Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 9, 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 selection for this, our 9th postcard, is a song I wrote a quarter of a century ago which I called Central Story, after the big train station we disembarked on our way to celebrate Paddy’s Day at Albert Park, just a short walk away. I tacked on a wonderfully titled tune, The Hag at the Churn. As I say, St Patrick’s Day used to be celebrated at a park near Central Station here in Sydney and I enjoyed it much more that the subsequent ordered and orderly version that saw it contained within a secured site. What will happen after COVID is anybody’s guess. I would speculate there will be more than one or two aspects of the ordering of our society that will change as a result. But this song and tune celebrates a time twenty-five years ago when we were rather younger and wilder. The instrumental at the end I initially thought was entitled The Goose in the Bog– I wonder what rhymed line I would have come up with if I had known the accurate title when writing the song! Answers on a postcard only please to the address at the end of this podcast![insert song]
The second selection, Sonny, is sung by Jim. This is another disputed song- I have come across several versions of the song and how it came to be written. (FYI Ron Hynes, Newfoundland folksinger, is, of course, the originator.) The good thing, though, about being in a knockabout Irish folk band is that you can leave the wrangling to others. If you don’t care about commercial gain and prefer to gather at whim and sing and play just what you want, then the rest is just noise. All you have to do is try to create a version of the song that appeals- if only to yourselves. We hope, of course, that the appeal is rather larger than just the four of us! But we’re OK if it ain’t all that much larger.[insert song]
Deportees– I first played this song as a student in Belfast in 1969 at at an impromptu folk session on the beach at Bangor, County Down. From memory, I first heard the song from the singing of Judy Collins in the mid-60s. (Of course, the great Woody Guthrie wrote it originally). Perspective is a funny thing: the song commemorates a plane crash in 1948-a year before I was born. And still the drama plays out as I type this. Deportees in the 21st Century will be able to look down on the “wonderful Wall” promised by President Trump as they fly southwards to Mexico. Guthrie was inspired to write the lyrics by what he considered the racist mistreatment of the passengers before and after the accident. The crash resulted in the deaths of 32 people, 4 Americans and 28 migrant farm workers who were being deported from California back to Mexico…A decade later, Guthrie’s poem was set to music and given a haunting melody by a schoolteacher named Martin Hoffman. Shortly after, folk singer Pete Seeger, a friend of Woody Guthrie, began performing the song at concerts, and it was Seeger’s rendition that popularised the song. Sam sings this great song now, although there is a redux version by me later in the series. [insert song]
The Jolly Beggarman is believed to be King James V of Scotland, father of Mary, Queen of Scots. He was in the habit of wandering the countryside dressed as a beggar. There are lots of stories about various royals and members of the nobility roaming the roads, streets and lanes of their domain for a bit of excitement. King James V actually wrote a poem in the 16th Century called The Jolly Beggar on which the verse of the song here is based. The chorus, though, is inspired by the 19th Century Romantic poet, Lord Byron who was mad, bad and dangerous to know! He was one of my favourite poets when I was a teenager- and I still rate him highly today. Here, now, is his exquisite and regretful lyric, We’ll Go No More a-Roving. SO, we’ll go no more a-roving/So late into the night,/Though the heart be still as loving, And the moon be still as bright/.For the sword outwears its sheath,/And the soul wears out the breast,/And the heart must pause to breathe,/And love itself have rest./Though the night was made for loving,/And the day returns too soon,/Yet we’ll go no more a-roving/By the light of the moon. So good, isn’t it?Jim, along with Sam the Man, are the main singers in Banter. I am content to be the Bronze Medallist, insofar as singing is concerned, within our group. But, here in lockdown, there is no competition! So, I have taken one of the songs that Jim habitually sings and unashamedly present it here. There is an interesting contrast between the lusty verses inspired by King James V and the regretful chorus inspired by Lord Byron. I have sought to underpin this by having the vigorous instrumentation of the verse being undercut by the romantic strings in the chorus- see what you think.[insert song]
The 10th postcard does not stray much outside the confines of the United Kingdom as we start with a song, which originated in the north of England but is very popular in Ireland, about a chimney sweep with a sideline in robbery. We then head off to Wales as sacked coal miners bid farewell to the girls the love. Next, we visit Belfast and hear about a murder/suicide attempt- one succeeds and one fails- listen in to find out which. Our final visit is to Fiddlers Green, the term which has a storied history. A fine song with this name was written in 1966, although most people think it is traditional- a real compliment. So, book with Quotidia Travel for a tour of the British Isles- you know you’ll be in great hands!
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.