Twelve weeks without a Ballydehob session! Are we all getting rusty, frustrated and tetchy? Session regulars Dick Miles (English concertina), Tim Keddle (banjo) and myself (Robert Harris) realised we can get together within the current lockdown restrictions: all of us live within a radius of 5km, and can meet out-of-doors, provided we maintain ‘social distancing’. So we gathered yesterday afternoon, for tea and music. Our backdrop was Roaringwater Bay, and the O’Mahony stronghold of Rossbrin Castle. The north wind was strong, cold and noisy – and our neighbouring farmer was spreading slurry on the adjacent field: everything was grand! I was the cameraman and sound engineer, but couldn’t resist joining in the first medley on my anglo concertina – Jenny Lind Polka and The Girl I Left Behind Me:
We often start the Ballydehob Session on a Friday night with this set, as it’s a good one for ‘loosening up’ and tuning in to each other. It’s a misconception that these are English tunes: they both have a broad spectrum across the range of musical traditions. Jenny Lind was composed by Anton Wallerstein (1813-1892) around 1840, and celebrated Johanna Maria Lind (1820 – 1887), a Swedish opera singer, often called the Swedish Nightingale, who became famous across the world. The German tune seeped in to the traditions of the Shetlands and North America, as well as Ireland and England. I discovered more written about this tune than any other I have researched so far, presumably because of the widespread fame of Lind herself. The Girl I Left Behind Me also has a long and complex history. It’s said to have originated in Elizabethan England, but turned up in America in 1650. The song first appeared in print in a collection The Charms of Melody, Dublin, Ireland dated 1791:
. . . All the dames of France are fond and free
And Flemish lips are really willing
Very soft the maids of Italy
And Spanish eyes are so thrilling
Still, although I bask beneath their smile,
Their charms will fail to bind me
And my heart falls back to Erin’s isle
To the girl I left behind me . . .
Everything I recorded in our impromptu Teatime Session is unedited and unrehearsed. What you see is what you get – so please excuse imperfections! Here’s a typical routine of Dick and Tim agreeing what to play and how to start it . . .
Here’s this polka set as it was played (you might hear the wind, the tractor and the choughs calling overhead!) – The Waterford, Tom Sullivan’s and Neili’s Polka:
We always have a song or two in our Ballydehob Sessions. I requested Dick to sing one of my favourites – Just As The Tide was Flowing:
To finish off for today here’s another polka set – Tim and Dick are playing Padraig O’Keefe’s, Nell Fahey’s and Little Diamond:
It’s relevant, perhaps, that I’m publishing this on a Friday – which would normally be our session day! Perhaps it won’t be too long, now, before we are all back together?