Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 23, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear the narrator singing the songs from the repertoire of Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west. The four songs here are drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. In this edition, like the previous one, I will cover the songs because of COVID restrictions. 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.
“Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” is a protest song with lyrics by Woody Guthrie detailing the January 28, 1948 crash of a plane near Los Gatos Canyon. 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 popularized the song… I hope my rendition here is a bit better than the effort on Bangor beach fifty years ago…[insert song]
The Curragh of Kildare, also known as The Winter, it is Past, is a folk song particularly associated with the Irish tradition. Elements of some versions of the song suggest that it dates from at least the mid-18th century. From the end of the sixteenth century onwards there are records of encampment there. The camp attracted thousands of spectators and camp followers; that is, prostitutes, who soon earned for themselves the sobriquet of wrens. This term was applied to the women as many of them lived all the year round in the furze bushes which are the only ground cover on the plain. The song as currently performed was popularised by The Johnstons, who are said to have received it from Christy Moore, who uncovered a version in a Dublin library in 1961. [insert song]
The Galway Races is a traditional Irish song. The song’s narrator is attending the eponymous annual event in Galway, a city in the west of Ireland. The song was made famous in the UK in 1967 by The Dubliners. It has been recorded by many artists since that time. This Irish horse-racing starts on the last Monday of July every year. Held at Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway, Ireland over seven days, it is one of the longest of all the race meets that occur in Ireland. The summer festival is the highlight of the business year for most local businesses as crowds and horses flock from all over the world to attend one of the world’s biggest race meetings.
The Galway Races are the subject of At Galway Races, a poem by W. B. Yeats: There where the racecourse is/Delight makes all of the one mind/The riders upon the swift horses/The field that closes in behind./We too had good attendance once,/Hearers, hearteners of the work,/Aye, horsemen for companions/Before the merchant and the clerk/Breathed on the world with timid breath;/But some day and at some new moon/We’ll learn that sleeping is not death/Hearing the whole earth change its tune,/Flesh being wild again, and it again/Crying aloud as the racecourse is;/And find hearteners among men/That ride upon horses. Yeats, with his aristocratic bent, loved the ideal of “the horse”
Joe Hill (October 7, 1879 – November 19, 1915), songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, familiarly called the “Wobblies”). Hill, an immigrant worker frequently facing unemployment and underemployment, became a popular songwriter and cartoonist for the union. His most famous songs include “The Preacher and the Slave” (in which he coined the phrase “pie in the sky”), You will eat, bye and bye/In that glorious land above the sky;/Work and pray, live on hay,/You’ll get pie in the sky when you die. In 1914, John G. Morrison, a Salt Lake City area grocer and former policeman, and his son were shot and killed by two men. Hill was convicted of the murders in a controversial trial. Joe Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915 at Utah’s Sugar House Prison.
Just prior to his execution, Hill had written to Bill Haywood, an IWW leader, saying, “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize … Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His last will requested a cremation and reads: My will is easy to decide/For there is nothing to divide/My kin don’t need to fuss and moan/”Moss does not cling to rolling stone”//My body? Oh, if I could choose/I would to ashes it reduce/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow//Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my Last and final Will./Good Luck to All of you/Joe Hill
I first heard the song, sung by Joan Baez in 1970. Banter, since its formation over 25 years ago, has been performing this great song. This is another song fronted by Sam the Man and which I have purloined for this post. But then again- it’s impossible to steal a great song which belongs to the wider world.[ insert song] Postcard 24 features It’s Heaven Around Galway Bay, I’m Missing You, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and [O’Sullivan’s John??] Bring your outside voices.
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.