Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We are all made of stars

Driving through to Glasgow on Saturday for the Bela Fleck concert, I was listening to a CD of Peter, Paul and Mary (CD 4 from the Carry It On set) . One of my favourite tracks is a live performance of a gospel number. One of the great things about gospel is that it's rarely half-hearted. I mean, call-and-response is supposed to be vigorous. How vigorous? Well, something like the response at 0:19 into this clip will do nicely:

Anyway, back here on Earth (and without the Doug Trumbull visusl effects) PP&M were doing Children Go Where I Send Thee with the New York Choral Society of all people.

It comes over especially well on a decent sound system, but even in the car (or on Youtube) you get a feeling that the music is taking on a life of its own by about number eight. Funnily enough, I think it makes more impact as pure audio than as a video: the choir just come crashing out of nowhere, and Mary's voice has an amazing throatiness that is rather at odds with the blonde white woman on the screen.

The song's lyrics are obviously reminiscent of Green Grow The Rushes-O, which is to say they involve counting, some quasi-Biblical references, and not a whole lot of sense. It prompted me to Google the latter song, confident that someone would know what it was all about.

Actually, not so much.

Which made me feel rather better AND now I can point to the Hyades and casually drop a remark about "Eight For The April Rainers" into my conversation. Life and soul of the observatory, that's me. (Though considering the trouble I had explaining to my wife and daughter why the Plough is sometimes upside down in the sky, my opportunities for use of that conversational gem are likely to be somewhat limited.) (And yes, they do know that the Earth spins: maybe it's the fact that the sky doesn't that bothers them.)

How's that? From Close Encounters to a star cluster via a selection of human folk traditions and one of the most enigmatic lyrics ever.

As a pendant to that commodius vicus of recirculation, here are Peter, Paul & Mary (from the same concert) doing Light One Candle, which is a Chanukah song. Perhaps someone should have sung it towards Israel over the past few weeks.


At 20 January, 2009 09:34, Anonymous Phil said...

Is "Children..." a Quaker song? I'd heard that the historic Quaker usage has 'thou' as the singular and 'thee' as the plural, but never seen an example of it before. It'd be like 'ihr' in German or the 'vos-' forms in Spanish and Italian (French doesn't have an informal plural; Spanish and Italian don't either, but they both use the third person for the formal forms).

Anyway, that's one powerful song. I'm tempted to take it along to the singaround I go to - 20 people packed into the snug of a local pub - but I'm not sure I dare. I've had some of the most intense musical experiences of my life in that snug, two of them supplied by the Corpus Christi Carol and Green Grow the Rushes-O - and Children... has got the repetitive intensity of one combined with the atavistic religious appeal of the other.

Peter, Paul and Mary, eh? Who'd have thought they had it in them?

At 25 January, 2009 23:30, Blogger Rob said...

I'd noticed the singular/plural oddness of the lyrics but never had a good explanation. You could be right with the Quaker suggestion: dunno.

I'd think it would go well at a singaround, though as you say it could do more damage to the surrounding area that anything the Large Hadron Collider could manage. Good luck with that....

And I'm not surprised that PP&M can do that: they always were superlative live performers. I have another recording (no Youtube for this one) of Peter alone leading an audience in Rock My Soul In The Bosom Of Abraham, which could be set as a case study in how to handle an audience and generate participation. It's easy to think back to PP&M and remember only Puff The Magic Dragon, but even their other substantial hits (If I Had a Hammer, Blowing In The Wind) were crackling with energy and with commitment to what they were singing about. I was fortunate enough to see them twice in the flesh in Manchester. On each occasion they just walked onto the stage and took ownership, not in any kind of arrogant way, more like Winston Wolf making his entrance in Pulp Fiction and effortlessly taking charge. To do that as an acoustic trio takes real skill.

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