Monday Morning Smile: "Down by the Salley Gardens" - Yale Whiffenpoofs

Miss Mary Mack had her first school choir concert of the year last week. 90-odd kids singing with no small degree of talent. Hearing her sing in that choir made me happy for many reasons, not the least of which was that I'd heard her singing this song through the house for the past month and so I was glad to hear it in polished, choral form.

My favorite song her choir sang was "Down by the Salley Gardens," which is based on an 1889 poem by W.B. Yeats with a vocal setting by Benjamin Britten:

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take life easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she placed her snow-white hand.
She bid me take love easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

As you might expect, hearing these words from a bunch of middle schoolers put a different spin on the text. But Britten's setting (and his piano accompaniment) is so very lovely and made me smile. Wistfully, perhaps, but smile nonetheless.

Also: so short -- totally memorizable. Now to track down chords.

Anyway, this is one of the best versions I could find online. It omits the piano and so isn't quite the version I heard, but the melody is the same.

Yale Whiffenpoofs - "Down by the Salley Gardens" [YouTube]

Oh, what the heck, here's a bonus version, recorded many years ago. It's a solo artist, but hews much more closely to Britten's piano-aided setting.

Nicolai Gedda, accompanied by Gerald Moore - "Down by the Salley Gardens" [YouTube]