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The Birds Upon the Tree
[ Roud 1863 ; W.C. Robey (1882)]
Mike Yates recorded Charlie Bridger singing The Birds Upon the Tree in Stone-in-Oxney, Kent in 1984. This recording was the title track of the Musical Traditions anthology The Birds Upon the Tree. Rod Stradling commented in the liner notes:
The Birds Upon the Tree was written by the American W.C. Robey and first published in New York in 1882. Interestingly, Percy Grainger noted a version of the song in 1905 from the great Lincolnshire singer Joseph Taylor. And, as The Birds, it is sung by Tom Brodie, of Rockliffe / Wreay, Cumberland, on Pass the Jug Round (Reynard Records RR 002, reissued on Veteran VT142CD).
The Boat Band sang The Birds Upon the Tree on their 2001 CD A Trip to the Lakes.
Jon Boden sang The Birds Upon the Tree as the 27 May 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.
Andy Turner who, as Mike Yates, collected The Birds Upon the Tree from Charlie Bridger from Stone-in-Oxney in Kent, sang it as the 16 March 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.
Andy Turner sings The Birds Upon the Tree
Oh, I am a happy fellow; my name is Tommy Bell
I don’t care for your billiards nor game of bagatelle.
A-rambling in the country; a country life for me,
And listen to the little birds a-singing on the tree.
Chorus (after each verse):
Oh, the birds upon the trees, oh, the birds upon the tree.
Oh what a pretty sight it is, the little ones to see.
You talk about your music, the sweetest song to me,
Is the warbling of the little birds a-singing on the tree.
Oh, I often lose me temper; it puts me in a rage,
To see a little dicky bird imprisoned in a cage.
So I burst the bars asunder and set the prisoner free,
And hear the song of liberty while singing on the tree.
Oh, there’s little Maud the miller’s maid who is to be me bride
We often take a ramble through the meadows side by side.
And when we settle down in life our cottage it shall be,
Where we can hear the little birds a-singing on the tree.