2020-07 Tune of the Month - Down In The Willow Garden

  1. HonketyHank
    The tune of the month for July 2020 is "Down In The Willow Garden", aka "Rose Connelly". Note the boldfaced words.

    In 1899 W. B. Yeatts wrote a poem based on a fragment of an old song he had heard years earlier, probably the Irish ballad "The Rambling Boys of Pleasure". Yeatts' poem, "Down By the Sally (or Salley) Gardens", is a rather tender reminiscence of youthful love. It was put to music in about 1909 by Herbert Hughes using an adaptation of the melody of an older Irish folk tune, "The Moorlough Shore". This same tune has been used in more than its share of so-called "folk music"; its origin is unknown -- it first appeared in print only a few years before Yeatts published his poem.

    Our tune of the month has been identified as "Down IN The WILLOW Garden", or "Rose Conley" with various spellings of the surname, an Appalachian murder ballad. If you think the titles are somewhat similar, consider this: "sally" or "salley" is an anglicization of the gaelic word for "willow", which in turn is derived from the Latin scientific name for willow, "salyx". People did maintain willow groves, or gardens, for the structural and medicinal uses of willow. Chewing willow bark, for example, was known to alleviate pain. The active ingredient was found to be salicytic acid, ie, "acid from willow". When isolated, synthesized, and produced en masse, it became a best-seller patent medicine under the trade name "aspirin". Still is.

    Sorry for leading you down that dead end, but heck, I couldn't help myself. This month's tune is one of several entrances to a maze of interesting and often contradictory information, trivia, and tall tales.

    "Rose Connolly", or "Down In the Willow Garden", is the only murder ballad I can think of where the guy singing the song kills his sweet, lovely, presumably pregnant girlfriend in three different ways just to make triple-dang sure: poisoned her ("For I did poison that dear little girl"), stabbed her ("I drew a sabre through her") and then drowned her ("I threw her in the river"). Then the killer tries to blame his father ("My father he had told me, his money would set me free, if I would poison that dear little girl, whose name was Rose Connelly").

    The first verse of the most commonly heard version of our tune is quite similar to the first verse of Yeatts' poem, thus hinting at common ancestry. The titles are practically identical when you let willow = sally. And get this - the tunes are almost identical except one is in 3/4, the other in 4/4. But the murder ballad was known in Appalachia well before Yeatts' romantic poem was written and put to music. And our tune of the month is almost unknown across the Atlantic except as a more recent American export (or as the musical setting of Yeatts' poem). Something doesn't add up here.

    There is another wrinkle or two. There is an old jig called "Old Rosin, the Beau." That tune's melody has been used many time for diverse purposes including more than one US presidential campaign tune. Slow that tune down a bit and put it into 3/4 time and you have, voila, "Rose Connolly".

    There is an old Irish tune titled "Rose Connolly" but it bears little or no resemblance to our tune of the month. It was "collected" in Coleraine, Ireland, in 1811. I have not found any words to the tune. I wonder if it was a murder ballad?

    And that is as far as I got. Which came first? Chicken? Egg? I have a hypothesis but it is still half baked (or scrambled).

    Anyway, here is the first recorded version by Grayson & Whittier: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9HjllAe9oI

    Mandozine has a tabbed version: http://www.mandozine.com/music/table...den-E-Trad.tef

    The Song A Week thread on Down In The Willow Garden is here: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...cussionid=1490 . As usual, Old Sausage has a nice interpretation with lots of variations on the bare bones melody. The other videos also offer plenty of ideas.
  2. Sleet
    Hank, thanks for the dissertation! I had not made the connection between the word "sally" and "willow" despite knowing that Salyx is the botanical family name. The reel "Sally Gardens", a bouncy number, bears no resemblance to "Down in the Willow Garden", but, yeah, "Old Rosin, the Beau" is why the tune seemed familiar to me. Good sleuthing.
  3. bbcee
    Good history lesson as always, Mr. Hank. Looking forward to playing this one.

    The chord progression is a nice change from Majors All the Time. Hope lots of lurkers decide to give it a try!!
  4. HonketyHank
    Does anybody have any idea what key/mode this tune actually belongs to? My possibilities so far are:
    1. D Major (but the Bm chord)
    2. D Mixolydian (but the A chord)
    3. D Major Pentatonic (but the A chord)

    D does seem to be the root note. I am kind of thinking that it shifts back and forth between D Major and D Mixolydian. Is that normal in folk or old time music? Old time fiddle tunes seem to stay pretty much in one mode.
  5. Chunta
    More recordings, a chord progression, etc. Hank, as for your question, that is waaay above my pay grade!
  6. HonketyHank
    Wow. Thanks for that link, Chunta. I missed it in my digging through the internet. In fact I was not aware of the site - it looks like a great resource.
  7. Gene Lewis
    Gene Lewis
    The song speaks of "burglars wine" which was the poison. The first time I heard this tune it was explained to me that "burglars wine" was put out in the home for burglars. It was poison in disguise! The thinking was that a burglar, if there should be one, would likely take any booze that were out. I would assume all in the home were aware! This criminal would eventually receive his punishment and his life of crime be no more. I have not confirmed this with any info I have seen regarding the tune.

