Sometimes, a book is just falling apart so much, and you have no need to keep it despite it having some sentimental value, that the best thing is to recycle it.
This is the case with my Puffin Songbook. First published in 1956, mine is the second reprint from 1963. The cover is by Ronald Searle. This book is only held together with reels of peeling tape. The pages are heavily tanned, and many of them are now loose, the glue of the spine being completely shot. I’ve scanned the few pages I might wish to return to one day, and once this post is complete, it’ll go into the green bin… (by the way, you can still find decent copies – see the bottom of this post).
Compiled by Leslie Woodgate, the book has nearly 200 pages of assorted songs. His introduction encourages us to give them a go and enjoy making music together. There are all kinds of arrangements, most are piano/vocal, others are a capella, piano/violin, multi-part, piano duets, recorders, and even songs with percussion parts (e.g. folk song Aiken Drum). The songs themselves range from the ancient to less ancient, there are many nursery rhymes and ditties, a few hymns, lots of folk songs, spirituals, a whole section of Christmas carols, not to mention part songs like Thomas Tallis’ canon (Glory to thee my God this night) from the 1500s. There is also a handful of French and German songs, from Frère Jacques and Alouette (which the footnote tells me is actually French-Canadian) to Die Lorelei, set to music by Silcher from the poem by Heinrich Heine.
My mum played the piano really well, and we would sing from this book together. A favourite of my mother’s, which became a bit of a party piece for the primary/junior school me was Schubert’s setting of Goethe’s Heidenröslein (right).
Other favourites were Over the Hills and Far Away (to the tune by John Gay from The Beggar’s Opera), and Cockles and Mussels.
Looking through the songs brings back many memories, but I can’t remember ever having sung the second verse of Oranges and Lemons in any company…
Pancakes and Fritters, say the bells of St Peter’s.
Two sticks and an apple, say the bells of Whitechapel.
Old Father Baldpate, say the slow bells of Aldgate.
Poker and tongs, say the bells of St John’s.
Kettles and pans, say the bells of St Ann’s.
Brickbats and tiles, say the bells of St Giles’.
Followed by the ‘here comes a chopper’, etc.
I can also remember taking this book in to school. In my last year at junior school, our class put on a little play we’d devised ourselves. It had a medieval setting and I was doing the music. I played Greensleeves from this book but set to new words I’d written which began ‘A lady sat on a patch of grass, her hair was….. and her ….. pure ……’ . I’ve never found the words I wrote again, and can’t remember any more.
Incidentally, I do also remember playing Le Coucou (The Cuckoo) by Louis Claude Daquin during this performance, and refreshing my memory on Youtube of this sweet piano piece, I found a rather wonderful piano accordion version! I shall leave you with Uwe Steger playing …
The Puffin Song Book, compiled by Leslie Woodgate (1956).