SongNotes: Tell Me Who I’ll Marry

SongNotes Treasures
Jamie O’Reilly

SongBirds Songs of Resilience
Tell Me Who I’ll Marry

from Judy Collins, Traditional Polish folk song

“If you survive all this, you’re going to do what this woman does.”
Martha Schlamme

Iwona Biedermann photo, 1998.

My fascination with folk music began with my Dad bringing home promotional LPs from his job as overnight host on WFMT, Chicago Fine Art Radio station. Exotic Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac, and high tenor Richard Dyer-Benet were among the recording artists. And 60s folk groups like Peter, Paul and Mary became constants on the record player. We sang all the harmony parts in our family singalongs, and brought the music to the Folk Mass at church.


Making my way after music school, Stud Terkel interviews on WFMT Radio became an integral part of my development. He brought in major players from all areas of the Humanities and beyond; interviewing folk singers Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Theodore Bikel and the fascinating Viennese singer Martha Schlamme among them. Her first American album Songs of Many Lands inspired further. Martha’s origin story, vast repertoire, vocal interpretations, and interest in international folk songs, before “world music” became a thing, was compelling. In addition, before contributing their original songs to the exploding singer/songwriter lexicon, Joan Baez and Judy Collins were performing folk songs of Mexico, France, the British Isles and more, at festivals and on radio.

The Judy Collins version of Tell Me Who I’ll Marry, arranged and adapted from a Polish folk song, (the source of which I am hard pressed to find), appeared on her 1962 album Golden Apples of the Sun.

I discovered Collins’ Tell Me Who I’ll Marry while looking for songs for Jamie O’Reilly and The Rogues, my 1980s “international Irish band,” which included an ensemble of fine, classically trained musicians, one of whom was Stuart Rosenberg, a mandolin/fiddle player. He was equally at home playing Yiddish and Klezmer music as he was playing Cosmopolitan swing and Irish reels. Stuart hosted a radio show on Sunday afternoons with musical offerings that expanded my musical horizon. I appeared live on The Flea Market, which became Radio Gumbo, many times.

Below is an unreleased track from our 1988 live recording from the Woodstock Opera House
I sing the traditional Polish folksong, accompanied by Peter Swenson (guitar), Paul Amandes (guitar), John Floeter (double bass), Tom Amandes (percussion) and featuring Stuart Rosenberg on mandolin.

Hear the song

Jamie & The Rogues as “Balderdash”

Listen to Tell Me Who I’ll Marry (Best heard on good speakers).




Tell Me Who I’ll Marry, Circa 2022
This year I focus on performing songs of resilience and the women who sang them. Myself among them!

As I revisit folk songs from my early career, I came upon this recording with the Rogues, who used the pseudonym Balderdash when expanding to new material. I always interpreted it as a simple folk song about a young girl with plenty of suitors to choose from, who was keeping a secret. about who she really loved. Looking at the song now, as I work it through with John Erickson on piano, I think of it as an old waltz, filled with longing and memories. I hear it as an eastern European tune one might hear on the street in old Warsaw before the war. Before their world changed for good.

I’ll be singing Tell Me Who I’ll Marry at the Roots in the Garden concerts this summer with John on piano. I’ll be singing it as a tribute to the resilience of the Polish people and their rich musical heritage. It is dedicated to my resilient and gifted friends photographer Iwona Biedermann and Author Danuta Urbikas.

Read about Danuta’s awardwinning book My Sister’s Mother A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia here.
https://danutaurbikas.com/biography/

Visit Iwona’s website here. https://dreamboxfoto.com/
Jamie at Tre Kronor 2021


Read about The Roots in the Garden Concert Series, now in it’s 2nd year.
Support live music. Patrons link here: 

https://www.jamieoreilly.com/jamies-roots-in-the-garden-series-begins-its-2nd-season/


Lyrics to the song.

Tell Me Who I’ll Marry

Tell me who I’ll marry, tell me who he’ll be
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree

Here’s a builder come to woo you
No one can build a house like he can
Fondly he tells you that he loves you
As he loves his houses
I would wed my builder, but I’m sorry for my handsome weaver
I would wed my builder, but I’m sorry for my handsome weaver

Tell me who I’ll marry, tell me who he’ll be
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree

Here’s a weaver come to woo you
Weaving a garland with his fingers
Fondly he tells you that he loves you
As he loves his weaving
I would wed my weaver, but I’m sorry for my handsome turner
I would wed my weaver, but I’m sorry for my handsome turner

Tell me who I’ll marry, tell me who he’ll be
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree

Here’s a turner come to woo you
All ’round his length the sparks are showering
Fondly he tells you that he loves you
As he loves his capstan
I would wed my turner, but I’ve someone else to give my heart to
I would wed my turner, but I’ve someone else to give my heart to

Tell me who I’ll marry, tell me who he’ll be
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree
While the Vistula is flowing by the green oak tree

Traditional Song – arranged and adapted by Judy Collins
© 1962 Universal Music Group (ASCAP)/The Wildflowers Company (ASCAP)


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