    I have never submitted a tune here so perhaps this should be one to try! It would be good for me.
  8. HonketyHank
    Well, this one is a good one to start with, Gene. A relatively easy basic melody (compared to some of our recent tunes) that doesn't have to be played at lightning speed in order to sound good (unlike at least one recent one I can remember skipping) and which is amenable to added frills and doodads if desired. I've been having fun with it and I still have little idea of what I will gravitate toward by the end of the month. I am hoping for a few interesting interpretations from some new videographer mandolinners this month. Making a video is great for teaching the butterflies to fly in formation. It's good medicine.

    Maybe I am having a bit of an easier time with this tune than with most -- I have been quite fond of the tune ever since I first heard it on a Flatt and Scruggs album about a million years ago. And now I am finally learning to play it.
  9. bbcee
    @Gene, thanks for that fascinating bit of tid!

    Hoping you'll give one this a whirl - you couldn't ask for a more supportive bunch of folks to enjoy red light fever with
  10. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    I agree this tune would be perfect for a first time video as it is slow and easy.
    I have added some chords and a couple of additional notes to spice it up a bit.
  11. HonketyHank
    Yes, I do think the chords add to the setting. Good work there, mm.
  12. HonketyHank
    Well, here is my go at it. I started with the tab file I downloaded from mandozine.com, then made some tweaks and twists.

  13. bbcee
    Nice job, Henry. Love the hammer-ons, and just nice & smooth on that mandola all the way around.
  14. Sleet
    Lovely version, Henry. Mandolas seem to love ballads. Although this might be considered a good tune for beginners, I don't think it's easier. Slower tunes seem to call for more precision and expression than I've been able to muster.
  15. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Nice job, both of you.
  16. HonketyHank
    Thanks, folks. Wife and I are celebrating birthdays. Hers today, mine tomorrow. I get to snicker about her being really old for exactly one day each year. But she gets to smirk about how much wiser she is.
  17. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Happiest of birthdays to Honkety Hank and Beepety Bev!

    Does this mean two cakes? What kind?
  18. HonketyHank
    Lemon icing cupcakes on bd1 and homemade peach pie from fresh picked Hood River (OR) peaches on bd2. Oh man. Yummmmm.
  19. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Nothing is better than a good peach—or more disappointing than a bad one.
  20. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    I'm not sure why I am posting this. The sound quality isn't good and I'm not happy with my playing. The version I am using is in E major, not a great key for mandolin: since the Gs and Ds are sharped, you lose a lot of the natural resonances in the instrument. Let's consider it a reflection of a day during the pandemic when not much was going right.

  21. bbcee
    You're awfully hard on yourself, Louise, that's sounding pretty good to me. Good tempo, and nice melodic choices. I know what you mean about the key, it seems a little bright for this tune, but I'm glad to have heard it. Thanks for posting!
  22. HonketyHank
    Nice job, Louise. One thing good about playing in E is that it does force you to keep that sixth fret stretch limbered up.

    And you have provided an answer to my question -- the version you play is pretty squarely and firmly in E Major (E Ionian mode). Interesting setting.

    In my high school days, I played saxophones and alto clarinet. I hated sharps. I could live with the key signature of G but E? Yikes. I'd really have to think about it for a while before I finally came to terms with the fact that G# was really an Ab in disguise and then throw in an Eb instead of D#. C# and F# were tolerable as is, even given my dislike of C#'s. With all that mental adjustment I could stumble through an E scale. Is it any wonder that I hated scales?
  23. Sleet
    Nice jobs, Louise. E is not a friendly key, too stretchy! I've been playing with a version from Kenny Hall's Music Book, in a nice comfortable D. Kenny must have been a sensible man.
  24. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin
    Louis,e the sound quality seemed perfectly o k to me and I could not hear anything wrong with your playing either. Good video
    Sleet, if you are playing from Kenny Hall's book I hope you are playing in his style using a fingernail instead of a pick and holding the instrument upright like a double bass.
  25. Sleet
    MM, Ha, nope, in no way, shape or form will my version resemble Kenny's. I was just flipping through a friend's music books and spotted the tune and thought D was a nice key.
  26. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Yeah, the four sharps were a lot. I'm starting to feel that about two of either is a great plenty. This was the Parking Lot Pickers version. There was something about it I liked better than the D major version I found elsewhere. One would think a murder ballad would be in a minor key.
  27. bbcee
    Here's mine, mistakenly titled as the August tune of the month.

    Nothing special to recommend it, but wanted to record it and had a minute this morning.

  28. HonketyHank
    Wow! Wonderful oval-holy sound from that 3-pointer. And nicely played.
  29. Sleet
    Nice job, bbcee, with gorgeous tone from that instrument.
  30. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    What Hank and Sleet said! Pretty mandolin.
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