I promised myself I would not let another Halloween go by without publishing my collection of Tam Lin tunes. In most versions of the story, it is Halloween night when our heroine must pull Tam Lin from his horse as the fairies pass by and hold him fast while he turns into all manner of things. I have loved all things Tam Lin (including the many novels based on the story) for a number of years and being able to play the ballads on the harp is so much fun! And they make for great programming in an set devoted to mysteries of the Celtic tradition.
So, with a few days to spare and without further ado, I bring you . . .
Tam Lin is a legendary Scottish story, recorded in many ballads, which dates from at least the 1500s. The heroine’s story, one of pluck and courage, transformations, and the relationship between the fairies and mere mortals, has been the subject of innumerable versions. This version of the tune is a traditional tune collected by BH Bronson.
Margery (or Margaret or Janet) sits calmly in a bower sewing when the thought of fresh roses sends her impulsively to the forbidden woods. After being seduced there by Tam Lin, she ultimately must rescue him from his enchantment at the hands of the Queen of the Fairies. To do so, she must pull him from his white horse and hold him tightly as he is transformed into a variety of beasts and then a brand of fire, finally covering his nakedness with her mantle of green as he comes back to human form in her arms.
Please click the title above, or any title on this page, to see or purchase the sheet music.
Lord Robinson’s only child is, of course, none other than Tam Lin.
This version of the Tam Lin ballad has an unnamed maiden walking her father’s grounds when a figure appears and demands to know why she is there. When she questions him he reveals himself to be the only child of Lord Robinson, and that he was stolen away by the faeries.
Another tune collected by BH Bronson, it has a pleasing lilt to it and sounds lovely on the harp.
Here is another ballad for those of us bitten by the Tam Lin bug. I’ve added an introduction and ending to this lovely melody. This version of the Tam Lin ballad was popularized by folk singers like AL Lloyd and Frankie Armstrong. Another beautiful piece for harp, full of the drama rescuing Tam Lin from the Fairy Queen.
A rollicking reel, so fun to play! What a nice way to break up a set of Tam Lin ballads in your programs. I’ve shared the love between two hands, making it achievable even for advanced beginners. There are some cool downward rolling chords for that spooky effect, and also some fun grace notes (leave them out until you can play the melody well without them).
Often confused with Tam Lin, Thomas the Rhymer is another ballad about a man, in this case a harper, living with the Queen of the Fairies. In this ballad told from his point of view, Thomas is a willing captive set free at the end of seven years and given the “gift” of truth-telling. This tune is a great fit for any program about fairies, the mysteries of Celtic lore, or, best of all, the adventures of harpers.