In July we visited Ireland, South and North, for a couple of weeks. I was determined to see this cathedral because of a line in an iconic song called Carrighfergus,performed here most beautifully by Cedric Smith and Loreena McKennitt. The line in context:
In Kilkenny it is reported: they’ve marble stones there, as black as ink
With gold and silver I would transport her, but I’ll sing no more now… ’til I get a drink
Our tour director placed her trust in me, as I had to get to the place and back (a medieval mile distant) in 80 minutes so as not to delay the bus’s departure after our lunch in Kilkenny. Erica wisely suggested that I take a taxi there to allow my camera and me time to climb the tower and photograph the interior. The walk down the town’s medieval mile got me back with 10 minutes to spare.
Lovely stained glass in this place.
St. Canice’s and it’s leaning tower
St. Ciaran’s chair
The font is made from black Kilkenny marble
St. Canice’s Cathedral: View from its leaning tower.
I’ve since learned that there are only three old towers like this in Ireland that can still be climbed. St. Candice’ tower really does lean, according to a recorded spooky voice regularly reassuring me that it would probably hold climbers up for a good while yet…
Departing Ragusa on Sunday morning our first stop was at the Valle Dei Templi, site of seven temples on a huge 1300 hectare site on a ridge, not in a Valle, near the town of Agrigento.
This dates from c. 450 BC clearly Greek and the columns are Doric, the earliest of the three Greek styles, with simple capitals. Later came Ionic and lastly, Corinthian.
Ruins and a tree at the edge of the “valley’s” cliff…
This 5 screen AV presentation showed some drama productions…
Circa 435 BC, this is claimed to be the best preserved temple in the world.
A rocky, rainy place dedicated to this son of Zeus.
First drama, now nudity. Oh, my…
The poor, we were told, lay buried here…
Our first dinner with everybody on the tour was in Palermo Sunday night. I photographed all the tables and sent them to our group after we got back.
After the seeing the Valle we bused to Palermo, where we dined with the whole group at our hotel.
Monday October 15 – Monreale Morning, Palermo Afternoon
After breakfast on Monday Roberto delivered us safely uphill to another cliffside place – Monreale. Its beautiful Duomo Di Monreale is world famous for its Norman architecture and the fact that is chock full of spectacular mosaics.
We climbed many stairs from the road to reach the square where the Duomo, dedicated in 1182 to the nativity of Mary.
On the way up, Carmen from NJ (I think) paused to view the display.
Our local expert explains this impressive specimen to us groupies
Close up of the exterior shows its Arabo-Normanno style
Mosaics adorn the beams, ceiling, walls and archway
This Byzantine-styled Pantocrator (Christ as Lord Almighty) is popular in Sicily
Again the Arabo-Normanno style of the exterior
At the bottom on our climb down was this collection. In Erice, Anita later sprung for a lovely decent-sized marionette for our granddaughter.
Palermo Afternoon – The Cathedral and A Historic Palace
We visited Palermo Cathedral and killed time checking out graffiti until our 12:30 appointment at perhaps the #1 attraction in Palermo: Palazzo Conte Federico. The Count’s family can be traced back to Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, one of the truly great figures in history and King of Sicily at four years old in 1198. His descendant loves to race vintage sports cars and the Countess, who guided our group around, is an Austrian swimmer and musician. She was a fascinating guide, explaining some Sicilian customs and superstitions such as the proper direction for a bed and warned us not to make the upward “corno” sign even by accident. This belief apparently predates Christianity.
Dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, built on the site of an AD 600 church built by Pope Gregory I and then converted in the 9th C. to a mosque after the Saracen conquest.
Worth a huge fortune, I’m sure… There is a nearby tribute to Father Giuseppe Puglisi, killed by the Mafia in 1993 for opposing them.
St. Agatha, born in Palermo or possibly Catania, reportedly lost her breasts when tortured by Saracens. She is now the patron saint of breast cancer.
