Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Celebration Ode

Today we present the first in a series of selections from an album of local folksongs – Downriver : A Celebration Ode.

In Magic Torch’s ongoing researches into local folklore and tradition we found we were often coming across fragments of songs or ballads either about Inverclyde, or written by Inverclyders. And there seemed to be no way to properly compile them, to do them justice. In 2005 we were approached by Life Injection, a local recording studio who had just completed a CD of reinterpretations of Robert Burns poems. They also had a handful of old Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow songs which they wanted to “do something” with and so we decided to collaborate on a collection of local folk songs. 

Magic Torch researched and compiled a “songbook” of around thirty compositions, and from there worked with Life Injection to whittle the list down. We tried to steer clear of the more well known songs – though we made an obvious exception for The Green Oak Tree – and instead opted for pieces which reflected the lives and times of the people who have passed through Inverclyde across the ages; Irishmen building the “new” railway; Highlanders leaving for the colonies; the “celebration ode” which commemorated the inauguration of the James Watt Dock; a ballad detailing the exploits of a local warlock in the seventeenth century; the Romantic piano compositions of Hamish McCunn. What amazed us all was the incredible diversity of what was available.

The songs which were eventually chosen were then reinterpreted and recorded by a tremendous selection of local musicians. Very few of the ballads, broadsheets and poems detailed the appropriate musical accompaniment, and so it was left to the musicians to bring their own compositions, bringing something new to the tradition while at the same time preserving them for future audiences.

Downriver was engineered and recorded by Jim Lang, Graeme McLeod, Barry McPhail and Steven Stewart. The record was produced by li media.

Thanks here to everyone involved in the making of this album;  shelagh mckay, jon milloy, paul mclaughlin, willie irvine, kevin murphy, gordon campbell, kylie campbell, mark anderson (and kirsty, his lass frae the port), graeme mcleod, jim lang, malky mckenzie, steven stewart, chris black, barry  mcphail, jennifer lang.

Everyone gave their time and talent free gratis for this Heritage Lottery Funded project and no income was generated from the recordings.

There are still a few songs left unrecorded, so if anyone fancies doing a ska version of "The Katy of Lochgoil" or baggying up "The Fisherman and the Monkey"...get in touch.

This first recording is “A Celebration Ode”, a poem which was written to celebrate the completion of the James Watt Dock, a site still very important to Inverclyde, and the setting for this years Tall Ships Event. They're looking for volunteers if you're feeling helpful.

A Celebration Ode
6th August 1881

Calm ye, ye winds and cease to pour
Ye clouds your burdens from your height
Let the bright sun shine on the hour
That marks an epoch in time’s flight

Truce to all feuds and petty frays
Ye scribblers with a ranc’rous pen
Drown ye your plaints in words of praise
For Greenock grit and Greenock men

Thus have we come by leaps and bounds
To hold the vantage nature gives
‘Spite the veiled darts of feigned friends
Let in be known that Greenock lives

Come rain or sun come foul or fair
Nothing shall daunt her enterprise
Still shall her sons in commerce dare
To greater heights of triumph rise

This one vast stride in progress’ way
Hath taught us well the lesson that
Here must  we raise this August day
A monument to glorious Watt

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