The song ‘Katty Darling’ uses a tune originally called ‘Vaga Luna’, written by Italian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835). The practice of appropriating an existing popular tune and adding new lyrics had a long tradition in Britain leading into the 19th century. In Sydney, this approach was repeated in musical plays such as ‘The Currency Lass’, which was first performed in the 1840s.
‘Katty Darling’ has a curious genesis with at least three different sets of words published against the same tune within less than a decade. First appearing in London’s musical subscription journal ‘The Musical Bouquet’, in 1849, the song traces the wooing of a young maid by her lover. In 1851, a darker version was published in the USA where the beloved ‘Katy’ has died, and the singer is lamenting by her graveside. Less than a decade later, the same tune called ‘Katy Darling’ appeared in a Boston publication consisting mainly of Irish jigs and reels. How an Italian opera tune became recast as an Irish tune quite so quickly is a mystery, and perhaps best solved in a pub of the time!
Two locally printed copies of ‘Katty Darling’, published in the mid-1850s, have been found at Rouse Hill Estate. Both versions are associated with Anna Bishop, the famous English soprano. Miss Bishop toured through both the USA and Australia, and possibly commissioned this different set of words for her audiences. ‘Katty Darling’ and ‘Katy Darling’ were sold in large print runs from the 1850s and remained popular for at least another 60 years.
Watch the performance
Listen to David Greco introduce and perform ‘Katty Darling’. Dan Walker has prepared a song line and guitar chords to also help you along with your version. This is the only known recording of this song so you can help us share more versions with the world.
Listen to more examples:
We can’t find a recording of ‘Katty Darling’, but there are many examples of the Bellini tune it uses:
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A graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and The Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, baritone David Greco has worked in the cutting edge of Historically Informed Performance in Europe.
Composer, conductor and performer Dan Walker is one of Australia’s most in-demand choral specialists. He has had works commissioned by the Sydney Symphony, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Gondwana Choirs and Halcyon.
I’m waiting at your window Katty Darling
And its sweet your morning dreams may be;
I wouldn’t wake you for the world my darling,
For who knows, perhaps you’re dreaming love of me.
Last night just as we parted Katty dear,
I’d something on my mind to say,
But I couldn’t speak, I felt so tender hearted
For I’m going Katty going far away.
Sweet Katty, Katty, Katty darling,
‘Tis no use to stay repining here my darling
So I’m going Katty going far away.
You’re waking O come down Katty Darling
If ye heard yet think me not unkind;
It’s all because I love you that I’m going,
But it is not long I’ll leave my love behind.
You know how night and morning,
You have seen the big drops on my burning brow
What the better am I for it, Katty darling;
I have wasted and yet have nothing now
Sweet Katty, Katty, Katty darling
But it wont be so forever Katty darling
We’ll be happy in the land we’re going to.