Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Songs of Love and Emigration

I'm not quite out of the thesis woods yet, but am beginning to start thinking about research/interests/life generally after I finally finish. One part of this has involved catching up on some recent CD releases. I've finally picked up a copy of Songs of Love and Emigration, a 2 CD set of songs recorded by London Irish pensioners.
I already knew something of the project, having had the privilege of hearing one of the singers, Andy Higgins, several times at Sharps Folk Club. The 21 singers here perform a wide range of songs and recitations from folk songs, popular theatre pieces, to a song from the repertoire of John McCormack. Gerry Diver has contributed an impressive and sensitive backing to all of the pieces.
I hope that someone also recorded these singers in the settings where they actually sang most of these pieces, but that's not a criticism of this project. It's interesting to hear songs that might not get an airing in the folk world, invested here with evident emotional significance. Anne Morrissey sings Galway Bay, for example, quite beautifully. It is a song that reminds her of leaving Galway for America at 19, and you can hear that in the performance.
What's also interesting is the evidence of a continued tradition of making songs and poems. There are poems here performed by their authors, but the song that caught my attention immediately was John Butler's The Gracie Blue. I knew nothing of this song, or the story attached to it.
It relates to an event in Schull Harbour in 1947, when local traders were passed dud cheques by a conman in an ornate naval uniform. The song sung by John Butler appears to have been just one of a number of local compositions on the subject. It isn't the song sung at the end of this lovely local oral history film, for example:

The Gracie Blue: A People's History from El Zorrero Films on Vimeo.

Here is folk poetry, commemorating an otherwise forgotten incident in local history, and it's got me very excited about getting onto another research project in due course.