The Music of Robin Hood

The Music of Robin Hood

Just saw the new Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe version of Robin Hood and have to say I quite enjoyed it, especially the appearance of Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea in the role of Alan A’Dayle (didn’t have to change his name much for that part, did he). And the music he played was a lot of fun.
But the reason I am posting this on an Irish website is because I thought the music was just a wee bit Irish. More Irish than English in fact. Perhaps it is because Doyle cut his teeth in the multi-cultural soup that is Eastern Canada, and they decided to go for fun more than historical accuracy.
Does anyone with some historical knowledge have any thoughts on this?

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Absolutely no knowledge from me. Never touch the stuff. But I quite enjoyed the music in the newest Sherlock Holmes movie. Rocky Road to Dublin by the Dubliners and lots of other fun stuff through out. Haven’t seen the Robin Hood flick yet. I’m too afraid that the politics of it’ll p*ss me off.

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Haven’t seen the fillum - won’t be seeing it, life’s too short - but the Robin Hood songs are certainly popular with a certain species of folk revivalists*, many of whom play Irish tunes.
In other words, there are plenty of people who have this minor confusion of traditions. Could be worse. They could have decided to use the Irish-Cuban fusion (Che and Fidel robbed from the rich to give to the poor, didn’t they?). Or they could have done it as a Bollywood - oldschool bollywood, Sholay-style, with Maid Marian doing a tweny-minute dance number after Robin is captured by the oddly corpulent Sherrif of Nottingham, before Little John pulls a rescue and is killed in the process, but not before singing his plight at the top of his lungs with a bunch of arrows sticking out of him.
Actually, that sounds kind of cool, that one I might go to see.

But the other reason, besides the common confusion that mingles Irish tunes with English songs, is even simpler: English tunes are sort of boring. Irish tunes are better.

*The term makes me think of a tradition, on a gurney, with paramedics running alongside shouting "clear!" and pressing paddles to its notional chest.

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I think Russel Crowe is a Great Big Sea fan, I’ve noticed him singing their songs in other movies, maybe he had something to do with casting him. I actually prefer Alan A’Dayle as a Rooster, and his songs were even more fun, Oo De Lally!

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I just noticed I never use paragraphs as you do Jon K, that looks really nice. Why didn’t you guys say something to me?

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Late in the film they pull out a real irish tune for a bit of background, and my partner and I were grinning away. We did like the sea shanty drinking song they sang on the boat crossing the Channel. There was also a bit of hanging around during shooting down in the woods for the scene where Robin meets King John ( wearing my other hat as an extra ) and I had the opportunity to ask about the lute Alan was carrying across his back, but he explained that that instrument was a prop, and not a playable instrument. Incidentally,that was the day Russell Crowe got us all to sing Happy Birthday to Will Scarlett, and had cake distributed to all the Background Artists, so he’s a good bloke on my chart, food being one of the few bits of entertainment we get on film sets.
Shanty - don’t understand the bit about the politics - it’s a 12th century-set movie, the politics is hardly relevant to today ?
Personally, the one bit of the movie I didn’t believe at all was the oar-powered landing craft - did they have some props left over from Saving Private Ryan, or Band of Brothers ? Anyway, I didn’t get to work on the beach scenes, I only saw what they put on the screen, so I can’t comment further.
But it’s a modern movie, with the soundtrack mixed the way young people like it, lots of bass and top and no middle, so if you’re an OAP take your earprotection with you.
PS I spent quite a few days working on this movie, and I’m visible on screen for about 3 seconds on the castle turret while the chef shoots Coer-de-Lyon, so hardly a starring role…..
Sigh.

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I haven’t seen the film, but if Alan was carrying something recognisable as a lute, that’s wrong to start with. The lute at that time was a very different instrument to the Renaissance instrument, and had only just started moving into Europe - there is no evidence to suggest that it had reached this far North by the 12 centuary. The instrument a jongleur in England is likely to have played are the crewth, vielle, or organistrum.

As to the music played, if it is recognisable as either Irish or English then it is wrong. The musical styles we associate with England and Ireland really only emerged in the 17th century (although they did incorporate earlier tunes). In the 12th century stringed instruments were only used for simple vocal accompaniment . If people were going to dance it would usually be to the pipe and tabour, playing simple repetative phrases, much more like African or Eastern music than anything we play in the West today. You danced to the rythm, not a melody.

But hey, it’s a film not a documentary, so just enjoy it and don’t worry about whether it’s authentic or not.

