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Manuscript/Mixed Material The Golden Willow Tree

Image: [Cabin Boy and Captain], 1903, by Pamela Colman Smith
[Cabin Boy and Captain], 1903, by Pamela Colman Smith, reproduced in The Golden Vanity and The Green Bed: Words and Music from Two Old English Ballads, London: Elkin Mathews, 1903.

from Old American Songs, Set II, 1952
by Aaron Copland, 1900-1990

Two years after the success of his first set of Old American Songs, Copland arranged a second set of American folk tunes for voice and piano. As he had done with the American debut of the first set of songs, Copland once again accompanied baritone William Warfield in the premiere performance of the sequel set on 24 July 1953. Copland later transcribed both sets of Old American Songs for performance by vocal soloist and orchestra, which were later arranged for chorus and piano and chorus and orchestra by Irving Fine and many others.

The second set contains Copland's arrangements of "The Little Horses," "Zion's Walls," "The Golden Willow Tree," "At the River," and "Ching-a-ring Chaw." The third song of the collection, "The Golden Willow Tree," is Copland's arrangement of an Anglo-American ballad known as "The Golden Vanity," a melody that was used by English composer Benjamin Britten in his folk song settings. Copland's version is based on a recording issued by the Archive of American Folk Song housed at the Library of Congress. The recording was recorded by Justus Begley (with banjo accompaniment) for Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in 1937.

The text of "The Golden Willow Tree" is the most extensive of the collection, featuring a fairly lengthy narrative tale of maritime exploits. Although Copland completely modified the contour of the melodic line, he retained the modal ambiguities found in the original folksong. Copland's reworking of the melody for "The Golden Willow Tree" can be found in the holograph sketches of the Old American Songs (set II), available online through the Aaron Copland Collection at the Library of Congress:

About this Item


  • The Golden Willow Tree


  • -  Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990
  • -  Parlor and Concert Stage
  • -  Songs and Music
  • -  contemporary america (1945-present)
  • -  Songs Collections


  • song collection

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TheGolden Willow Tree. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

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TheGolden Willow Tree. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

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