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Brigg Fair facts for kids

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Brigg Fair is an annual event held in the English market town of Brigg, North Lincolnshire, on every 5 August since 1205. It was primarily an event at which horses were bought and sold. While it is still held today, it is a shadow of its former self, celebrated primarily for historic and traditional reasons. It figures in an old English folk song, as described below.

"Brigg Fair" (Roud 1083) is an English folk song. It is best known in a choral arrangement by Percy Grainger and a subsequent set of orchestral variations by Frederick Delius.

Grainger's choral setting

Early in the 20th century, Grainger started collecting folk songs from around England, using wax cylinders to capture performances in the field as well as transcribing them. In 1907, he recorded Joseph Taylor singing "Brigg Fair" shortly after a music festival in Brigg, North Lincolnshire (the recording survives and is commercially available; it was digitised by the British Library and made available online in 2018). Grainger soon made an arrangement of the song for unaccompanied five-part chorus with a tenor soloist. The original song was short, since Taylor could remember only two stanzas, and Grainger added three stanzas taken from two other songs, "Low Down in the Broom" and "The Merry King". The tune, in the Dorian mode, is wistful, and the lyric is a happy one about true love.

Brigg Fair.PNG

The song has appeared in several different versions, including one set down by Taylor and members of his family. These are the words set by Grainger:

It was on the fifth of August-er' the weather fine and fair,
Unto Brigg Fair I did repair, for love I was inclined.

I rose up with the lark in the morning, with my heart so full of glee,
Of thinking there to meet my dear, long time I'd wished to see.

I took hold of her lily-white hand, O and merrily was her heart:
"And now we're met together, I hope we ne'er shall part".

For it's meeting is a pleasure, and parting is a grief,
But an unconstant lover is worse than any thief.

The green leaves they shall wither and the branches they shall die
If ever I prove false to her, to the girl that loves me.

Delius's orchestral setting

Delius heard Grainger's setting, and was impressed by both the tune and the arrangement. With Grainger's permission, he used the song as the basis of an orchestral work, first performed in 1908. After a pastoral introduction Grainger's setting is replicated by the woodwinds. A succession of variations on the original tune leads to a joyous finale. Joseph Taylor was a guest at the first performance, and reputedly stood and sang along.


3 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, triangle, tubular bells), harp, strings

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