There was not much artistry in this piece but the rude looking slogan was “I only wanted to make you happy.” Awwww…
Easy to walk by this place, but this was a great tour and the treats were a hit as well!
Dashing, the speed-loving Count probably also fences…
A seat upon which bordello patrons would have perched during a shopping parade…
A swimmer, a musician, a teacher…
This is the proper direction for the sleeper’s head to point. No doubt the earlier countesses had shorter beds.
The countess explains where her palace is situated and its importance in Palermo
One of the count’s cars in the entrance is admired by passers by
Two more nights in Palermo left… Visiting Erice and Trapani on Tuesday and on Wednesday we will have a great visit of Cephalu and proceed to Taormina.
“So,” I’m going through a set of challenging wine-making instructions for a high quality Negroamaro (juice plus skins – a first for me).
I had to edit and translate them into hand-written, clear Binglish (Bob-friendly English) and decided to come to grips with the spelling and pronunciation of the following additive:
The incredibly helpful and generous person I buy my juice from, Joe, has as much fun pronouncing it as I do, but he sure knows how to make wine!
The word “kieselsol” wouldn’t stay in my septuagenarian, but fussy, brain, so I took time to look at it carefully. The first part, keisel, I thought must rhyme with Diesel and it did! The sol part, for a maternal anglo like me, is easy: Saul, like the biblical king.
In presenting Vladímir Putin’s 21st Century equivalent to Khruschev’s “We will bury you.” the CBC last night failed to read Putin’s macho but desperate attempt to show the whole world that no one, not even the US, can come out of a nuclear war unscathed.
Our CBC only approximated fairness last night. Still the same, implied, refrain meant to be innately picked up by couch potato feelers:
“See? Putin is, as we said, ruthlessly scary etc.” A deliberate misread, in my opinion.
The real NATO threat that has forced Russia’s hand: America’s broken promise not to expand NATO Eastward beyond Germany, made to Eduard Shevardnadze by James Baker in 1990 and illustrated by this brilliantly sarcastic image:
The answer to a friend’s worthwhile tweet question “Can’t we all just go home and respect others’ need for security?” is, I believe, in Simon and Garfunkel’s “people talking w/o speaking” (the weaponized mainstream media) and, since 2001, largely for profit FBI and CIA: the “Neon god they made.”
Disturbed’s inspired, intensely visual, version of Simon and Garfunkel’s amazingly prescient (so clearly now) The Sound of Silence…
And the original by Simon and Garfunkel… with high praise for their poetic insight.
This is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans’ Day in the States. If you’ve never seen the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge, it is an enormous, beautiful, monument that pays tribute to the courage of the Canadian and allied soldiers who died there 100 years ago in and around deep trenches fighting the Imperial German Army. I visited it in 2009 and took the above photo. Then, it was about “never again.” Now we have politicians using Vimy to glorify Canada’s coming of age. Having “come of age,” Canadian troops are part of a super-aggressive NATO in – wait for it – Latvia. Latvia, for Pete’s sake! ‘Nuff said here. I digress.
Anyway, this post is about a song I wrote in 1983, when I learned that the Russians had so many ICBM missiles pointed at them so close that a Russian human could never respond to an American first strike in time to retaliate.
Vulnerable because of this proximity, Russia was forced to develop a computerized “launch on warning” system that would virtually, for them, take the decision out of human hands. Very scary…
So, to “save the world” like Arlo Guthrie, I wrote this country blues song called Radiatin’ A-bomb Blues and started contacting publishers. In those days we mailed them cassettes…
In 1984 this light-hearted song was pitched by Mark Altman of Morning Music to Doc Watson for his Sugar Hill blues project, but it was heard too late to be considered. I performed it also live on the CBC’s Metro Morning radio program and was interviewed by its host Joe Coté, one of my all-time favourite CBC Radio people.
Then by 1991, the Cold War over, the Doomsday Clock had been moved back to 17 minutes before midnight.
