I've been reading Ira Gershwin's Lyrics on Several Occasions, lyrics
to his songs both well-known and completely forgotten, with commentary.
The commentary is wonderful, delightfully erudite and funny. Here's
part of his remarks on the little-known "The Jolly Tar and the Milkmaid."
Additional Uttered Nonsense. I have just spent the afternoon
leafing through the thousand or so songs in D'Urfey's
six-volume collection, Pills to Purge Melancholy (published
1719-20), to see how frequently various meaningless but
singable phrases occurred in that period. Well, most of
the songs use the short refrain, but most of these are
meaningful (far too much so - unless one is an Erotica
buff). Fixing upon only the innocuous, I find that the
Elizabethan "hey nonny" and such were by then on the wane.
The most favored refrain in the collection - some twenty
songs use it - seems to have been "with a fa la la . . ."
(incid., "fal la la" was a favorite refrain with Gilbert
and Sullivan). Other of the innocent burthens in D'Urfey
are: "with a hey ding, hoe ding, derry, derry, ding," "with
a fadariddle la . . .," "fa la la, lanky downdilly," "hey
troly loly lo," and "with a humbledum grumbledum hey." Not
forgetting an exuberant "huggle duggle, ha! ha! ha!"
The use of easily assimilable nonsense phrase in song is
of course not limited to the British, Irish, and Scottish.
Hundreds of examp;les can be found in nineteenth- and
twentieth-century American song. Offhand: "doodah, doodah,"
"yip i addy i ay," "ja da, ja da, jing, jing, jing," all
the variants of "ho do ho" and "hi de hi," &c., &c. These
are not necessarily all used as refrains - they may be
titles, interjections, responses, or whatever. A longish
example of the phrase-for-sound-alone's-sake is "It Ain't
Necessarily So"'s "Wadoo! Zim bam boddle-oo! Hoodle a da
wah da! Scatty-wah!"
Dramatist Thomas D'Urfey (1653-1723) included a number of
his own songs in Pills to Purge Melancholy. And I cannot
take leave of the collection without quoting the charmingly
informative heading to one of them: "Advice to the City, a
famous Song, set to a tune of Signior Opdar, so remarkable,
that I had the Honour to Sing it with King Charles at
Windsor; He holding one part of the Paper with Me."
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery. For more information,
go to: http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html