Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 17, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west, present four 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 Lonely Banna Strand: Back in the mid-seventies we sat around a fire in a bleak backyard in Werrington, a suburb which had just been established on the Cumberland plain of Sydney’s outer west with nary a tree in sight and sang this (and other) songs. Nearly fifty years on, the suburb is well-established with lots of trees. I came across a reference to this song in an old diary some years ago and, having decided to get it up and going again as a group, I think the singer interprets this portion of the story of Sir Roger Casement with real feeling.
When I lived in Cushendall in the 1980s, I would often take the family out to Moorlough Bay, which looks across the North Channel to Scotland, and walk the paths about the headland, thinking about the achievements of this great man. I taught, also, for nine years in the 1980s at Ballymena Academy, the alma mater of Sir Roger. While I was there, they did not acknowledge him, in any meaningful way. I wonder if this is still the situation at the school? [insert song]
The Ferryman– Like so many Irish urban songs, this Pete St John number tells of how economic forces affect the ways in which people regard their employment and the ways in which their relationships also may be subject to change. For all the gloomy sub-text, the song remains optimistic in spirit and this comes through in this treatment of it. Sam has sung this song for many years and it remains a favourite of his, as may be evident from his presentation of the song here. [insert song]
The Lark in the Morning– A song in progress At any rate, our bodhran player and main singer, Sam, confided the other day that he used to sing this song way back when so we struck up the band, so to speak, and this is what resulted. We’ll keep working on it ( I was about to say, refining it but that might be a bridge- or should I say,- an inaccuracy too far…) This is one of the most popular songs, covered by many artists. [insert song]
Waltzing Matilda:(Queensland version) This is Australia’s best-known bush ballad and has been described as the country’s “unofficial national anthem”. The original lyrics were written in 1895 by Australian poet Banjo Paterson, and were first published as sheet music in 1903. The Australian poet Banjo Paterson wrote the words to “Waltzing Matilda” in August 1895 while staying at Dagworth Station, near Winton owned by the Macpherson family.
It has been widely accepted that “Waltzing Matilda” is probably based on the following story: In Queensland in 1891 the Great Shearers’ Strike brought the colony close to civil war and was broken only after the military were called in. In September 1894, some shearers at Dagworth Station were again on strike. The situation turned violent with the striking shearers firing their rifles and pistols in the air and setting fire to the woolshed at Dagworth, killing dozens of sheep. The owner of Dagworth Station and three policemen gave chase to a man named Samuel Hoffmeister, an immigrant said to have been born in Batavia also known as “Frenchy” Rather than be captured, Hoffmeister shot and killed himself at the 4 Mile Creek south of Kynuna at 12.30pm on 2nd September, 1894.
On arriving in Australia, in 1972, this was one of the first Aussie songs I learned. In the mid-70s I played in a group called Currency with Kevin Baker and John Broomhall in Wollongong and here’s where I learned the alternative music to the well-known lyrics. From lockdown, I present a version that has more than a trace of Country music in its iteration. [ insert song]
For our 18th Edition of Postcards next week, we will hear a popular song called Back Home in Derry, written by Bobby Sands, also, that perennial favourite, The Irish Rover. Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye written by is a fine example of an anti-war song written by English songwriter and music hall impresario Joseph Georghagen in 1867 (This guy is worthy of a postcard all of his own and maybe that lies in the future). We finish out the set with a Dominic Behan composition, The Sea Around Us. All the songs explicitly or implicitly involve travel over water, so strap on your lifebelts, acquire your sea-legs and limber up your vocal cords to sing along in the choruses when next you visit Quotidia.
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.