I stopped singing this song, and look whats happened since!
Its now two and one half minutes to midnight, just 30 measly seconds farther than the closest it’s ever been!
So here is my 1983 song, which I sang again on Thursday. I asked the audience to sing the chorus with me and they DID. One of my listeners reminded me that Arlo said “If you want to end war and stuff, you gotta sing LOUD.”
So it would be lovely if, while you’re listening to my song you can sing along as loud on the chorus as you can:
With Remembrance Day in Canada tomorrow (and the Doomsday Clock at 2.5 seconds to midnight) I’m reposting this famous song with my 2015 words, more faithful to Hans Leip’s 1915 poem:
This video, Lili Marlen 1915-2015, is my new, and lyrically different, English version of the hugely iconic song, originally recorded in German by Lale Andersen in 1939. Her recording was much loved by soldiers from both sides in World War II and became the sign-off song for Radio Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia.
The song was originally a 1915 poem written by Hans Leip, a teacher who was conscripted into the German Imperial Army. It was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze. It was so loved by soldiers from both sides that Andersen recorded it in English in 1942. Soldiers relate deeply to this wistful, iconic song.
The version I offer here tries to be faithful to the original German lyric, though I have modified it slightly for poetic and other reasons. It is quite different from Vera Lynn’s English version and, I think, has a better resonance with what Hans Leip originally wrote 100 years ago. This version also tries to completely express a broader set of the subtle complexities associated with precarious, long-distance, wartime relationships.
I didn’t start out to write yet another version of this piece, already done by stars like Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. It just happened. Here’s how…
I sing songs in different languages and just wanted to know the meaning of the German words. A patient in a local hospital sang it for me in German while I accompanied her on the guitar… M’s performance moved me very much and I wanted somehow to honour what she had felt. I had trouble finding a literal translation, and entering it whole left Google Translate, and me, thoroughly confused. After a long time “parsing” each individual word the stuff started to make sense and making it rhyme accidentally became part of the process. Listening to the German performance by Marlene Dietrich was very helpful, as I had not yet found Lale Anderson. Happy with the result, I recorded it and asked Corley Padgett (Flicker: hornedfrog4life) if she would let me use her superb, copyrighted photo as background for the lyrics. Corley immediately agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.
And, speaking of history, 2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the writing of the poem.
Worked on this great, upbeat song by Gord Downie. I have been as faithful as I can to the placement of chords over where they should be played in order to duplicate this iconic piece. Red indicates mostly words that were multitonal or timing alerts for the performer. The body of the song can be played to this YouTube version.
I put it together like this to teach it to a large group of folk musicians in a short time.
The intro is simplified. The first four bars of the intro riff are actually the following riff repeated twice:
You change from Am to G on the seventh beat (blue) of the first bar. Hope the colour helps.
In the strum pattern at the top of the lead sheet, U is up, D is downward, and the dash indicates a beat that is not sounded (a rest). It is a strum pattern that can be used to cover fast calypso or soca pieces.
The Hip is part of my children’s generation, not mine. But, like so many other Canadians last summer, I found myself at a summer cottage with my friend, his daughter and son-in-law on a beach near Perth (not too far from Kingston) on August 20th watching, live, the wonderful concert of The Tragically Hip.
