The music of
Dickens and his time

The Seven Dials Band

CD
Cassette

BEJOCD-9
BEJO-9

 


'An excellent range of material performed with tremendous *lan. To hear those rollicking comic or sweetly sentimental songs performed so well adds, I think, a whole new dimension to our enjoyment of Dickens,' Professor Michael Slater, Past President of the Dickens Fellowship and Chair of the Trustees of the Dickens House

This release from Beautiful Jo Records is a lively and entertaining collection of Victorian songs and tunes which are all associated with the life and work of Charles Dickens.
The 20 tracks include everything from genteel parlour ballads to cockney ditties such as The Ratcatcher's Daughter and Shiverand Shakery - the Man Who Couldn't Get Warm. Here too are Home, Sweet Home (with which Dickens, playing the accordion, regaled the ladies' cabin during his first voyage to the United States) and dance medleys - The Christmas Carol Quadrilles and the David Copperfield Polkas - brought out by enterprising 19th-century music publishers to cash in on Dickens's name.

Of special interest are several of Dickens's own songs which have never, to our knowledge, been recorded before. They include two charming pieces from The Village Coquettes, a comic operetta written by the young novelist in 1836. You will also find period settings of The Ivy Green and Mr Wardle's Carol from The Pickwick Papers; and a savagely satirical ballad, The Fine Old English Gentleman - New Version, which Dickens penned for The Examiner.

A complete track listing follows

1. The College Hornpipe (1.27)
A popular dance tune, perhaps 18th century in origin. Dickens refers to it both in Dombey and Son (Ch. 2) and in David Copperfield (Ch.12) where: 'To make his example the more impressive, Mr Micawber drank a glass of punch with an air of great enjoyment and satisfaction, and whistled the College Hornpipe.' 

2. Some Folks Who Have Grown Old (2.50)
A song from The Village Coquettes, a comic operetta written by the young Dickens, with music by John Pyke Hullah. The show opened on 6 December 1836 at the St James's Theatre in London, and though it included some charming pieces was not particularly successful. In later life, Dickens disowned the work. Asked if he still possessed a copy of it he replied: 'if I knew it was in my house and could not get rid of it in any other way, I would burn the wing of the house where it was.' 

3. The Ratcatcher's Daughter (3.29)
A tragic ditty telling of love between a seller of sprats and a vendor of white sand (used for cleaning knives, lining bird cages, and other purposes). The lyrics are by a clergyman, the Rev. E. Bradley, and the song was first performed by the popular singer Sam Cowell. In 'Out of Season' (one of the Reprinted Pieces) Dickens notices the sheet music for the Ratcatcher's Daughter in a music shop 'having every polka with a coloured frontispiece that ever was published'. The original is in cockney dialect. 

4. Home, Sweet Home (2.53)
Dickens regaled the ladies' cabin with an accordion during his first voyage to the United States. 'You can't think with what feeling I play Home Sweet Home every night, or how pleasantly sad it makes us,' he wrote to John Forster from Baltimore, on 22-23 March 1842. The famous song first appeared in John Howard Payne's Clari, or The Maid of Milan (1823), an opera in two acts (with music by Henry Bishop. Dickens knew it well for he had staged an amateur production of the work in April 1833 (he took the part of Rolamo, a farmer; Fanny Dickens - the novelist's sister - was Clari ). This instrumental version of the song is taken from a set of variations written by the 19th-century concertina virtuoso, Joseph Warren. 

5. Begone, Dull Care (1.49)
A 17th-century glee still sung in Victorian times. Dickens makes reference to the song in several writings. In The Old Curiosity Shop (Ch.7) , Dick Swiveller invites Fred to 'remember the once popular melody of Begone Dull Care; fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine!' 

6. The Ivy Green (3.18)
This piece, recited in The Pickwick Papers (Ch. 6) by the clergyman of Dingley Dell, proved to be Dickens's most popular song. The piano setting is by Henry Burnett, Dickens's brother-in-law.

7. The Young Jolly Waterman (3.11) 
A piece by Charles Dibdin, dramatist and songwriter, from his ballad opera The Waterrman. It is sung in The Pickwick Papers (ch.33) at the Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association. 

8. The Soldier's Tear (3.44)
A sentimental song in the great Victorian tradition. It was written by Thomas Haynes Bayly, author of Oh, Give Me But My Arab Steed and Oh, No - We Never Mention Her. Reference is made to the song in Our Mutual Friend (Bk 1 Ch 5). 

9. Old Towler (3.04)
A favourite hunting song written by John O'Keeffe, to which Dickens refers in Our Mutual Friend (Bk 3 Ch. 10). The chorus calls for huntsmen's holloas. 

