Friday, April 19, 2013

The Surprising story of Painted Veil French Folk Song

The Crystal Fountain  song is thought to have been  written in France in 1604. It still sounds as if it were composed yesterday. 

It is featured in the film The Painted Veil based on a story by Somerset Maughan and I howled my eyes out as it was sung. It was a song I just had to sing but doing that was not as easy as it sounds.  There is no downloadable Midi piano version available so it was out with Garageband and a 'do it yourself job'. I am used to doing this! 

It is usually sung in French but my French is not up to the task as the words are full of double entendre. The little song is sad and powerful. It tells the tale of an illicit rendezvous  the secret swim and the unfortunate consequences of a cheated lover who was not amused. That is has stood the test of time for 400 years says something. How many of today's songs will do that?

The vocal line was easy to write as it is just a  verse and chorus but then it has to be arranged and that means Harmony!  I once learned Traditional Four Part Harmony when I was 17 at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama. I knew then I should never use it and as I only had a basic musical education and I do not play an instrument I struggled. I had a wonderful teacher who gave printed notes but as soon as I could I gave it up. I lost the notes.

Fifty years later I needed to refresh my Harmony so I could orchestrate the song. I asked around music teachers and musicians but nobody was of any help. In desperation I rang up the Auckland University Music who failed to ring back and then when all help was gone I found this wonderful site on the internet and my problem was over. Learning and Loving  Music Theory  which solved my problem

One evening study and all the 'consecutive fifth's' and 'hidden octaves' came flooding back. I had enough Harmony knowledge to do enough for me. I do not think I should pass a harmony exam but who cares. My old teacher would be so proud of me. His lessons have come in useful after all.
This version has been enhanced by YouTube! When I uploaded it YouTube informed me that it did not like my lighting  and could they have a go at correcting it. In a spirit of adventure I said yes and this is the result. It is very dark and saturated and something I would never dare attempt but I rather like it. What do you think?

PS I discovered that the fabulous Greta Garbo has also starred in a 1930's version of this film. Sadly it is not yet available on YouTube. One day?

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