The Wandering Ballad – Song no. 1: Les Tristes Noces

This is the first in a series of blogs about the songs on our new CD “The Wandering Ballad”. 

 

There wasn’t enough space for lyrics and more extensive song information on the CD cover itself and people have asked for this, so I decided to publish this in blog form.   This CD was recorded at Wall of Sound Studios in Albuquerque, NM. It is the result of several years of gathering and arranging songs.

 

We usually gather ballads with a similar theme and then create a production where we sing, play and tell the whole story, or at least our interpretation of it.   The ballads tell the same story but have wandered through centuries and over continents taking on different melodies and details.

 

The first song on our CD is “Les Tristes Noces”. Apart from Scott Darsee and myself it features our friends Sharon Berman on recorders and Juan Wijngaard on Hurdygurdy, who have joined us in several of these productions.   I found the music and lyrics for this song on a website with French traditional songs. (http://www.rassat.com/)

Let’s start with the lyrics:

 

La belle n’y a pas manqué, s’est fait faire trois robes

The fair one did not let it stop her. She had three dresses made.

Chante rossignolet

Sing nightingale

 

L’une de satin blanc, l’autre de satin rose

One of white satin, another of pink satin

Chante rossignolet

Sing nightingale

 

Et une de drap d’orpour marquer qu’elle est noble.

And one of gold cloth to show her noble descent

Chante rossignolet

Sing nightingale

 

Du plus loin qu’on la voit: ”Voici la mariée!”

When people see her: “Oh look, the bride!”

Chante rossignolet

Sing nightingale

 

La mariée ne suis, je suis la délaissée.

I am not the bride, I am the abandoned one

Chante rossignolet

Sing nightingale

 

L’amant qui la salue, la prend par sa main blanche

The lover who greets her takes her by her white hand

Chante rossignolet

Sing nightingale

 

La prend pour faire un tour, un petit tour de danse

Takes her around for a little turn of dance

Chante rossignolet

Sing nightingale

 

This song is included in a program we call “La Freine”.   The story we tell is loosely based on a tale by the French author Marie de France. She lived in the 12th century and worked at the courts of Britain and France. She wrote so called lays, poetic tales, usually of romance and drama.

 

According to her own words she was often inspired by the tales sung by traveling minstrels. And in her lays you can find echoes of many a ballad that has survived to our days. Whether these ballads  have survived separately or whether they have been influenced by her lays I think is hard to tell.

 

The story of la Freine, or Fair Annie, is a romance. La Freine’s mother, having given birth to twins feels compelled to get rid of one of her babies since the general belief is that twins must be the result of two fathers. Quelle scandale! One of the babies, La Freine, is left at the door of a convent.   She grows up to a beautiful young woman. One day she falls in love and is whisked away by a tall handsome stranger. She lives with him for many years and gives him seven sons.   However, he never marries her and one day he announces that he must go and find himself a noblewoman to marry since he needs real, noble heirs. And so he does.   La Freine/Annie is left devastated. She is even forced to serve at the wedding between her former lover and his new bride. But the bride suspects something is amiss. In the end all is revealed. On top of or all it turns out the bride is in fact La Freine’s/Annie’s long lost twin sister…

 

On the CD we have included three more songs from this production: Fair Annie, Skön Anna (Finland) and Skön Anna (Finland).   More about these songs in a coming blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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