Of Noble Race was Shenkin

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OF A NOBLE RACE WAS SHENKIN. AKA - "Of Noble Race was Shinken." AKA and see "Nowill Hills (2)." English, Air. The air appears in John Gay's Beggar's Opera (1729) as "Is then his fate decreed, sir?" however, the song of the title comes from Thomas D'Urfey's stage comedy The Richmond Heiress (1693). It was sung by Bowman in broken English, put into the mouth of a comic Welshman, Rice ap Shenkin. It was also published in several editions of Pills to Purge Melancholy, along with another song to the same air, and appears on period half-sheets. Henry Playford gives a version in his Thesaurus Musicus, book I, 1693, and in various editions of the Dancing Master, beginning with the ninth edition of 1695. The melody was a popular one, and was the vehicle for songs in numerous 18th century ballad operas.

The tune is sometimes claimed as Welsh, states Kidson (1922), but since the music to D'Urfey's play was by Henry Purcell and John Eccles it was probably written by one or the other, although it could have been based on a Welsh air. It does appear in Welsh publications that date from after its English popularity, the first from 1794 when it was included in Jones's collection of Welsh airs in which it was labelled "Camp (The)." Curiously, it appears under the title "Danish Air" in the Welsh publication of John Parry (Bardd Alaw) called Two Thousand Melodies (1841, No. 1980). Kidson (Groves) finds that Parry had previously published it in his first Welsh collection of 1809, but then stated he was unable to trace its origin.

Cecil Sharp (in Country Dance Tunes, Set 11, 1922) substituted this melody for the dance "Nowill Hills," which appeared in Henry Playford's Dancing Master with a different tune (for which see "Nowill Hills (1)").

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Barlow (The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford's Dancing Master), 1985; No. 334. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 59 (a facsimile copy of Gay's 1729 publication). Walsh (Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth), London, 1740; No. 70.

Recorded sources:

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