Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 19, 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. We’ll start with-
Donegal Danny: Another tale of the sea here. The singer, Sam, always laments when called upon to do it as it is longer that the usual three or four minutes our songs typically occupy. The song, written for The Dubliners by Phil Coulter, one of the great musical talents to come out of Northern Ireland, has, as its narrator, another Old Man of the Sea who could stand alongside Hemmingway’s original. The singer notwithstanding, the rest of the group likes the song, so- democracy rules…or is it, rather, another example of the tyrannising of minorities which seems so in vogue in dictatorships, and in recent times, even such shining examples of democracy as the USA? Usually, Jim takes the lead for songs about sailors and the sea but Sam, in a moment of weakness or when he was in his cups, put his claim to this song and we have held him to it ever since [insert song]
My Last Farewell: Based on the last letter written by Padraig Pearse to his mother, this song was written by the O”Meara brothers (who also penned the well-known song, Grace, about another hero of the 1916 Irish uprising- Joseph Mary Plunkett). This song is often requested on WOW FM radio show, A Touch of Ireland, helmed by Sam Beggs and me, here in the Penrith valley. Poignantly, the song references Pearse’s brother William, who was executed the day following the execution of the Irish rebel leader. William seems to have been executed for his name rather than any significant involvement in the rising. “Willie”, a sculptor, was more involved in running St Edna’s School in Rathfarnam. Padraig, in writing his letter, was not to know that his brother, far from providing solace to the Pearse family, would join him in the ranks of the executed participants in the failed rising that provided the impetus for the founding of the Irish state within a matter of years. Jim sings this moving song as he has done for years in front of audiences. [ insert song]
Follow Me Up to Carlow/Instrumental: According to tradition, the pipers of Fiach McHugh, the protagonist and hero of the song, played this melody as a marching tune for the Irish fighters during the battle of Glenmalure, fought 337 years ago, almost to the day of this posting. That wise oracle Wikipedia tells me, The Battle of Glenmalure (Irish: Cath Ghleann Molúra) took place in Ireland on 25 August 1580 during the Desmond Rebellions. An Irish Catholic force made up of the Gaelic clans from the Wicklow Mountains led by Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne and James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglas of the Pale, defeated an English army under Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton, at the O’Byrnes’ mountain stronghold of Glenmalure. The lyrics were written by that great Irish scholar and songwriter, P. J. McCall, who also wrote such perennial favourites as Boolavogue and Kelly, the Boy from Killane. This song has long been in my repertoire and the group, Banter, is working up an arrangement (that you can hear below) that is, like so much of our latest ouevre, a work-in-progress. After a few refreshing beverages, we often get to musing about going into a real studio and recording a live, but considerably more rehearsed and balanced version of our favourite songs…like that is ever going to happen! [insert song]
McAlpine’s Fusiliers/instrumental: Over the years this has proved to be one of the most popular items in our repertoire. Obviously, we enjoy playing whatever song or instrumental we happen to be performing. We play for enjoyment and not for pay. All we ask is a reasonable sound system if we are playing in public. While we won’t make money doing this, we will make craic- and, sure, isn’t that all that matters. Dominic Behan wrote this song (among many other fine examples from the genre) and it captures the essence of the Irish navvies who, in their thousands and tens of thousands built the rail, the roads the tunnels and canals and a lot more of the infrastructure in Britain and farther afield in the Nineteenth Century. Their work rate was prodigious and those who could not keep up with them could only watch in awe as these mighty workmen bent their backs to the task. In a later Postcard, I have recorded an expanded version of this song but, in this recording, Sam takes the lead. [insert song]
For postcard 20, I found, buried in my chaotically organised digital files, a recording of two Irish tunes, so, we will revert, one last time, to the regime of tunes kicking off the postcard. A saga about an unfortunate jailbird, entitled I’m Not a Merry Ploughboy follows. Then, Jim will sing an Eric Bogle composition, Shelter, recalling how Australia used to be a haven for people seeking asylum. The postcard concludes with the song, Paddy Went Home, Today, about the final days of a sheet-metal worker in Sydney in the 1970s. So, come along to Quotidia where music always plays, there are no prisons and asylum is always granted.
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.