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Guernsey I’m old and wise(or not!) enough to see an agenda in just about everything today. I just like a good story-no politics or social commentary. I’ll probably go see the movie and I’ll be looking for you on that castle turrent!:)

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Mná Na hÉireann is in the film, however it isn’t mentioned in the credits.

Are the O’Riada’s going to get royalties for this or is Paddy Moloney still trying to claim them????

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Love the story of the couple getting married in the early nineties. They requested the organist to play the Theme from Robin Hood (Everything I do I do for you) as they made their way down the church. Sure enough as the great procession started on its way down the aisle, the old organist struck up ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen’ which of course was the theme from the fifties TV series of Robin Hood.

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Hey, Skreech, these guys are just back from the Crusades, where they picked up all these Moorish instruments and other souveniers. I think that’s the reasoning behind the lutey-thingy Allan-a-Dale was carrying. The development of the European instrument in its own right is another subject entirely.
I agree anything recognizably ‘Irish’ or ‘English’ would be well out of order, but it’s a modern movie.
I do love it when there’s a bit of old mood music needed for some poigniant moment and the low whistle comes in - Titanic onwards - when was the first low whistle made/played ? 1970s ?

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Yes, but the ‘lute’ they brought back from the crusades was what we call a plucked vielle - a pear shaped instrument about the size of a mandolin with no clear distinction between the back and neck, and the back and neck carved out of a single piece of wood.

The instrument we call a lute, with a back made out of individual ribs and a separate neck didn’t appear until the end of the 14th century.

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Glad you liked the flick, Al. I’m a wait until video guy myself, but for a fun movie you can’t go wrong with those two dudes.

However, I was turned off by Real Big Sea after I heard a live album of theirs. There appeared to be 10,000 women screaming at their top of their lungs at all times during the show. Very distracting. I had mental images of waterfalls of undergarments being thrown towards the stage, hotel keys and such.

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Reel Big Fish. Isn’t that a ska band? Great Big Sea? Real Big Sea? Fish Sea Big Real? Oh well. Must be getting old.

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I liked your Robin Hood anecdote, Free Reed!

… Here’s another …

A few years ago, Nottingham City Council decided that to get rid of of their "Nottingham - Home of Robin Hood" image, and took down all the signs portraying Robin Hood on roads leading to the city. Rather a fooolish decision, I would have thought, since Nottingham’s Robin Hood association brings in a lot of tourism revenue.

Then the city of Doncaster, seizing its chance to cash in on the RH image, renamed its airport "Robin Hood Airport".

But did any of this make any difference? I don’t think so. The rest of the world (rightly or wrongly) still associates Robin Hood with Nottingham - not Doncaster.

But I just wonder whether foreign tourists ever book flights to Robin Hood Airport, thinking that they are flying to Nottingham … ;-)

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I loved that 1st song they sang on the ship…"Bully Boy" I think it’s called. Anyone know where I could find it? Tried iTunes under Robin Hood, Alan Doyle, and Great Big Sea but couldn’t find it.

Russell Crowe and Alan have been friends for several years, so yes, Russell got him the part in the movie.

SWFL Fiddler…the live album is what actually turned me on to GBS, but the screaming girls are quite annoying to listen to track after track. Their early studio albums are great, though.

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BIlly Boy, perhaps?
"She’s the Nancy of my fancy and the sailor’s pride and joy" - that one?

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Don’t tell Crowe it was more Irish than anything, or he will thow the biggest p*ssy fit. I think if it was a man on BBC that asked him if he was going for an Irish accent, and Crowe got all p*ssy about it. Then the guy asked him if it was Northern English, and Russell walked off set yelling.

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The Bully Boy song sounded like a lot of shantys do, for all we know it is original to the movie. I guess there is a lot of interpolation involved when imagining musical styles from that long ago—so having fun with it, as they did in this movie, is as good a way to portray it as any. And they were portraying the music of the people, which probably didn’t get mentioned much in the history books, as opposed to court music.
Come to think of it, does anyone have an opinion of the dancing we saw? Accurate to the place and time?
And SWFL, you are right about the screaming girls at the GBS concerts, they do make a bit of racket, but all part of the fun. I will never forget seeing GBS in an outdoor concert in Boston, as a last minute substitute for an opening act. The main act that night was Dar Williams, an introspective folkie, who was quite upstaged by the energy of the boys. I felt sorry for her, as many of the attendees, like me, seemed to have been there for GBS, and left soon after she started to play.

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I was disappointed the dialogue wasn’t in Old English with subtitles.

