Monday, February 3, 2014

"Eileen Aroon" & "Robin Adair" - A Short Note

For different reasons I have neglected this blog for quite a while. But maybe it is now time to start with it once again. I have now deleted a lot of the old texts because they were somehow outdated or I have lost interest in these topics at the moment. Only the short song histories about "Corrina, Corinna" and "Alberta" have been left and hope I can revise them some day soon. Most of what I have written can now be found on my regular website I am particularly interested in researching the histories of old popular songs (or "folksongs"). Some song histories, for example about "The Water Is Wide", " Brennan On The Moor", "Farewell To Tarwathie", "Mary Of The Wild Moor" have been posted on that site. And the moment I am once again very busy with a particularly interesting song family, the one that is today mostly represented by "Eileen Aroon" but also includes "Robin Adair", one of the greatest popular hits of the 19th century .

This particular group of songs had a very fascinating history and there are already three relevant articles on my site. About three years ago I put together an attempt at a systematic overview of the British and American tradition from the early 18th century to the early 20th century. :
At some point I noted that this tune had also been very popular in Germany. There were different new texts, different translations and also a couple of new tunes for some of these texts. It even became - as "Heimat, Ade!" - a standard in songbooks for schools. In fact It is not unlikely that my grandmother sang this song. The article about "Robin Adair" in Germany is still in the works but I have already posted nearly six chapters and hope to be ready soon.
While working on this topic I was also somehow surprised to learn that Robert Burns must have been immensely popular in the German speaking countries during the 19th century. There were a lot of translations and many of them were then set to music by numerous composers. Burns had written two new poems to the tune of "Robin Adair", at first "Phillis The Fair" and then "Had I A Cave". These texts were of course also translated into German and then at least 18 times published with a new tune. A preliminary list can be found here:
It seems to me that "Robin Adair" was an early example for what now would be called an "international hit". Besides Britain, North America and Germany (as well as Switzerland and Austria) this tune was also regularly published in France - after Boieldieu had used it in his opera La Dame Blanche - as well as in Italy and I assume in other countries, too. But I am not sure if I should investigate these lines of traditions in more detail. The British and German histories of this song family will surely keep me very busy for quite a while.

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