern Lass (1) (The)." Emmerson (1972) groups the "Muirland Willie" ballad with other anonymous lyrics from the 17th century (such as "My Jo Janet," ""The Barrin' o the Door," and "The Wowing of Jok and Jynny") and remarks as a group they "add considerably to our knowledge of the habits and outlook of these times." The air was the vehicle for songs in numerous ballad operas and other staged works in the 18th century, including Village Opera (1729), Patie and Peggy (1730), Calista (1731), Highland Fair (1731), Generous Free (1731), Sequel to Flora (1732), and Stage-Coach (1761). [See also Samuel Bayard's (1981) note for "Lannigan's Ball" in which, thinking expansively, he places this tune family in a larger context of interconnected tune families].

William Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times, 1859) maintained the slower ballad form of the air was transformed into a lively, dancing form that was published in London by John Walsh in 24 New Country Dances for the year 1713 under the title "Great Lord Frog", and again, with words, in The Merry Musician (1716). Thomas D'Urfey also used it for his song "Great Lord Frog to Lady Mouse" in Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719). It is this latter form of the melody, maintained Chappell, that the Scots set the words of "Muirland Willie" to, with the first appearance by that title being in William Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius (1725). John Glen (Early Scottish Melodies, 1900) remarks that the D'Urfey melody "is much inferior to the Scottish version of 'Muirland Willie'," and that, "the Scottish versions have never essentially differed from each other since Thomson's time to the present day, though the tune has been very frequently published, and that always under the title of 'Muirland Willie'." Glen chides Chappell for his somewhat convoluted and unsubstantiated tracing of the melody through its English use. Lyrics set to the air can be found in the Scots Musical Museum (No. 369). Variants also include James Oswald's "Auld Maid of Fife," "Shepherd's Wife (2) (The)," "My Boy Tammie/Tammy," and the Pennsylvania-collected "Forty Miles."

Source for notated version: the 1770 music manuscript collection of Northumbrian musician William Vickers [Seattle].

Printed sources: Gow (Vocal Melodies of Scotland), 1822, p. 27. Graham: (Popular Songs of Scotland), 1908; p. 69. Johnson (Scots Musical Museum, vol. 4), 1787-1803; No. 369. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3), c. 1880's; No. 297, p. 32. McGibbon (Collection of Scots Tunes, vol. 2), c. 1746; p. 54. Mulhollan (Selection of Irish and Scots Tunes), 1804; p. 44. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 2), c. 1780; p. 11. Pringle (A Second Collection of Strathspeys, Reels & Jiggs &c.), c. 1805. Seattle/Vickers (Great Northern Tune Book, part 2), 1987; No. 393. Thomson (Orpheus Caledonius, vol. 1), 1725, No. 28 and 1733; p. 57. Walsh (Caledonian Country Dances. vol. 1), 1736; p. 58. Daniel Wright (Aria di Camera), London, 1727; No. 19.

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