Friday, February 10, 2017

La Golondrina

Narciso Serradell Sevilla, Mexico
In 1861, Mexico was invaded by the Second French Empire, and Maximilian I (younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I) was instated as the monarch of what became known as the Second Mexican Empire. A young man named Narciso Serradell Sevilla was captured while resisting the invasion, and he was sent to France, where he taught music and Spanish for several years. In 1862, at age 19, Sevilla wrote a song called La Golondrina (“The Swallow”), which resonated with many of his fellow Mexican exiles because it told of a migrating swallow recalling its homeland.

After the reign of Maximilian I ended in 1867, Sevilla and many of his countrymen returned home, and thousands of members of the French army (including its marching band) fled into what is now the American Southwest. Concurrently, many Polish and German immigrants began settling in the same region, bringing along their native polkas and waltzes. Needless to say, the setting was ripe for musical development. The confluence of imported and regional traditions sparked the development of several new styles in northwestern Mexico and the southwestern U.S., including Norteño music and Western Swing. La Golondrina became a mainstay in the Western Swing repertoire by the 1930s and is now considered a classic of the style.

Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, 1930s Texas
The tune has been recorded numerous times in different time signatures and under a variety of titles throughout the last century. The earliest known recording was made in 1906 by Señor Francisco, but perhaps better known are the recordings by Chet Atkins (instrumental, 1955), Nat King Cole (1962), and Placido Domingo (1984). Songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant rewrote the tune with English lyrics and entitled it She Wears My Ring, which was sung by Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Ray Price, among others. It was also rewritten and recorded in German as Du sollst nicht weinen (“Thou Shalt Not Cry”, 1968) and in Swedish as Mitt Sommarlov (“My Summer Break”, 1970), both of which became chart-topping singles in Europe.
I remember hearing La Golondrina frequently at the fiddle contests I entered as a teenager, especially those in the western U.S. I always admired the beautiful double-stops (often in third intervals) and the apparent difficulty it took to pull them off. After learning the tune myself, I began using it essentially as a double-stop exercise.

The arrangement of La Golondrina presented here is based on a version of the tune popularized by Western Swing players Milton Brown, Cliff Bruner, and Bob Wills. I expand upon this version by incorporating almost every available double-stop interval in thirds between the 1st and 5th positions. You can now practice your thirds to the beautiful tune of La Golondrina!

Cliff Bruner and his Texas Wanderers, 1937
Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, 1935

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, Mark! So interesting story! I am asking for your permit to re-post this information here about "La Golondrina" to my blog. I thank you so much in advance! "La Golondrina" has other different titles in German, too, also more different titles in Dutch language. This evergreen song is still very popular especially in Korea "제비" but in Japan too, titled “ラ・ゴロンドリーナ” > both translated as "The Swallow" >La Golondrina. The title "Las Golondrinas" /in plural/ is used ONLY in Mexico, but in original N.S.Sevilla titled this song as "La Golondrina". In Mexico, there are more different titles/ versions of this song, too, as well as in Portuguese language. In fact, this song is so popular evergreen, almost as "La Paloma"! I collect all available audio versions of this song w.wide and have in my audio collection about 3.100 instrumentals and songs in different languages /and counting! Regards and best wishes, and - THANK YOU SO MUCH, again!