Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 20, 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.
Two Irish Tunes: So, I found, hidden in the shambles that is my digital filing system, a couple of Irish tunes with which I will start this latest postcard. I have lost the name of the first tune and I think the second is called, The Kettle Boils Over, but I’m not going to bet the house on it. Irish tunes and, to a lesser extent, songs, have variant titles. (And doesn’t that adjective “variant” have a greater heft in these times of COVID?). At any rate, I’m not too distressed at this loss of information– which is often over-rated in any case, and can be useless -or, indeed, misleading in a few instances. Can I hear two cheers for ignorance? The instruments here are fiddle, mandolin and guitar featuring Mark, Jim and me, respectively. Sam also batters the bodhran in the background. D’ye like the alliteration? And away we go- [insert tunes]
Shelter: Part of our repertoire since the mid-1990s, this song gets more and more dislocated from the realities of contemporary Australian official government policy, where refugees (designated as such by the UN) languish in off-shore detention camps. At the time of writing a family who had integrated into a regional community in Queensland, is still behind bars on Christmas Island having been detained by Home Affairs for deportation to Sri Lanka since March 5th 2018. Their two children were born in Australia but, even with community support, this doesn’t seem to make any difference. Written by Eric Bogle, one of our songwriting heroes, the sentiments expressed herein are closer to the hearts of many Australians than the callous real-politik practised by our major political parties. Although, to be fair, Kristina Keneally, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, and Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, has been making statements supportive of the family in recent days. Jim sings Shelter. May it prove true for the detainees on Christmas Island and elsewhere.[insert song]
I’m Not a Merry Ploughboy: In some ways, this song is a companion piece to Paddy Went Home Today. It was written around the same time (1995ish) and features a working man in Sydney. This character, however, springs not from an anecdote or acquaintance but rather is a product of pure (or should that be, fevered, imagination). In SoundCloud, where I also have a site, it is quite popular. It was given an outing or two at the Henry Lawson Club where the band used to play regularly in the mid-1990s. It was going to be re-introduced for a new audience at the Penrith Gaels in outer-western Sydney, but, of course, COVID put paid to that. And, when we get round to recording our usual folk ensemble version, featuring guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bodhran, I’ll update it here. Until such time, here is a demo rendition when I sang with my guitar and overdubbed mandolin and tenor banjo from about the time when the song was conceived. [insert song]
Paddy Went Home Today: I wrote this in the mid-1990s. It was inspired by an anecdote by one of the group during a refreshment break (our rehearsals often feature such breaks, which we deem necessary- for our mental and emotional well-being, of course). We were chatting about “characters” we had encountered in our working lives. One of these characters was a sheet metal worker encountered in the mid-1970s in inner-Sydney. This guy would slope off to the pub at morning smoko for a “cure”. Often enough he would be missing in action when the foreman looked for him later. We revived the song when we were asked to act as hosts of the folk club at The Penrith Gaels in outer-western Sydney a few years back. This version is a Band-in-a-Box demo I recorded a couple of years ago. I’ll update this with the current, acoustic version featuring guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bodhran in the not-too-distant-future. Although, that hyphenated compound adjective seems more and more to be morphing in meaning to…never. [insert song]
Next week, the postcards edition gets the keys of the door as it turns 21. (Is that still a thing, I wonder?) In the US, or parts of it, it signifies being able to drink alcohol legally and historically it denoted the transition from boy to man for noble males who were able to be knighted. But, now…anyway, I digress, the next instalment of postcards belies the false dawn of this one- what with me discovering the tunes to create the variety of the first dozen postcards. COVID has meant that we haven’t rehearsed or recorded for well over a year, so I’m left with songs I have recorded and songs that I’ve covered in lockdown that rightly belong to other band members. Here’s hoping that the situation changes for the better in the times ahead- otherwise you’re stuck with me. So when next we meet, come into the snug, I’ve got a guitar, and, if you buy me a drink, I’ll sing you a song.
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.