Von: Siegfried Knoepfler
Datum: 19. Januar 2008 KW3 21:41:24 MEZ
Betreff: The green fields of Virginia...
... are they white these days, I wonder. (And may this explain that there are only 3 messages in today's Cyberpluckers digest?)
Anyhow, while everybody is silent, I seize the opportunity of being heard. I'm going to tell you about my research of this afternoon. (It's now, at half past eight and after two hours of From The Roots on WMMT, a black, rainy (and abnormally warm) night here.)
A few hours ago, while rummaging among my things (you know, in early 2006 I spent quite a lot of money for new home furnishings, shelves and cupboards, and then tried to arrange and organise my things in a logical way, and ever since I simply don't find anything anymore), anyway, while looking for something else I found again a music book that I got many years ago from the catalogue of what is called here in Germany a "modernes Antiquariat". (My German-English dictionary suggests: "modernes Antiquariat :- shop/department selling remainders, defective copies, cheap editions, reprints, etc.".)
This book contains for 20 Carter Family songs the melody line, guitar chords and lyrics. (It was published in 1975 in London, England, edited by Dave Travis, a once famous British Country Rock and Rockabilly artist.) While leafing through the book, my eyes were caught by the only music sheet that made no reference to A.P. Carter but instead to a certain Chas. K. Harris, who entered his Copyright 1898 at Stationers Hall, London, Eng., and at the Dept. of Agriculture, Ottawa, Can. (Why Agriculture?!) for the Words and Music to the song
'Mid The Green Fields Of Virginia
Isn't that interesting?
Well, I searched the Internet a bit and learned that he was the most successful song writer of his time, his biggest hit being "After The Ball". He was also called "the king of tearjerkers" and wrote about nearly everything, sometimes with very little information on the topic. It is reported that he never was to Virginia, but somebody in his office told him "there was corn raised in Virginia" and that was all information he needed for making the song (cf.
Among my CD collection, I have three recordings of this song:-
1.) on the CD "The Best of Mike Fenton" (Key of F, 2 verses)
2.) on the CD "The Green Fields of Virginia" by John & Kathie Hollandsworth & Friends (Key of C, 2 verses)
3.) by Bill Clifton on CD "Autoharp Legacy" (Disc 2) (Key of F, 4 verses)
While recordings #1 and #2 are structurally very similar (Kathie, may I assume that you learned your version from Mike?), recording #3 has two more verses, additionally to the ones sung on recordings #1 and #2, and thus has every of the original words written by Chas. K. Harris. (I love particularly the line "Though I'm living in a mansion grand, with wealth at my command ..." Wish it was true for me!). So here we have a case where good old A.P. indeed did not corrupt the original words, as he usually did for so many of the songs he has been "fixing up"!
Whereas A.P. retained Harris' original words, he in fact simplified the tune considerably. Thanks to the National Library of Australia, you may see for yourself:
I'm tempted to attack the Harris tune, just for its chromatic challenge. Well, not tomorrow, for sure!
BTW, Chas. K. Harris died in 1930, i.e. definitely more than 70 years ago. So all his songs must now be in the Public Domain! Isn't this an idea for a project: Selected gems from Charles Kassel Harris' legacy, made shining on the autoharp!
Siegfried in Cologne, Germany
PS: While everybody agrees that the Autoharp Legacy CDs are clearly a must, I'd say that both of the other CDs mentioned above are so as well! They are easily available, e.g. on Autoharp Quarterly Market Place. Go and get them!
 According to German copyright law, works become "gemeinfrei" (public domain) 70 years after the death of the author (if not earlier for other reasons). Since all this is hosted with a German ISP there can be no interference with US law (which used to agree with this rather common regulation until Walt Disney Corporation persuaded Congress to help them with milking money from their old silent movies for some decades longer).