“Now! All Together”: Songs From Long Ago

Songbooks fascinate me, particularly when they highlight song variations from earlier times.  So while browsing through a dusty stack of materials in a used bookstore a few months ago I was drawn in by this 8-page vintage booklet of songs, which was printed as a promotion around 1930 by the Dominion Life Assurance Company of Waterloo, Ontario.

This bit of ephemera is spare of graphics and contains a wide variety of songs, including songs specific to Canada (such as “O Canada!” and “Alouette”), American standards (“Home on  the Range” and “She’ll Be Coming’ Round the Mountain”), and songs indicating the then closer historical connection to Great Britain (“God Save the King” and “Loch Lomond”).  A few of these have lyrics that would not be considered racially sensitive but presumably reflected the time back then.   It’s an interesting mix of tunes, many that I’ve not heard in ages and others for which I only knew a line or two of the lyrics.

(Click image to enlarge)

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Songs & Ballads From Nova Scotia

Songs & Ballads from Nova Scotia

Ballads Cover 1

Front Cover Illustration by Reginald Knowles for Helen Creighton, Songs & Ballads from Nova Scotia (1933)

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Helen Creighton, a  then-budding musicologist, set about criss-crossing Nova Scotia to collect songs peculiar to the province.  In 1933 she published 150 of these songs in Songs & Ballads from Nova Scotia, the first of her many song collections.

I had the good fortune recently to come across a lovely first edition of this book and have enjoyed thumbing through it, while marvelling at the laborious effort reflected in its pages.  Here may be found songs of the sea, of love and its missing, of battle, of children’s play, as well as connections to the English, Scottish, French, Acadian and Mikmaq influences on this rich local music.  The book’s front and back covers are graced with an exquisite woodcut by the noted illustrator, Reginald Knowles, and depict scenes suggestive of the songs within.

Title Page

Title Page, Helen Creighton, Songs & Ballads from Nova Scotia (1933)

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Homeward Bound

“Homeward Bound,” from Helen Creighton, Songs & Ballads from Nova Scotia (1933)

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Devil's Island Scene

Frontispiece Illustration by R. Wilcox for Helen Creighton, Songs & Ballads from Nova Scotia (1933)

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Ballads Back Cover 1

Back Cover Illustration by Reginald Knowles for Helen Creighton, Songs & Ballads from Nova Scotia (1933)

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