Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 21, 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.
Ballyhootry: I wrote this back in the mid-1990s. I must have fallen out on the wrong side of the bed that day because I created a town called Ballyhootry in the County Anywhere. I let fly at the ersatz Irish or Oirishry so beloved by Hollywood B-movies and songs. You know, where leprechauns frolic at the ends of rainbows and the beer is dyed green and quaintness rules the day to the deedle-lee-dee tootling of a tin whistle. Also a target is the rampant commercialism where Mammon trumps Tradition every time. (the use of the previous verb is not coincidental, by the way). FYI, I still love Ireland, her blemishes notwithstanding, but I live in Australia now and consider it home- for all its imperfections. The song here is not backed by Banter but Band-in-a-Box because we have not yet recorded any version of the song, even though we’ve play it enough in the past. I’ll update, when or if we ever get round to it. In the meantime, enjoy a more rocky rendition than is heard in our acoustic oeuvre. [insert song]
This Cold Bed: This is a demo I recorded a while back. We have played the song in rehearsal but have yet to record it or perform it in our present incarnation of Banter. I wrote the words about 20 years ago but my wife told me the tune I had crafted was not a fit for the genre. Can you do better, riposted the wounded artiste? Yes. And she took the lyrics and hummed the tune that is used here, off the top of her head! Collaboration is a wonderful thing. The inspiration for the song was the hunger strike of 1981 which saw ten republican prisoners starve to death, most notably, Bobby Sands, who had been elected to the British Parliament on 9 April. The strikes were a turning point for Sinn Fein which supplanted the various nationalist groupings to become the major political force in the politics of Northern Ireland. I originally, and somewhat pretentiously, gave the song the title, The Dying Revolutionary, as I did not intend it as, solely, a loosely-based biographical item about Bobby Sands. I wanted to examine what forces could persuade an artistic individual to move from art to violence as I know the events of that summer in 1981 almost prised me from a life-long belief in liberal democracy and non-violence. Still, that awful working title stuck in my craw so I substituted what is now the better option. Sometimes it takes a while, a long while, for me to work these things through…[insert song]
Let Them Not Fade Away: After a quite lengthy break from blogging, I resumed keyboarding and promptly fell overboard by deleting this (original) post as I was constructing the 49th effusion (but at least it wasn’t as bad as waterboarding). Had it been one of my longer-form posts, I would have saved it in some fashion and would have been able to resurrect it whole and hearty…can you feel a “but” coming on?… but, I didn’t, and only a hazy outline of the original remains in my consciousness. A rock version of this song can be found in The Summa Quotidian sequence on this site. However, this is the bare-bones version featuring guitar and voice. The first song by The Rolling Stones I recall hearing was their single Not Fade Away from February, 1964. It made me a life-long fan of the group, particularly their 60s oeuvre. This song is part-homage, part-autobiographical snippet, which I think works pretty well. [insert song]
O’Sullivan’s John: I first heard this song in the 1970s from one of the members of the folk group, Seannachie. I like to sing it as a modal tune rocking between two chords a tone apart say, C and D. When I was visiting Townsville during my tropical North Queensland sojourn between 1989 and 1994, I sang it at a party and a folk group there took it up, but fancied it up with minors and such-like. I enjoyed their more sophisticated version, too, but have stuck to the more primitive version here, which I still sing from time to time. It was written by travelling songwriter and storyteller Pecker Dunne. I’ll now read from an obituary in The Belfast Telegraph of 2012: “The Pecker mastered the art and craft of many an instrument, the mandolin, the fiddle and the banjo,” he said. “He was distinctively known for his most precious of gifts, his voice, and what that voice could deliver. It was the envy of some of the world’s most renowned rock, pop, folk and traditional singers.”Dunne, a traveller, wrote songs and music to describe injustices and prejudices he and his community faced. He busked nationwide and played with The Dubliners, who covered his song Sullivans John, and he also played with Christy Moore and The Fureys. Some of the exploits and anecdotes he was renowned for telling were his meeting Woody Guthrie in Boston, his friendship and work with Richard Harris and playing New York’s Carnegie Hall.[insert song]
For Postcard 22, I fear you will be stuck in the snug with me but instead of battering on an old guitar and warbling away, I’ll be accompanied by one of those new-fangled music accompanist devices. If, like me, you consider such things almost blasphemous, then you may choose to numb yourself with a double of good whiskey (as I intend to) as we explore the Aussie droving song, Brisbane Ladies; a song about the place of my birth, The Green Glens of Antrim; that fine song about the Australian involvement in the Vietnam conflict, I Was Only Nineteen, and we’ll conclude with a rousing Irish come-all-ye, Muirsheen Durkin.
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.