Past

Songs Of My People

Hey friend, hope you’re having a solid day, and there’s plenty of sunshine in it.  I know it hasn’t been the same everywhere, but if someone around here was looking for a grey, bleak start to winter they’d surely be disappointed.  ‘Ow’s a body t’get a decent grumble in with all that sun ‘angin’ about cheery-like?  Ah, hear that sound?  I think of it as the songs of my people.  Around here I can say almost anything in that accent and everyone smiles, I figure mostly because they have no idea what I’m saying.  Apparently I was born with that accent.  Well, not that I was actually born talking, although you’re right that would surprise no one, least of all my friends.  But when I eventually did speak it was in my parents’ accent, a fairly broad Lancashire.  Northern England, like ‘Coronation Street’ only not so posh.  You can imagine the kids’ response when I arrived at the Canadian country schoolyard.  Learned how to speak like the locals pretty darned fast lemme tell you, it felt like my survival depended on it.

It’s a funny thing about that accent.  You see, we were touring Britain, just at the beginning of a two-month schedule that had us going from Devon in the south all the way up to Thurso in the top of Scotland, where if you go any more north people start speaking Norwegian.  But first we had a weekend-long festival appearance.  And that festival was held in a place not far from my parents’ hometown, so I was looking forward to being around a bit of that culture.  We arrived in town and were directed towards our billet.  It looked like it was going to be quite a haul to get all the gear out of the rental, into the building, and all the way up where we were staying.  But I was assured that it would all be safe in the vehicle overnight.  Turned out they were mistaken.  We came down in the morning to find out that the specific model vehicle we had rented was apparently well known for being able to be opened with a slot screwdriver where you or I might use a key.  Lucky us.  Three guitars, all the gear, all of our recordings, all gone.  All they left was the harp, presumably because it was too big to get out of the car, and my flute, which they must’ve just overlooked because it was too small.  The rest of the stuff was just right, so it was truly gone.  Coming down and discovering all that was pretty darned special.  And no one to blame but myself for not sucking it up and doing the heavy lifting.  You’re right, I’ve never made that mistake again.  I may be slow, but I’m not stupid.

Now I want to tell you right up front that there was a reasonably happy ending.  Thanks to some local constabulary effort two of the guitars eventually came back, and the kind folks at the festival took up a collection which allowed us to at least continue the tour.  In the end we even got most of the recordings back, seems the guy who did the deed was caught with them in his vehicle, he just couldn’t offload them, which still tickles me somehow.  But before all of that, before we’d rolled up our sleeves to start dealing with it, before we’d cobbled together enough gear to roll on, and before I’d been offered several guitars to finish the tour with, there was some time spent in serious shock.  We didn’t know what else to do, so we went down to the cafeteria to pretend to eat breakfast.

Imagine, then, a cafeteria full of a few hundred people bustling about getting ready for their day, having a visit with friends, a bite to eat, buzzing with the excitement of the first day of their beloved festival about to begin.  Meanwhile the two Canadians are sitting at a table by themselves trying to make some kind of sense out of what’s happened.  There’s a few minutes of silence between us, and a few more minutes of talking about what to do, then a few more minutes of silence.  Like happy crowds everywhere, there’s a rise and fall to the sounds around us.  Except there’s this odd difference, it doesn’t sound like a roomful of people back home.  Somehow it’s just… different.  And after a while it becomes apparent that my partner and I are each having a completely different reaction to our surroundings.  It seems that in the chatter of the room something in me can pick out that for the first time in my life I am surrounded by a large roomful of people all speaking with my parents’ accent.  Without knowing why, I’m hugely comforted by that, and somehow it makes things easier to handle.  Meanwhile that very same sound is making a significant contribution to my partner feeling like we’re on a different planet, millions of miles from home, and it’s sure not helping matters.  The difference was so noticeable that we actually talked about it.  After a while we took a deep breath and made our way to our first performance of the day.  I didn’t know that there was already a guitar there waiting for me to use for the concert.  I didn’t know they’d already started passing the hat and would do so at every show on every stage all weekend.  And I most certainly didn’t know how the heck I was going to re-do all those guitar parts and make them work for the flute.

What I did know is that I had a new appreciation for the songs of my people.

