Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 1, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west, present four tunes and songs drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. And, as always, Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
In Banter, I play guitar. The fiddle is played by Mark Monaghan, my nephew. On mandolin is his father, Jim Monaghan, and on bodhran is Sammy Beggs, a friend of long standing. The vocals are shared among Jim, Sammy and me. This is pretty much Banter’s performance set-up for the last quarter century and that arrangement suits us just fine. Don’t move with the times, transcend them. (Or so we tell ourselves!)
Now, a brief word on the recordings: items one and three in each postcard edition were recorded almost 10 years back for a friend who spent a brief time in the band in the 90s. He wanted to take some music back to Ireland where he was making a last visit before his final illness claimed him. I set up a laptop on a table with its in-built mic and we played and had a few drinks and a bit of crack over several nights. These are very much unadorned live takes. Items two and four, however, were recorded in lockdown during 2020 and feature just me, but with a better microphone and music software in the place of live musicians for accompaniment. This is courtesy of COVID-19. I would have preferred our wee group for all the selections, but needs must. Therefore, you will find items 1&3 to be rough and ready, but with an undeniably live vibe, whereas items 2&4, it must be said in their favour, are a bit more polished.
I learned the first tune you’re going to hear back in the mid-1970s. when I played with Seannachie, a pioneering folk group in Wollongong at that time. The Spanish Cloak is an instrumental piece, sometimes known as The Munster Cloak. [insert tune, The Spanish Cloak]
Second, is a Ewan McColl composition about the truckies who plied their trade in Britain during the pre-motorway days of the 1950s. It has a great title, Champion at Keeping Them Rolling. I heard the Dubliners do this from an LP I listened to donkey’s years ago. The tune is that of an old Irish song called The Limerick Rake. Incidentally, I saw Ewan McColl and his wife, Peggy Seeger, perform in the mid-1970s in Wollongong Town Hall. It was a great concert and lives in my memory still. [insert song, Champion at Keeping Them Rolling]
Our third selection, The Diamantina Drover, is marvellous song which looks at the Australian experience. The drover is an iconic Aussie character and here the persona reflects upon the landscape, his regrets and longings, in a uniquely Antipodean way. Written by Hugh McDonald, who performed and recorded with the Bushwackers, the Sundowners, Banshee, Redgum, Des “Animal” McKenna, Moving Cloud and the Colonials, this is one of our favourite songs. I have to report, sadly, that Hugh lost his battle with prostate cancer in November, 2016, a real loss to Australian folk music. This song has by far the most listens of any of the items on my website The Summa Quotidian at quentinbega.com [insert The Diamantina Drover]
The final selection for this postcard, Rosalita and Jack Campbell was written twenty years ago or so by Sean Mone of Keady, Co Armagh about the terror of drive-bys and targeted assassinations in Belfast in the early 1970s. Hearing the song recently, by Christy Moore, brought it all back to me, because, not just ourselves, but just about everybody in Belfast and Northern Ireland who lived through those times has been touched by such a shooting or other instance of violence associated with the “Troubles”. This song, too, attracts quite a few hits on my website. Listen if you can to Sean Mone who does a great a capella version. Anyway, here’s my take. [insert song Rosalita and Jack Campbell.]
That has been the first postcard from Quotidia. And isn’t it peculiarly Irish that the postcards are longer than the Letters From Quotidia. Ah well! Our next edition of postcards will feature Mark on fiddle for a fine rendition of The King and Queen of the Fairies. I’ve long loved and performed Christy Moore’s rousing ballad about the Spanish Civil War, Viva La Quinta Brigada, and this will be our second offering. Songs about the sea are a big feature in our sets and Jim Monaghan excels at singing these. The Mermaid is our third item for postcards. Last, I present Gentle Annie (not the Tommy Makem version, but instead that of Stephen Foster.) Like many another song, it travelled to Australia where it acquired local lyrics by an Australian thresher from over a century ago by the name of Lame Jack Cousens of Springhurst, Victoria. So, join me, then, for another foray into the fabulous arena that is, folk music.
Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter
Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58
64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used for recording and mixing down
Music accompaniment and composition software- Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studio. Approximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.
I play an Ashton MDE200 Mandolin on “Rosalita and Jack Campbell“