Monday, 8 July 2013

The Watersons

Before my dad died, I discovered the music made by a family of English folk singers, The Watersons. I hurriedly made sure that dad had a chance to listen to them. And I'm glad I did, because he said to me, "That music hits me right in so many ways."

My son was very young at the time, five or six I think, and not really interested in his dad's music. However, I played him a song from a Waterson's CD that became a favorite. We often sang in honour of the foxhounds named in it: "Dido, Bendigo, ..."

I think the term for their music is "polyphonic singing," but I've no background in music to describe the mixture of harmonies and dissonance that makes my eyes open and the hair on my neck stand up. I just know that I love it.

Here is one song I learned well from them. It is a lament for the passing of the lifestyle of the "travelling men," the gypsies, the tinkers.
Here is a hymn, of sorts. I remember reading a comment on the liner notes for this song (though I may not have the words exactly right) that singing it was meant to "break the monopoly of 'Hymns Ancient and Modern.'" Be that as it may, it's sung with refreshing gusto!
Finally, here is the "Dido, Bendigo" song that my son and I used to sing.
Finally, a comment that I really haven't shared with anyone before. When I listened to the Watersons I started to reflect on my own life. A folk group in the early sixties didn't have much of a life in terms of income. They would have a hotel room if they were playing a concert, or they kipped on couches if they weren't, and they kept a mattress and blankets in the back of the car in case even that failed them. They kept going for the music. And I was struck that they made their livings from the songs in their heads and the voices that sang them. In a way, they they made a living because of who and what they were, nothing else needed. A storyteller can do this, too. A teacher, as well. It isn't a bad goal for a life.

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