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Posted 05 September 2015 - 03:38 PM
and lots of nobodies-to-be, which I'm sure we feel sympathetic to as well...
Edited by Bob Michel, 05 September 2015 - 03:38 PM.
Posted 05 September 2015 - 03:43 PM
Bob, Have you been tempted to compose any tunes/songs of your own. ?
Posted 05 September 2015 - 06:04 PM
Intersting project! Funny thing is, your song list contains none of the songs that spring to my mind when I think of the Great War: Tipperary, Keep the Home Fires Burning, Pack all your troubles in your old kitbag, Mademoiselle from Armentiers ... I suppose that's the differnce between the US and UK perspective.
I've discovered an Internet page all about WWI - with lots of songs, sorted by year: here. Perhaps you know it. The audio files are all taken from contemporary gramophone records.
The research that turned up this resource had to do with my main instruments, the concertina and the classic banjo. The more I look around for suitable song material to sing to them, the more I realise how firmly they're rooted in the decades around 1900. These old WWI songs and the sentimental ballads from that era just seem to flow out of both of them, whereas modern pop songs feel uncomfortable on them.
As it happens, the two zither-banjos that I have date to before 1915, so they would have started their active life playing "Tipperary" and similar tunes. So at our last Open Stage I sang a medley of the four above-mentioned songs, which I learned at my mother's knee and have never forgotten.
That is, I've never forgotten the choruses of them - I didn't know they had verses until much later. I think this is typical of popular songs of that era, and I believe it has to do with their structure. So many of them were composed with a rather insipid, plodding accompaniment to the verse, ending with a fermate and then launching into a lively - or magnificently sentimental - chorus with a melody that you could whistle after hearing the song through once. In the days before YouTube and iPod, this was the way to do viral marketing for a song. Wherever you went, people were humming or whistling or singing this wonderful chorus, and you'd go and buy the record or the sheet music just to see what the rest of the song was like.
In fact, the chorus became a format of its own. I remember as a child in Sunday School sitting round singing "choruses." These were short songs with earworm tunes, easy for children to learn, that gave us inspirational ideas in a nutshell, without having to plod through narrative verses that we couldn't read at that age anyway. I imagine that this format arose from the phenomenon that normal popular song were reduced to their refrains for daily use. The refrain, or chorus, was the bit that carried the message.
Good luck with your project!
Posted 05 September 2015 - 06:48 PM
Funny thing is, your song list contains none of the songs that spring to my mind when I think of the Great War: Tipperary, Keep the Home Fires Burning, Pack all your troubles in your old kitbag, Mademoiselle from Armentiers ... I suppose that's the differnce between the US and UK perspective.
Edited by Bob Michel, 06 September 2015 - 01:50 AM.
Posted 06 September 2015 - 01:54 AM
Posted 09 September 2015 - 04:31 PM
Edited by Bob Michel, 09 September 2015 - 07:59 PM.
Posted 10 September 2015 - 01:38 AM
Posted 10 September 2015 - 02:55 AM
In view of the lyrics of the verses any connection with WW1 may of course have been purely coincidental ? They were not all composing with the hostilities in mind.
Edited by Bob Michel, 10 September 2015 - 02:56 AM.
Posted 10 September 2015 - 03:42 AM
Posted 10 September 2015 - 04:02 AM
Yes Bob. Many of the choruses have become divorced from their verses over the years and you are doing a grand job by reuniting some of them. A really good chorus has all too often proved capable of standing on its own feet and we have been unaware of what we have been missing.
Posted 15 September 2015 - 10:58 AM
Edited by Bob Michel, 16 September 2015 - 12:16 AM.
Posted 15 September 2015 - 12:02 PM
Very late to the party, I've just been enjoying this thread and will add my admiration for these great renditions. Learning "Lena" is a must!
Bob, I wonder if you've compared notes with John Kirkpatrick, a very fine anglo player, whose "Tunes from the Trenches" CD is officially launched later this week but was already on sale at Swanage Festival in the UK last weekend. The track list reveals that he shares at least a couple of the less well known ones with you - Would you rather be a colonel and I didn't raise my boy. I heard him do some live last summer - I was particularly fond of "The Thing-Ummy-Bob (that's going to win the war)".
The obvious difference is that John K's songs are culled from both world wars. But it's well worth a listen.
Posted 15 September 2015 - 12:48 PM
Bob, I wonder if you've compared notes with John Kirkpatrick,.
Posted 15 September 2015 - 01:26 PM
Posted 15 September 2015 - 02:50 PM
Bob, nothing to do with Concertinas, just a brief snippet of 1WW sentimentality extracted from my fathers memoirs.
In spite of the armistice the army were unable to ship him back to Western Australia for demobilisation until late autumn 1919.
" ..... When I went over to see the Grover family I performed a little ceremony. When I had said goodbye to them, during my embarkation leave, a twelve year old Grover niece gave me a silver medal on a silver chain. It bore the impression of some Saint or other, for they were a Roman Catholic family, and as she herself clasped it around my bare neck she asked me for a promise, which I gave. Never, never to take it off and my Saint would bring me back from the war safely. And here I was - safe, as she had guaranteed. I let her take it from my neck with her own hands, then clasped it around hers with mine, there to leave it. ' Ah - happy he who owns that tenderest joy, the heart love of a child ' . "
Posted 16 September 2015 - 12:00 AM
For entry #9 we return to an explicitly war-themed song (as opposed to songs that happened to be popular during the war): "Three Wonderful Letters from Home" (1918) by Joe Goodwin and Ballard MacDonald (words) and James F. Hanley (music).
I learned this one directly from the original sheet music, which I've owned for many years. Presumably it's from early 1918, since it's still a full-sized folio, not the reduced format introduced later that year as a wartime austerity measure. At the bottom of page 3 is the legend: "This song has been adopted by all the Public Schools. Ask your dealer for it. LOYALTY IS THE WORD TODAY (Loyalty to the U.S.A.)." My heart goes out to the kids in those classrooms.
Though maybe it shouldn't. An unabashed tearjerker like this one may test the limits of modern taste, but why bother exploring the popular music of those years, if not to have one's tastes challenged? Obviously this kind of sentimentality played better to the sensibilities of that age than to ours (the song was a hit). It's a well-wrought number, in fact, and deserves to be played straight. Anyway, I like the way it sits on the concertina.
OK, You finally got me. I started on a similar project for a group of us in 2014. The idea was to start before the war, contrast that with the word songs from England, add the changing attitudes of America to the war, and close with "victory" songs (and perhaps No Man's Land or Christmas in the Trenches along the way. Trained singers who can do the pathos stuff. So, I knew most of these songs, and have been quietly delighting in your versions. This one though, was totally new to me, and is a wonderful example of...well...what it is. Thanks for this project and for the nice job you are doing of realizing it.
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