This is a lovely little tune that I’ve known for years – but without any background or history. I first learnt it by osmosis – but then found it in a copy of the ‘Sussex tunebook’ given to me at some stage. It’s commonly played as a polka in D – but also G and has an unusual 40-bar form which sometimes causes confusion in sessions.
The tune appears in various fiddle manuscripts in the early & mid 1800’s and also as an earlier military march with a different name (Pauve Madeleine) – but the ‘Night ’til Morn’ name eluded me.
That is until, whilst doing to research on the Rook manuscript, I got sucked into reading some background on the growth of the middle class in the early 19th century – which lead me to Jane Austen. John Rook spent a fair bit of time coaching young ladies in the playing of the piano and looking at the index of the Austen manuscripts there is certainly some crossover in repetoire. Amongst all of that can be found a version of “From Night ’til Morn” – in the key of Bb and arranged for two players / singers:
Austen’s title could easily be interpreted as a drinking song but the first line of the song points to a more melancholic perspective “From Night ’til Morn I take my glass in hopes to forget my Chloe”.
This song and similar arrangements were published in the late C18th – and in many places the arrangement is attributed to William Shield – who is also responsible for the class Northumbrian Smallpipes variations to the Keel Row. A very small world indeed.