Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 6, 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.
The Monaghan Twig/Denis Murphy’s/The Rattlin’ Bog– This is an unadorned and brief essay during one of our sessions where the fiddle player and bodhran player had a bit of a go in one of the many refreshment breaks taken by the others in the group. These, although convivial in the extreme, militated against the most effective use of time for group practice. Still, who do we really have to please apart from ourselves? [insert tunes]
Down by the Glenside (The Bold Fenian Men) is an Irish rebel song written by Peadar Kearney, an Irish Republican and composer of numerous rebel songs, including “The Soldier’s Song” (“Amhrán na bhFiann“), now the Irish National Anthem and “The Tri-coloured Ribbon”. Kearney was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, popularly known as the Fenians. He wrote the song about the time of the 1916 Rising. It evokes the memory of the freedom-fighters of the previous generation (strong, manly forms…eyes with hope gleaming), as recalled by an old woman down by the glenside. It is effectively a call to arms for a generation of Irishmen accustomed to political nationalism. Three verses to this song were sung by Ken Curtis and The Sons of the Pioneers in the 1950 John Ford movie Rio Grande. The song became popular again in the 1960s, when it was recorded by The Clancy Brothers. It has since been recorded by numerous artists, including The Dubliners, Cherish The Ladies, Omnia, Screaming Orphans, Jim McCann, Harry O’Donoghue, and The Wolfe Tones. The song is also sung in the first episode of the BBC series Days of Hope, written by Jim Allen and directed by Ken Loach. An Irish barmaid is forced to sing after being sexually harassed by British soldiers and impresses them with her song. [insert song] The info here above and elsewhere in the postcards is courtesy of Wikipedia which I often access and donate to.
Don’t Get Married Girls– What a great song! Written by Leon Rosselson who has been around in the folk scene from the early 1960s. He is in his mid- eighties now and still active and still an activist. He is one of the characters I see as a role-model. It would be great to be still doing the rounds and playing in sessions at that age. Most of us in this little folk group have been married for decades, now. I’m glad the song was not current when I was courting. We have been told on more than one occasion, after we have performed this satire, how lucky we are that the sentiments expressed here had not been articulated so compellingly way back then. “Why didn’t you bloody well sing this to me when we first met? “I might look stupid, but I’m really not!” is our invariably unvoiced riposte, expressed instead as a shrug with a grunt. [insert song]
Come Up the Stairs- A couple of years ago I attended a reunion, ninety minutes south of Sydney, in Wollongong of, Seannachie, the band I was part of in the 1970s. It was a memorable weekend starting with folk open-mic at a bowlo in North Wollongong at which I drank lots of Guinness and sang, The Streets of Forbes and Her Father Didn’t Like Me, I stayed with Joe Brown, the guitarist with the group. The next day we gathered at the house built by Bertie McKnight, the mandolin player. There, also, was Johnny Spillane, the whistle player and Tony Fitzgerald, the main singer of the group who had learned to play the guitar in the decades intervening. We swapped songs and yarns all day and, after Joe and I returned to his place, he found an old cassette and played this song from circa 1975 which I had learned from a Johnny McEvoy record a few years previously. Anyone remember cassette players, apart from us oldies? I had completely forgotten about it and determined to resurrect it for Banter. The song was written by Shay Healy, Irish broadcaster, songwriter, and journalist. He got the 9/8 tune from his mother who was a noted singer of old Irish traditional songs. This explains why so many people think this is an old song, but the lyrics were written by Healy sometime in the 1960s. [insert song]
That has been the sixth edition of postcards from Quotidia. In our next edition we will start, not as before with a completely instrumental set but instead with a song/instrumental combo, this is followed by Jim’s rendition of Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore. Hot on his heels is Sammy with a rousing version of Ewan McColl’s Shoals of Herring. The postcard closes with a moving Scottish ballad about a massacre in 1692, written by Jim McClean back in 1963. Please join us in our continuing celebration of folk music from the English-speaking tradition.
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.