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Star Of The County Down

It's time for an earwormy post.

Since childhood I have loved the traditional Irish song, "The Star of the County Down" - not so much because of the words, which are a decent enough encapsulation of male fantasy for the attractive babe who has just walked past, but more for the associations with my ancestral stmping grounds which are indeed near to Banbridge, and also for the tune which is very catchy and memorable. Tying in with certain of my other interests, one of my favourite renditions is by The Orthodox Celts, a band from Belgrade who have moved to adopt someone else's culture (note the landscape shots, partly against a photo backdrop of authentic County Down drumlins and partly against very Serbian looking wheatfields):

(lyrics here.)

I listened to Classic FM a lot in the summer and to my surprise at one point heard this rather wonderful piece by Ralph Vaughan-Williams:

I recognised the tune at once, of course, but had never heard of "Dives and Lazarus", upon which which this was supposedly a set of five variations, But it is a well enough known folk song, apparently, performed below by Vilma Pääkkö at a festival in Pori. (lyrics here.)

Anglicans being as they are, the tune has been adopted and adapted into the canon of hymn tunes as "Kingsfold", and thus as the tune of "O Sing a Song of Bethlehem" and "I Heard the Voice of Jesus". Version of the folk tune, according to Wikipedia, are also to be found as "Gilderoy" (in Scotland), "The Thresher" and "Cold blows the wind" (in unspecified localities) and "The Murder of Maria Martin" (in Norfolk). Classic FM seemed to know of several versions of it arranged by Holst as well. I didn't find any terribly compelling performances of these on-line, but feel free to share if you know of any.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 4th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
There is something truly bizarre about a Serb band doing "The Star of the County Down" though I'll admit they are better than anything I've run across at McVeigh's, our local not as ersatz as the other ersatz "Irish" pubs in Toronto.
Sep. 4th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
When they do "I'll Tell Me Ma", they change the chorus to "the belle of Belgrade City" rather than "Belfast City"! (Of course the Dubliners did that too.)
Sep. 5th, 2009 08:02 am (UTC)
They are brilliant! I like the quasi-religious joke in their name as well. Thanks for that link. I'll listen some more later in the say.
Sep. 5th, 2009 08:16 am (UTC)
That's brilliant!
Sep. 5th, 2009 08:33 am (UTC)
Very interesting post - thanks.
Sep. 5th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
Before this I think I'd only heard The Star of the County Down as sung by John McCormack (whom my grandparents were very fond of).

I did already know about Dives and Lazarus, but hadn't heard it performed. If that's the standard tune, it's also been used for (IIRC) the Lowlands of Holland by various bands?
Sep. 9th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
No, I reckon that the Lowlands of Holland is quite different (checking it on Youtube)!
Sep. 11th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
The Steeleye Span version sounds very similar in my opinion.
Sep. 12th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
(listens to it)

No, not really!!!!
Sep. 10th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
I have an entirely different Serbian band doing it on a media containing item, somewhere. Will try and dig it out.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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