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  • Writer's pictureThe Rough & Tumble

A Soalin' (Hey, Ho Nobody Home)

Scott's Dad has this joke. It goes like this; "I'm not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of widths." It's an easy joke. Not very funny. Solid C material straight out of the joke book every father is handed when their first child is born. But every time he hears that someone is afraid of heights, he can't help it. He repeats the joke. It's tradition.

It's kind of like how every December, Mallory starts singing "Silver Bells" in the smoothest, crooning, baritone since Bing Crosby. She can't help it! It's tradition.

And we're sure you've got a few of your own, and yes, we're happy for you and hope you get to experience them this year with your family or chosen family even if they're stupid traditions. Trust me, we know we've got some stupid traditions. That's the thing about traditions; they're usually pretty stupid. But they meant something to someone at sometime and so you keep doing it. But here's the secret; a tradition will only stick around if everyone buys into it. Once someone starts to doubt the tradition and says that they don't want to participate or that we shouldn't be doing it that same old way or maybe saying "that's a stupid joke, you shouldn't tell it" the tear in the fabric has begun and it won't be long until that threadbare tradition is too thin to carry on.

Take the tradition of soaling, for example. It was a practice in England that dated from the Middle Ages and was carried on through roughly the 1930's. It was a day of remembering the souls of the dead and would take place during Allhallowtide (October 31-November 2nd). Soul Cakes (spice cakes with the sign of the cross to distinguish them as alms) would be left for the dead overnight (with a glass of wine to wash it down of course) and in the morning the poor and children would come around to the various houses singing for the soul cakes. They'd be handed out by the keepers of the house and was a day of giving to the poor and is where we inherited our modern tradition of "trick or treat."

So why are we bringing up this tradition now around Christmastime? Well because we're The Rough & Tumble and when it comes to holidays we are decidedly for the little guy. But also because this song in recent years has become a Christmas Carol and we've heard it sung by madrigal groups, children in a round and most famously, by Peter, Paul and Mary who may have been the first to bring together the three different songs that make up this version ("Hey, Ho Nobody Home," "A Soalin," and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman"). We may have them to thank for how confusing and exciting this song is.

We hope you enjoy our version of A Soalin'. We sure had a great time learning it. When we started performing this song in a round, Scott needed to make it known that "he's not great at singing in a round, but he's pretty good at singing in a square." Some traditions die harder than others and some are just literally passed on genetically.

Happy holidays. We hope that if they bring you joy this time of year that you are able to keep your traditions, whatever they may be.

* A note on the chords and the harmonization. I play this in A minor with a capo on the third fret which means we're really playing it in C minor. Because of the nature of the melody (it's a round) there are lots of really fun ways you can harmonize the song- taking a classical approach in counterpoint which seems quite difficult or maybe the more traditional folk version where you walk the bass down in quarter notes (cm/C, cm/Bb, cm/Ab, cm/G, etc.). We opted to go with a combination of harmonizations and quite frankly, at press time, I'm not exactly sure how we're going to harmonize this. All that to say, the basic harmonies outline C minor and if you want to get more technical you're gonna have to find a different lead sheet.

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