Needles and pins

Music: Trad. American arr. Jennifer Bell. Words: Anon.
SSAA, piano
performance time approx 2m 30s
Range S1: d' – g'' / S2: d' – e''♭ / A1: a – c''# / A2: g – b'♭
Price code: C
Complexity: **

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This teasing song of courtship is based mainly on a 19th century American song Paper of Pins. The song was published in 1869, with a tune composed and arranged by E. Mack and words by ‘A Lady’. Mack’s tune was somewhat different from the one that has become associated with the song since then, but had a similar simplicity. In bars 44 – 59, a snippet of a second song (The Thread That Runs So True) also appears; this was a play party song, a kind of clapping song sung in parts of the US where, for much of the 19th century, religious practice forbade dancing or the playing of musical instruments. One source attributes the words of this section (and a very similar tune) to Mrs Allie B Jackson of Versailles, Indiana.

Jennifer Bell's arrangement builds steadily - mirroring the escalating list of things promised to the beloved - and all ends happily, with the acceptance of marriage. The recording is by the Columbus Women's Chorus, Ohio, under Jennifer's direction.

For companion pieces we recommend Spin, spin and Knitting patterns.


I’ll give to you a paper of pins,
And that’s the way our love begins,
If you will marry me, me, me,
If you will marry me.

I won’t accept your paper of pins,
If that’s the way our love begins.
No, I won’t marry you, you, you.
No, I won’t marry you.

I’ll give to you a fine dress of red,
All bound around with golden thread,
If you will marry me, me, me,
If you will marry me.

I won’t accept your fine dress of red,
All bound around with golden thread,
And I won’t marry you, you, you.
No, I won’t marry you.

            Needle’s eye that doth supply the thread that runs so true,
            Many a beau did I let go because I wanted you.

I’ll give to you a pure silver spoon,
I’ll give to you a diamond so bright,
I’ll give to you the key to my chest,
I’ll give to you the key to my heart.

I’ll give to you the key to my heart,
That we might love and never part,
If you will marry me, me, me,
If you will marry me.

Yes, I’ll accept the key to your heart,
That we may love and never part.
And I will marry you, you, you,
And I will marry you.

For paper of pins, paper of pins,
For paper of needles and pins.

19th century American songs, adapted by Jennifer Bell

Purchase – 2053: Needles and pins

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