Northern Lass (2) (The)
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NORTHERN LASS , THE. Scottish, Slow Air (4/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The air was composed by Edinburgh dancing master, singer, and musician, James Oswald (b. 1710, who also composed under the name David Rizzio), b. 1711. Oswald was a star of the Edinburgh musical scene when he left for London in 1741; he soon became successful in the English capital, writing in the 'Scots drawing room style' (which incorporated Italianate ornaments) and publishing a number of volumes of his Caledonian Pocket Companion (15 volumes between 1747 and 1769). "Northern Lass" is mentioned in Allan Ramsay's poem "An epistle to James Oswald, on his leaving Edinburgh":
But wha can sing that feels wi' sae great pain
The loss for which Edina sights in vain?
They've a' forgot the gait to Niddery's wynd.
Nae mair the 'Braes of Ballandine' can charm,
Nae mair can 'Fortha's Bank' our bosom warm,
Nae mair the 'Northern Lass' attention draw,
Nor 'Pinky-house' gi' place to 'Alloa.'
Niddery's Wynd was the location of Saint Cecilia's Hall, where the Edinburgh music society practiced and put on concerts.
Poet Robert Burns either adapted verses or wrote his own to the tune, and published it in Edinburgh publisher James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. 2 (1788, No. 118). Although the phrase "Written for this Work by Robert Burns" is on the page, it is not certain that it was wholly his.
Source for notated version:
Johnson (Scots Musical Museum, vol. 2), 1788; No. 118, p. 122.
Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 8, p. 10.
Oswald (A Curious Collection of Scots Tunes), 1740;.
Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 1), 1760; p. 5.