Stained Glass from All Saints in Marden
In 1978 I spent some time travelling around Berkshire and Wiltshire in the company of fellow folklorist Roly Brown. We were primarily looking for people who remembered folksongs, songs that they had learnt from their parents or grandparents. One lunchtime we called at The Lamb Inn in Urchfont, Wiltshire, where we met William Harding, who not only agreed to sing to us, but who also gave us a dialect poem and a reminiscence of a band that had once played in the village of Potterne. I have always regretted that William’s recordings have remained unpublished in my collection and am happy that they can now be heard by all.
Mike Yates. October, 2011
The words to While Shepherds Watched were written by Nathan Tate (1652 – 1715), the son of an Irish clergyman who rose to become Poet Laureate during the reign of Queen Ann. The words first appeared in the 1700 supplement to Tate & Brady’s New Versions of the Psalms of David and they are usually sung in church to the tune Winchester Old, which first appeared in Este’s psalter, The Whole Book of Psalmes, (1592). However, a number of other tunes were written for the hymn and many of these entered the folk tradition. Other “folk” versions can be heard on three CDs issued by Musical Traditions (http://www.mustrad.org.uk/). These are sung by Bob Hart of Suffolk (MTCD 301-2), Walter Pardon of Norfolk (MTCD 305-6) and George Dunn of Warwickshire (MTCD 317-8). An American set, with a tune titled Sherburne, can be heard on a Rounder CD The Alan Lomax Collection. Southern Journey – Volume 9. Harp of a Thousand Strings (Rounder CD1709).
Interestingly, the tune to Walter Pardon’s version appears to be a combination of the tune and the first harmony part, and this, I suppose, could suggest just how tunes become changed over the years by oral transmission.