Annotation:Sweet Willy-O

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X:1 T:Sweet Willy O M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Country Dance Tune B:Straight and Skillern – Two Hundred and Four Favourite Country Dances, vol. 1 (c. 1775, No. 130, p. 65) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Bb F|B>cB DFB|def f2 e/d/|efe GBd|gab bag| fgf fdB|egg G2A|Bcd def|gcc c2F|BcB dfd| BcB dfd|BcB dfd|B_aa agf|gec fdB|BcB B2||

SWEET WILLY-O. English, Air (6/8 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "Sweet Willy-O" is a song in producer and director David Garrick's Jubilee, or Shakespeare's Garland, first performed at the great booth at Stratford-on-Avon in 1769. The song, with the bulk of the music, was by the prolific composer and lyricist Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), a young man at the time with one successful opera (The Padlock) already to his credit. The days-long event was heavily promoted and carefully prepared for, but unfortunately bad weather spoiled it on a few days, forcing the cancellation of some of the planned productions. The Pageant, scheduled for the last day, was eventually staged at the Drury Land Theatre where it was a great success, running for ninety performances. Curiously, none of Shakespeare's plays were performed during the Jubilee, although it had a major impact on the advancement of Shakespeare as the English national poet.

"Sweet Willy O" was immediately published (along with the other songs, chorusses and overture) by London music publishers John Johnston and Longman Lukey & Broderip in 1770, followed by printings in single-sheet issues, song collections and music tutors through the end of the century.

Dibdin's words go:

The pride of all nature was sweet Willy. O.
The first of all swains,
He gladdened the plains,
None e ver was like to the sweet Willy O.
He sung it so rarely did sweet Willy O;
He melted each Maid, So skillfull he play’d,
No Shepherd e'er piped like the sweet Willy O.
All Nature obey’d him, the sweet Willy O;
Wherever he came, What e’er had a name,
Whenever he sung follow’d sweet Willy O.
He would be a Soldier the sweet Willy O;
When arm’d in the field, With sword and with shield,
The Laurel was won by the sweet Willy O.
He charmed them when living the sweet Willy O;
And when Willy dy’d,
‘Twas Nature that sighed
To part with her all in her sweet Willy O.

The parts are irregular—the ‘B’ part is six measures long, the ‘A’ part is eight measures.

The melody is one of the "missing tunes" from William Vickers' 1770 Northumbrian dance tune manuscript, and presumably different than his "Sweet Willy" as it appears in the contents with a different page number. The latter is also one of the missing Vickers tunes, so comparison is not possible.

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Moffat & Kidson (English Songs of the Georgian Period), c. 1900; pp. 174-175. Straight and Skillern (Two Hundred and Four Favourite Country Dances, vol. 1), c. 1775; No. 130, p. 65. Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II), 1785; No. 184, p. 68.

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