10. The Fine Old English Gentleman (New Version) (3.23)
Dickens wrote this savage satirical ballad ('to be said or sung at all Conservative dinners') for the liberal journal The Examiner ; it was published in August 1841 The song is a parody of a popular ditty about a Fine Old English Gentleman who, 'while he feasted all the great,/ He ne'er forgot the small.' 

11. The David Copperfield Polkas (4.40)
Composed by W. Wilson, these were among many melodies put out by Victorian music publishers to exploit the sales potential of Dickens's name. The tunes take their titles from characters in David Copperfield: 'My Child Wife Dora'; 'The Old Soldier'; 'Uriah Heep'; 'Agnes Wickfield'; 'The Micawbers'; 'Aunt Trotwood'; 'Mr Dick'; 'Peggotty'; 'David Copperfield'; 'Traddles'; 'Denouement - Copperfield and Agnes married.' Dickens's two daughters, Mary and Kate, tried to teach him the polka for his son's Twelfth Night party in January 1850. According to his biographer, John Forster, as Dickens lay in bed on the night before the celebrations he worried that he might have forgotten the step, 'and then and there, in that wintry, dark, cold night, he got out of bed to practise it.'

12. All's Well (3.54)
A duet from The English Fleet (1805) with lyrics by Thomas Dibdin and music by John Braham. Dickens refers to the song in Our Mutual Friend (Bk 3 Ch.7), and in The Old Curiosity Shop (Ch.56) where Dick Swiveller performs, with Mr Chuckster, 'a fragment of the popular duet of All's Well with a long shake at the end.' (The 'shake' is the exuberant, decorative 'a-a-all's well' at the end). 

13. A Country Life (3.30)
A song written by Dickens for the comic operetta The Village Coquettes (see above). 

14. Shiverand Shakery, the Man that Couldn't Get Warm (3.34)
A comic song by Jacon Beuler, to which Dickens refers in 'Dr Marigold's Prescription' in the Christmas Stories. 

15. Mr Wardle's Carol (4.12)
A carol written by Dickens and sung in The Pickwick Papers by Mr Wardle during Christmas festivities at Dingley dell. The piano setting is by Henry Russell. 

16. The Christmas Carol Quadrilles (5.39)
A set of tunes 'composed and dedicated to Charles Dickens Esq. by Edwin Merriott' according to the score, which also claims that they were 'performed by all the principal Bands'. The quadrille, a dance for four couples, was all the rage in the early Victorian period. In a letter of December 1836 Dickens writes of going to a quadrille party.

17. Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms (2.27)
One of the great 19th-century love songs, written by the poet, Thomas Moore whose Irish Melodies had a special attraction to Dickens. Mention is made of the song in The Old Curiosity Shop (Ch. 27) and in Bleak House (Ch. 49) where Mr Bucket sings it at a party. 'This ballad, he informs Mrs Bagnet, he considers to have been his most powerful ally in moving the heart of Mrs Bucket when a maiden, and inducing her to approach the altar.' 

18. The Workhouse Boy (2.37)
Comic and gruesome ballad of a workhouse boy who disappears on Christmas Eve only to be found later in the stewpot. This is a parody of a well known Victorian piece, The Mistletoe Bough. Reference to The Workhouse Boy is made in Bleak House, where shrill young voices taunt a beadle with having boiled a boy, singing fragments of a popular song 'importing that the boy was made into soup for the workhouse.' 

19. A Child's Hymn
Written by Dickens, this hymn appeared in the Christmas number of Household Words for 1856. 

20. Sir Roger de Coverley (4.51)
The most famous of all English country dance tunes, often played at the end of a ball. A fiddler strikes up the tune to conclude Mr Fezziwig's party in A Christmas Carol (Ch 2) and Dickens's delight in the dance is evident from his many references to it in his letters. To John Forster on 2 January 1841 he wrote: 'We were tremendous last night, though rather slack at first. We had two very long Sir Roger de Coverleys, and after supper about eight charades.'

The Seven Dials Band is directed by Dave Townsend, leader of the Mellstock Band and The Christminster Singers, who is already well known as a specialist in the music of Thomas Hardy. Dave also acted as arranger on the Sods' Opera album, Come on Lads...

What the critics have said...
This is a splendid and well-researched compilation of dances and songs. By turns sentimental, gruesome, patriotic and raucously comical, it's like eavesdropping on an evening's parlour entertainment with Mr Pickwick and friends, accompanied by a demure lady with a harp. The band with fiddle, concertina, serpent and other winds play with gusto and skill. It will be most useful to pupils studying the Victorians or wishing to explore attainment target 2 of national curriculum music. 
The Times Educational Supplement

'This is an excellent production deserving a place in every Dickensian household'
The Dickensian

Christmas with Dickens

Other Dickens links

Charles Dickens Page - An excellent site maintained by Mitsuharu Matsuoka, Japan

The Dickens Project - Another interesting US site based at the University of California

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