Giving

kbcdflowerAnd finally I think it might be nice to hear this today.  I always counted myself lucky to be working around wonderful musicians.  I think some of what we did best is here.  A good day and a good way to be reminded of the gifts we’ve been given, you and I.  And how some of them just keep on giving.  Like friendship.  Thanks for that.

the piece –>What Child Is This from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

Silent Night

kbcdflowerI knew that we had to include this song on the recording, but I had a notion it was so well known that maybe we could sketch out the melody and see if the listener’s imagination filled in the rest.  Apparently it worked for some people.  Of course that’s Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer, and me doing the flute and guitar and so on.  The carol was popular for many years, but its origin was unknown.  Turns out the words were written Pastor Josef Mohr, and the music came from organist Franz Gruber.  I’ve always thought that the tune’s delicate nature came from it being composed on a guitar.  For whatever reason this carol on a guitar on Christmas Eve is pretty much guaranteed to put me in a space where I am truly thankful for the gifts I’ve received over the year.  And so, in that spirit of thanks…

the piece –>Silent Night from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

In the Moon of Wintertime

kbcdflowerI’ve noticed that this carol is far less known outside of Canada.  Apparently the words were first written in the Huron language a little over three hundred years ago, while the melody is an old French folk tune.  I suppose this arrangement turns into a bit of a fantasia at some point, but the melody is so beautiful it stands on its own.  While it’s easy to forget that it’s not the same all over the world, this song captures the combination of Christmas and wintertime that is so much a part of our northern experience.  As before, Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer.

the piece –>Huron Carol from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

Flambeau

kbcdflowerSuch a beautiful melody that I’m always surprised it isn’t more well known in english Canada.  The tune was either collected or composed by a fellow name of Saboly in 17th century Provence, and pulls together the French traditions of the crèche and the Christmas Eve torchlight procession.  If it sounds familiar you might know it by its english title, ‘Bring a Torch Jeannette Isabelle’.  Once again Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer.

the piece –>Un Flambeau Jeannette Isabella from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

Coventry

kbcdflowerEvery year a few people go out of their way to tell me how much this disc means to them.  You never know what’s going to touch people or why.  One of the things that makes this album special for me is it’s the only time I’ve recorded my flute in a way that really captures what I play, how I think on the instrument, and what sounds are rolling around in my head while I’m playing.  My job was to do the arrangements, and to help my primarily non-improvising musical partners to get into that mode.  Apparently it worked.  Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer.  A little less commonly heard around here than some seasonal tunes, the melody goes back to Britain in the 15th century, apparently part of the Shearmen and Tailors’ Guild’s mystery play.

the piece –>Coventry Carol from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

First Carol

websitemusicfermataI’ve had some good fortune working out arrangements for some of my favourite melodies over the years, and there’s not much I enjoy more than playing some of the seasonal pieces I’ve known for so long.  I hadn’t expected to do a whole recording’s worth, but this is where that thought came from.  The tune is often in my head, and I’d had this oddly spaced version on me for a while.  This track was based on that arrangement and made it onto what turned out to be the band’s last concert album.  It went well enough, and the response was so strong that we finally decided to sit down and do a full Christmas recording, which ended up being the most popular cd we ever made.  So here is where that all started.

the piece –>Virgin Carol from the Anderson & Brown CD ‘Alone with a Dream’, 1994 (A&B103CD)

Late

websitemusicfermataWhile some of the things I hear in my head are unusual in some people’s minds, some of it is just kind of pretty.  This was one of those.  Only a waltz, one with a lazy feel.  It seemed that there was something else needed to round out the collection on the disc, and this is what came out.  Composed mostly on the flute, I was happy with the way the part turned out, somehow pretty and lazy, and yet unsettled.  Of course that’s Anderson on the harp, and Anne Ledermann on the 5-string violin.  A waltz was often the last tune of the night.  Plenty of room on the dance floor.

the piece –>Waltz–late afternoon late from the Anderson & Brown CD ‘Alone with a Dream’, 1994 (A&B103CD)

Dream

websitemusicfermataI’d like to play a couple of things for you, and I think maybe I’d like to start here.  As I think I’ve told you, I’ve been hearing music in my head since I was a kid.  Being able to give those sounds a life in the world outside my head has been a great pleasure in my life.  And it was one of the wonderful things about my years in Anderson & Brown, that the pieces we each composed found a comfortable and welcome place in those concerts and recordings.  Of course I was often whacked with the ‘that’s not folk’ hammer for exactly this sort of transgression.  But this was what I heard in my head, pretty much always have.  I hope you enjoy it.

the piece –>Alone with a Dream from the Anderson & Brown CD ‘Alone with a Dream’, 1994 (A&B103CD)