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"I think Russel Crowe is a Great Big Sea fan…"

Wait, he’s not a fan of Gaelic Storm? I mean, their song "The Night I Punched Russel Crowe" couldn’t have something to do with it, could it?

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irishfidler32….

Could it have been Bully in the Alley?

If so, there’s a version on Rogue’s Gallery, a collection of "pirate ballads, sea songs and chanteys". It’s on the Anti label, released in 2006.

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I followed that Wiki link, and while I was at Wiki, checked on Alan Doyle, which was linked to Russell Crowe and a band he was in, and it turns out Doyle and Crowe have worked together musically for a number of years. Why Doyle got his first big acting job now begins to make more sense….

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Actually I like Crowe’s acting usually. I didn’t even know that about Crowe and Doyle, I just made that stuff up after noticing Crowe sing along to some irish song in another movie while driving a car, I should have been a detective……..

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There is one surviving English dance tune of the period:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bf1bFOf4Gg


It comes from the English Midlands around 1250. It’s printed in Timothy McGee’s "Medieval Instrumental Dances". The YouTube performance on the harp rather misses the point - imagine it played on loud dance music instruments, like the fiddle or bombarde, as it is on most recordings, and it comes across very much like a Morris dance tune of a few centuries later (except that each section is nine bars long, I imagine the dancers would have done some sort of dramatic stomp at each 9th bar). So, based on this one data point, English tunes back then may well have sounded much like they do now.

This piece has been continuously available on record for 40 years, at least. (It’s also been famous in musicological circles for decades longer, as one of the first unambiguously major-key tunes known from anywhere in Europe). Not much excuse for the film-makers to ignore it.

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I saw the movie last week,AlBrown,and I thought the music had a very Irish feel to it-there was also a piper in credits but I can’t remember the name.

-Jonny Ward,I listened to that interview (it was on ‘Front Row’ with Mark Lawson asking the questions)and it was hilarious.

I quite like Crowe as an actor but he should lighten up a bit off the set.
Fwiw,I could detect Dublin,Geordie,Yorkshire,and midlands at various points in the film.I think he should have stuck with his own voice-like Sean Connery does.

Guernsey Pete-I too thought that battle scene was a little nod to the start of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ with a bit of’Braveheart’ thrown in.

I must say I enjoyed watching a ‘Battle of Hastings’ in which the French get beaten.Very cathartic,haha.

Can’t wait for the sequel.

But my top cinematic tip at the moment is Werner Herzog’s ‘Bad Lieutenant’-brilliant and beautiful.I could have stood more iguana footage though.

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Friends of mine played a movie wrap party of some sorts in a bar in Pittsburgh and Crowe was there. They said he was very cool and down to earth. Maybe he gets upset with people because they act like assholes.

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Hope you enjoy the film,shanty.

Although I thought Mark Lawson could have done that interview without getting into the accent thing he certainly was n’t acting like an ‘asshole’.

But that’s the star system for you-I don’t blame them because they must get fed up with having to do their contractual plugs.


I thought it was more a laugh than anything else-you don’t get too many hissy fits on radio 4.

At least this did n’t happen to him…:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylXqc8TQ15w


Just a thought-is this whole thread plugging ‘Robin Hood’?

(wrt the imbroglio of https://thesession.org/discussions/24756/comments#comment517844).

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biggus dave, In the interest of full disclosure, and to satisfy any leagal requirements, the following statement is provided: I do not have, nor have I ever had, any financial interests in, nor professional contacts with anyone connected with, the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe production of Robin Hood. ;-)

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"No, I actually think he has the personality of a Great, Big, Sea Fan"

So "whiplike, bushy, or even encrusting" and "often purple, red, or yellow?"

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Can’t wait for ‘Robin Hood the Musical’ could be another string to Russel Crowe’s bow. Let’s hope if it does come about that it wont go the same way as ‘Twang..! did for Lionel Bart in the sixties.

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Well, I can’t wait for Robin Hood II, I’m ready, hairy, and trained in the longbow - although they actually used me as a crossbowman, miming firing crossbows off the battlements, I was trained in using the longbow first, and was glad not to be on the longbow, they shot a lot of arrows at us, and must have had very sore fingers !
I did volunteer as a musician, but they had no instrument for me, so I was not used.
Next time.

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If you want to know what instruments should be played on Robin Hood films, look up.
Manchester cathedral, Beverley Minster etc. give us a good guide to the bagpipes, whistles, shawms, trumpets, psalterys, viols and portative organs available at the time. Probably only the first 3 would be heard in the street.