My Nanny O
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MY NANNY-O. AKA and see "Nanny O," "When Bidden to the Wake." Scottish, Slow Air or Country Dance (2/4 time). E Minor (Knowles, McGibbon, O'Farrell, Oswald): D Minor (Howe). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Howe): AABB (Knowles, McGibbon, O'Farrell): AABBCCDD (Oswald): AABBCCDDEEFF. The tune is from a 17th-century slow air to which Allan Ramsay wrote new words in 1718 for his Tea Table Miscellany, the music to which was published by Alexander Stuart in 1724 in his Musick for Allan Ramsey's Collection of Scots Songs. It also appears early in print in William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius (1725). 19th century musicologist William Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times, 1859) lays claim an English provenance for the melody from its mention in the Roxburghe Collection where 'a pleasant new tune, or Nanny O' is the indicated vehicle for a song called "The Scotch Wooing of Willy and Nanny," that locale of which Chappell says is in southern part of Northumberland. It has a burden that goes:
It is Nanny, Nanny, Nanny O,
The love I bear to Nanny O,
All the world shall never know
The love I bear to Nanny O.
George Farquhar Graham and John Glen believe the tune to be thoroughly Scottish. In the McFarlane manuscript version, variations were set as an air-jig suite by William Forbes of Disblair (c. 1662–1740). Forbes lived on an estate in Aberdeenshire, according to Johnson (1984), and took up composing late in life after being rendered almost penniless "through paying extravagant sums of aliment to his ex-wife." Though he was somewhat isolated from mainstream contact as a composer, he mixed Scottish and Italian ideas in the same pieces; modern musicologist David Johnson sees him as "quirky" but "original".
"My Nanny-O" proved to be a popular and durable melody throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. The melody was heard in the ballad operas The Country-Wedding (1729) and The Disappointed Gallant, or Buckram in Armour (1738). "Nanny O" later appeared in James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion (London, 1760) and was also printed in the McLean collection of 1772. Oswald again used part of the melody for the beginning theme of his 'Snowdrop' sonata. Under the title "When Bidden to the Wake" it was printed by Benjamin Carr in Evening Amusement (1796, p. 20). The Scots Musical Museum of 1789 gives it under the incomplete title "While for Some Pawn Their...", and the song was performed on the London stage in William Shield and Mrs. Brooke's play Rosina, in 1783, where it was called "A Fair Scots Tune." The melody also appears in musicians manuscripts: in America, in the Shattuck Manuscript of 1801 as "Mananio" (obviously a condensation of the title "My Nanny-O"), and in the Commonplace Manuscript of 1797 as "When Night Her Sable Curtain Drew, or Sorrows of Werter."
Source for notated version: the McFarlane MS., 1740 (vol. ii, no. 108) [Johnson].
Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 126.
Johnson (Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century), 1984; No. 26, p. 77.
Knowles (Northern Frisk), 1988; No. 3.
McGibbon (Scots Tunes, book III), 1762; p. 71.
O'Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. II), c. 1806; p. 95.
Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book V), 1760; p. 3.
Thumoth (12 English and 12 Irish Airs), 1746; No. 4, pp. 32–33.