Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 3, 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.
Our first offering is instrumental: The Grand Old Duke/Heel and Toe Polkas– In Banter, we love bashing out lively tunes such as the pair presented here. As well as tacking on various reels, jigs and hornpipes to our songs, we enjoy focusing from time to time on the great instrumental repertoire available to aficianados of Irish music. The Heel and Toe Polka is a great favourite of Aussie Bush Bands and I can remember, at the turn of the millenium, watching people dancing up and down the main street of Gulgong to the accompaniment of the tune, my wife and daughter among the whirling dervishes. Who or what is The Grand Old Duke– of York? Or is it more likely to be a pub? I would go for the latter, but I just don’t know. Listen and decide for yourself. [insert tunes]
It is 1816, a sailing ship limps past Roche’s Point, its rigging all torn. Exhausted mariners, returning after months at sea, perform their duties in desultory fashion but begin to perk up as they round Spike Island and spot the rows of terraces rising above the quay in Cove. They swarm ashore and make for the places of entertainment for lonely and thirsty sailors in the section of town known as The Holy Ground. Soon they make the rafters roar with their shouts and songs, calling for strong ale and porter as the serving girls move among them, sometimes tumbling into the willing lap of a lusty tar. This is part of a post I published five years ago when the world was a different place.
The Holy Ground exists outside the lusty taverns of 19th Century, Cork. There is sacred ground everywhere, and some, say with the perspective of astronauts looking back at the blue dot from the vastness of space, would characterise all of this earth as holy or sacred ground. That so much of it (to say nothing of the waters around and flowing through it; or the air which passes over it) is despoiled by violence and pollution and injustice makes one wonder if Gaia herself is unleashing pestilence such as SARS-CoV-2 to teach us a salutary lesson. And so, from lockdown, I present another song that, Deo volente, we, as the group, Banter, will be able to play again in public. These songs are nothing like the real songs which are played in front of crowds enjoying the moment- but, perhaps, it is better than silence. [insert song]
Now for Joe Hill– This great union song has been a part of my musical experience for many decades now and I am still moved by its defiant and uplifting message. Before his execution by firing squad in Utah in November 1915, Joe Hill mordantly declared, in a note to IWW leader Bill Haywood, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His will is also worth recording, My will is easy to decide/For there is nothing to divide/My kin don’t need to fuss and moan/”Moss does not cling to rolling stone”/My body? Oh, if I could choose/I would to ashes it reduce/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow/Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my Last and final Will./Good Luck to All of you/Joe Hill. What a magnificent sentiment. [insert song]
I first heard Her Father Didn’t Like Me, Anyway, from the singing of Eddie Furey and piping by Finbar, from, their Transatlantic LP The Dawning of the Day, released in 1972. Written by Gerry Rafferty (he wrote 1978s smash hit Baker Street from his LP City to City and Stuck in the Middle with You, later used in the ear-cutting scene from the film Reservoir Dogs.) He died in 2011 after a varied and jam-packed career and, as happens to so many talented musos, after a long struggle with alcohol. Finbar Furey, who knew Rafferty for over 40 years, said he “was in a different league completely. He didn’t know how good he was. He was one of the most talented musicians and singers I ever knew but he completely underestimated his own talent. He was a very humble man.”
I include the above, gleaned from Wikipedia, as a tribute to a truly great talent. To any listener who fondly thinks they are in the presence of a Brainiac of Polymathic Prodigiousness. Nah, I’m pretty ordinary but I use and donate to that great online resource to kit myself out in learned clothing. [insert song] That has been the third postcard from Quotidia. And, again, isn’t it peculiarly Irish that the postcards are longer than the Letters From Quotidia. Ah well! Our next edition of postcards will feature 3 sea captains, a contested river, green hills and a wild rover. 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
For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used
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.