‘Geriatrica’ is Rapsquillion’s third CD and it brings together some of the songs we enjoy singing at sessions, gigs and festivals. With Paul Cobbold’s renowned production skills at work, we think it will give you a good idea of how we feel about our music.
There are countless versions of this song, going back as far as 1558 – Pepys remarks on it in a description of an evening at the tavern in 1670. John Barleycorn is the personification of the cereal. The various indignities suffered by him correspond to the stages of malt cultivation and production.
2.THE SHOALS OF HERRING
‘The Shoals Of Herring’ comes from the 1960 radio ballad, ‘Singing The Fishing’. The programme was based on the life of Sam Larner, a herring fisherman from Norfolk, whose career touched on the eras of sail, steam and diesel. The radio ballads were written by Ewan MacColl, and if you ever hear an Irish song entitled ‘The Shores Of Erin’, usually claimed to be ‘anonymous’ or ‘traditional’, you may well think you are hearing something very similar!
3.TANT QUE VIVRAI
Claude de Sermisy started his musical career in 1508 as a singer and cleric in the court of Louis XII. He wrote both sacred and secular music all for voices but he is most well known for his 175 chansons of which this song is one. His style is light and dance-like and this song is typical. It is a cheerful song in which a lover is rejoicing that he has the love of a beautiful girl and he says “our love will endure as long as the wind blows” and “all my life shall I love her and I shall sing”.
4.A PILGRIM’S WAY
An interesting poem, which may sound ‘godly’ on first hearing, but turns out to be somewhat humanist. It also does a nice line in being self-critical whilst optimistic about the human condition. Peter Bellamy tried to use old tunes for his Kipling settings, where possible, although he did say that on occasions he’d had to write an ‘authentic traditional tune’! This one is simple and sounds suitably ‘church’.
‘I Love Coffee, I Love Tea’ is best known today as the first line of the song ‘Java Jive’, as performed by The Inkspots and The Manhattan Transfer. The line was originally part of a counting-out rhyme, often sung by girls as they skipped. The most popular version, recorded since at least 1888, is ‘I love coffee, I love tea, I love the boys and the boys love me’. The song’s ‘folkie’ roots notwithstanding, we really enjoy singing this arrangement.
6.CROSSING THE BAR
We first heard this beautiful arrangement of the Tennyson poem at a workshop given by the folk trio Craig Morgan Robson and we thank them for allowing us to sing it. It is said that Tennyson wrote the poem as his own elegy whilst crossing the Solent after a long illness. He said that the words “came in a moment” and Rani Arbo said that her tune “just came out of the air”. This combined inspiration has given us the most wonderfully moving song and we hope that you enjoy listening as much as we love singing it.
We think it’s great to be able to sing a song which is five hundred years old! Josquin was the dominant composer of his period (1440 – 1521) . El Grillo is a cricket, who ‘sings wonderfully’, but stays put in his homeland while the birds around him nip off for a quick migrate. Some experts claim that the lyrics were a swipe at Josquin’s patron, who appreciated the musician’s outstanding prowess to such an extent that he was reluctant to give him any time off; others prefer the more prosaic interpretation that Josquin was just boasting about his – or El Grillo’s – erotic powers.
Parting Friends, or ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ falls into the category of religious ballad and was originally used in group shape-note singing. The song began to reach widespread popularity with secular, urban audiences when folk song collector, singer, and actor Burl Ives recorded it in the early 1940s. For a time, the piece was synonymous with Ives’ grandfatherly image and he sang it throughout his life as one of his signature pieces (Blue-Tailed Fly was another). The song has remained popular with rural people throughout the southern states and it is certainly one of the most recognizable songs in the Anglo hymn tradition.
9.QUAND JE BOIS
‘Quand je Bois’ is a tourdion (lively dance) tune called La Magdalena which was arranged into a song for four voices. It is a drinking song that conjures up the image of a group of friends who, over the course of the evening, have reached the mellow stage where everyone starts singing their own version of the same song – “when I’m drinking red wine, my friends, everything spins, just like now, when I’m drinking rose”.
10.THE SPRINGHILL MINING DISASTER
Composed by Peggy Seeger, this song is about the 1958 ‘bump’ at the mine in Nova Scotia. The mine had already suffered two previous disasters in 1891 and 1956 but this one devastated the town and its people, because of the casualties suffered and the fact that the mine had provided the economic life blood of the area. Of the 174 miners in the mine at the time of the accident, 74 lost their lives and 100 were rescued. Our first rendition of this song, purely by coincidence, was during the week of the rescue of 33 miners who had been trapped for 69 days at San Jose, Chile.
The 16th century Catalan composer Mateo Flecha is best known for composing ensalada, literally, a salad of works for 4 or 5 voices that frequently mixed languages within the song – French, Spanish, Basque and Catalan. Dindirin is about a young maiden torn between her love for a commoner and her duty to enter into a marriage with a wealthy baron, and the way she uses a nightingale to send messages to her lover, the final one being “my marriage bells have sounded”.
12.THE SHORES OF OLD BLIGHTY
This song is about post-war National Service which was reintroduced in 1947, firstly for an 18 month term, and then for 2 years. The compulsory call-up ended in 1960. These young men were often shipped overseas to serve their queen and country and many were engaged in keeping the peace between opposing violent groups – a dangerous and unpleasant task
A South African hymn that became popular in North American churches in the 1990s. The title means “We Are Marching” or “We Are Walking” in the Zulu language. It is said to have been composed in 1950 by Andries Van Tonder, an elder of the Judith church. The original composition was in Afrikaans (with the title “Ons Marseer Nou In Die Tig Van God”) and was subsequently translated into Zulu by Thabo Mkize.
14.WALKING INTO BATTLE WITH THE LORD
As with ‘A Pilgrim’s Way’, the title may suggest a religious song but this is a protest that takes aim at war in the name of religion. No matter what faith, culture or nation each soldier represents, the result of war is always the same. This song, with beautiful harmonies arranged by the writers, spits out the futility of war
‘Geriatrica’ was recorded and mixed at The Chapel Studio, Royal National College, Hereford, in April 2011. Engineered, mixed and produced by Paul Cobbold.
Thanks also to:
Dave Wood, Graham Wilde and students of RNC for their work on this CD and the production of the DVD.
Dave Wright for his contributions to tracks 4 and 12.
Neil Cotton, for food, water and continued support.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a copy of ‘Geriatrica’