Remembering Derek…

Derek Hare (above) born November 1925, died Easter 2018″…playing music to the end…”

Derek was a stalwart member of the Ballydehob Sessions, ever since he arrived in West Cork in 1990. He was brought up in Scotland (where he spoke Scots Gaelic), and lived in Norfolk, Hampshire and Leicester before coming to Ireland. But he had many adventures in between. He was in the armed forces in Word War II, serving in Finland and N Norway. During a period in Winterton, Norfolk, he met up with Bob Roberts (who owned and skippered the last commercial sailing barge to trade in the UK) and Sam Larner, both of whom were involved in a lively traditional music scene in East Anglia. Derek had many stories to tell about that particular period in his life, and his own adventures in traditional music.

Bob Roberts (left) at the wheel of his Thames Sailing Barge Cambria (peter Kennedy Collection), and (right) Sam Larner’s Topic album recorded in 1958

As a little Sessions project I would like to invite all Ballydehob Session members (or anyone else who knew Derek in his lifetime) to contribute something to these pages. Either tunes that you know he played or liked, or any stories about him. Please send them in and we’ll put up a future post featuring them.

I’m kicking off with two waltzes which I often heard him play in our sessions: The Marino Waltz – composed by John Sheahan of The Dubliners and (Derek’s own favourite) Margarets’ Waltz – composed by Pat Shuldham Shaw. I’m playing them in G at a reasonably sedate 100 BPM – good for dancing to!

A Couple of Waltzes

I’m bringing this post over from Roaringwater Journal, where I first suggested the idea of a virtual music exchange, resulting in the launching of this site. It’s edited to exclude information you will find elsewhere, but it could be useful to have these tunes – and their stories – loaded here.

Dancing at the Crossroads, Tralibane 2014

You know that I’m always trying to encourage our session to play more waltzes? They are usually good tunes which are quite well received in between the jigs and reels – and there are plenty of them in the Irish tradition. Here’s a video of me playing a waltz I have just learnt. It’s an easy enough tune, which you can all join in with: a waltz with a story attached. Here’s the tune – Rock All Our Babies To Sleep – I start it off in G and then play it in C, as I like the jump, which gives the music a lift:

Now, here’s the story . . . The tune was originally a cowboy yodelling song! ‘Cowboy songs’ were popular in the States in the 1920s and 30s. One of the earliest ‘cowboys’ to make his name was Jimmie Rodgers (James Charles Rodgers, 1897 – 1933).

Rodgers fused hillbilly country, gospel, jazz, blues, pop, cowboy, and folk, and many of his best songs were his compositions, including “Blue Yodel”, which sold over a million records and established Rodgers as the premier singer of early country music . . .

Sometimes known as “The Father of Country Music”, Rodgers was particularly remembered for his distinctive rhythmic yodelling style. Unusually for a music star, Rodgers was known best for his  extensive recordings rather than for his live performances. Rock All Our Babies to Sleep was recorded by Rodgers in 1932. He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1924, at the age of 27, and died from the affects of the illness at the age of 35 on May 26 1933. We are fortunate to have this recording available on YouTube:

So how did the Cowboy song from 1932 get to a traditional music session in Ballydehob? By a process of evolution! And via Scotland, as it happens . . . I am a great fan of two traditional Scottish musicians: Phil Cunningham from Edinburgh and Aly Bain from Lerwick on the Shetland Islands. I heard them playing a waltz which they called  Rocking the Baby to Sleep and immediately decided I had to learn it. My method of learning is listening, and then playing until I think I have the tune – most of the time the method works; sometimes, I find that I have made up my own version of the tune. Here are Cunningham and Bain playing their rendering (which has moved on a fair bit from Jimmie Rodgers!) and you can compare this yourself to my aural interpretation of their playing, above. It’s a little different, certainly, but what’s important (I think) is that a good tune comes out of the fluid process. Incidentally, I have left in the second tune on the Cunningham/Bain track: Frank McConnell’s Three Steps – it’s something we could introduce to our session later.

So that’s the story of  the new tune I’m bringing into our session. I usually play it through once in G, once in C, then the third time back in G (it creates a good bit of variation) – then I launch straight into two rounds of my own take on a French Canadian tune that the session must have got used to by now: Louis’ Waltz.

I’m hoping to soon add a ‘Tune Index’ button to the site, which will enable sorting and finding as we build up the collection. In the meantime I’m waiting expectantly for more contributions!