I can’t write about Damascus without feeling jasmine climbing upon my fingers…
I can’t utter its name without tasting the juice of apricot, pomegranate, mulberry, and quince…
Can’t remember it without sensing a thousand doves perched on the wall of my memory, and another one thousand flying…
I am haunted by Damascus even when I am not residing there…
Its ancestors are buried inside me, its neighborhoods intersect above my body…
Its cats love, marry, and leave their kittens with me…
Do not ask for my identity card, I am a hundred percent Damascene, like wheat, plums, and pomegranates. Like brocade, Aghbani and Damasco. Like copper pitchers, and the armoires decorated with mother of pearl; all of which are part of my history and the trousseau of my mother…
A tree of Arabian jasmine that my mother left on my window, its white moons grow every year…
by Nizar Qabbani
The magnificent, deeply touching poem, Windows of the Soul, Damascus, was written by the great Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998). The video in the above link is a reading in Arabic of the poem. The photography is truly uplifting. It was published by a group of Syrian students on their website called Syrian Students for a better future studying at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Oh, how a special place like Syria, in so many present, ancient and artistic ways, shows the best we can be as a gifted, precarious, human “episode” of the history of Mother Earth – a true reason to keep hope alive.
Tuesday, July 26: Englee, Arches and back to Rocky Harbour
Englee is a beautiful little community about 2 1/2 hours south of St. Anthony on the east coast. The drive from Englee to Rocky Harbour is another 4 1/2 hours. St. Anthony to Rocky Harbour is 4 1/2 hours, so our Englee visit added about 2 1/2 hours of driving to our Tuesday. If you climb up the long steps on Barr’d Island, you’ll be treated to one of the most beautiful views in the world – i.e. it was worth the extra driving.
We then drove back to Rocky Harbour, stopping at Arches Provincial Park for some more beautiful scenery. Our last, since we were flying home from Deer Lake on Wednesday at 15:15. We visited the Cemetery and the Lighthouse in Rocky Harbour before we left for Deer Lake Airport, about 55 minutes from Rocky Harbour on NL 430 South. Returning the car at the airport was very smooth. Boy, did we get our money’s worth out of that car!
Wednesday, July 27: Home to the GTA
One more heartwarming story about Newfoundland. We checked our bags at the airport. Then security noticed my Swiss Army Knife on my person. I thought, “I’ll be sorry; I’ve had it for a long time.” But they offered me the chance to put it back in my suitcase, which meant retrieving it from the storage area.
Born in 1950 Jamaica, a talented bass player and songwriter, Pluto Shervington, had this really big hit song, Ram Goat Liver, in the mid 1970’s. It is one of my favourite Jamaican songs and I occasionally do it for some of the people I sing for in the local hospital. It gets anyone within earshot moving and, if they know it and some do, singing and smiling along.
The song’s “singability” (making its composition seem deceptively effortless) and Shervington’s gift for telling a superb, hilarious, naturally colloquial story, set it apart for me.
It took him a week to write, after getting the idea from a fellow Kingston songwriter, Ernie Smith, who had already had a couple of hit songs of his own. On his way to the old Federal Records studio Ernie had watched a minibus hit and kill a goat on the road. A fellow observer said, casually “All we need now is a pound of rice…”
Verse one really pulls me in:
Sunday gone I jump on a minibus; I really late but it’s not my fault
An as we nearly reach by de terminus, I feel the bus come to a halt…
‘Ee lick a ram goat down by de roundabout, an’ just as if dat would not, suffice
A bredda run through de bus an’ start to shout
You shoulda dead mek we buy a poun’ of rice!
Then the chorus:
Ram goat liver good fi mek mannish water.
Billy goat teet’ mek de earring for your daughter.
Curry goat lunch put de bite in your bark;
It mek your daughter… it mek your daughter walk and talk.
Like many songs from the West Indies, there’s some double entente in the chorus. For example, mannish water is considered a male aphrodisiac.
Anyway, in the song a cook-up actually occurs, and the storyteller ends up suffering some discomforting embarrassment after consuming some of the pot’s contents:
Before too long you no ha fi ask – a runny belly like a Judgement Day…
Another hilarious song from Pluto: Your Honour. In it he is in court for “fooling around” in the wrong bedroom. His defence:
Me two hands dey was occupied: me shirt in me lef’ an’ me pants in me right!
And why not check out his 1974 hit, Dat, about a poor Rasta who could only afford to buy pork at the butcher shop but has communication problems because he will not let the forbiddenword pass his lips…