My sister's family is at camp this week; she took some pictures of her kids after they had been playing in the camp's mud pit. They reminded me of the chorus of a song which we used to sing when we were kids:
So follow me, follow Down to the hollow And there let us wallow In glorious mud.
I only ever knew the chorus of this song, and had no clue what it came from, so I decided to look it up today.It turns out that this is the chorus of a song entitled The Hippopotamus, written by the British comedy team Flanders and Swann for their 1957 revue, At The Drop Of A Hat. Who knew?
On July 4th I attended this year's Tattoo and it was, I hardly need say, wonderful. The music was as always phenomenal, as were the visiting acts from around the world. I am more moved by music, I think, than by any other medium, and that night was no different as I laughed, cried, and sang along with many of the pieces. One of the most memorable segments of the three hour show was a dramatization of the morning of the Halifax Explosion 100 years ago in 1917. The scene culminated with a bright flash of light and the sound of a loud explosion. After this, pictures of the actual devastation caused by the explosion were shown on the big screen, and then, as the Tattoo choir sang the song We Rise Again by Nova Scotian songwriter Leon Dubinsky, pictures were shown of Halifax as it is today. I admit that I teared up when the choir started singing; fortunately it was dark, and in any case I wasn't the only one. Here's a picture of the choir; several members from the choir I sing with were in it:
And here's a version- not from the Tattoo- of We Rise Again.
Another part of the Tattoo which was very moving was a tribute to the battle at Vimy Ridge, which also took place 100 years ago this year.
The Tattoo also did a birthday tribute to Dame Vera Lynn, who turned 100 years old this year. The Tattoo band and choir did a medley of some of her hits from the Blitz, which was fun to sing along with. During the finale every night of the Tattoo, the massed bands and choir perform the national anthem of one of the visiting acts' countries, and then the Canadian national anthem. Since I was there on the fourth, the American anthem was done, which was additionally nice because there were quite a few members of the crew from the air craft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the audience. Mention was also made of the seven American sailors from the USS Fitzgerald who recently died in an accident at sea, the Tattoo moderator expressing condolences to the Americans present.
Of course, all sorts of fun and funny acts occurred during the three hour program as well, and the Imps- the children motorcycle team from Britain- were back for the first time in 15 years, which was nice.
The Nova Scotia Tattoo is always an amazing spectacle, and it is my favourite show to attend, no matter how many times I see it. It is great entertainment, and also a tribute to the people in our past who overcame immense tribulation to make our nation what it is today.
The patriotic songThe Maple Leaf Forever was written in 1867, which is the year of Canada's Confederation by Alexander Muir. Muir was a school teacher in Ontario, and also served with the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, fighting with them at the Battle of Ridgeway. He wrote The Maple Leaf Forever while serving in this regiment, for a patriotic poetry contest being held by the Caledonian Society (he won second place). The first verse of the song references the taking of Quebec by the British army led by General James Wolfe during the Seven Years' War. The fateful battle occurred on the Plains of Abraham overlooking the city, against the French forces led by the Marquise de Montcalm. As stated, the British were victorious, though Wolfe- and Montcalm- were killed during the battle. This verse also highlights Canada's heritage and close ties with Britain: "The thistle (Scotland), shamrock (Ireland), rose (England) entwined". Verse one is the reason why, though it was frequently used as such for many years, The Maple Leaf Forever didn't end up being our official national anthem; French Canadians didn't like it, even when Muir changed the verse to include the lily- France's symbol- along with the thistle, etc. This is why we ended up with O Canada, written over a decade later... confession: I prefer The Maple Leaf Forever, though I of course sing O Canada with pride. The second verse goes on to talk of a couple battles of the War of 1812 in which Britain was victorious. The lyrics of the song have been modified on numerous occasions, most notably in 1997 when the CBC, not content to leave a good thing alone, held a contest to have someone write more "inclusive" lyrics. The winner was Vladimir Radian, and I really don't like this version, which is pretty toothless with every mention of military action removed, and lots of fluffy words about how pretty Canada is. If one has to have updated lyrics, I prefer those by G.E. Benton, an army chaplain, whose version acknowledges the sacrifices made by those fighting for our freedoms, and the necessity if always being ready to defend them. Here are the original lyrics by Alexander Muir:
In days of yore, from Britain's shore, Wolfe, the dauntless hero, came And planted firm Britannia's flag On Canada's fair domain. Here may it wave, our boast, our pride And, joined in love together, The thistle, shamrock, rose entwine The Maple Leaf forever! Chorus: The Maple Leaf, our emblem dear, The Maple Leaf forever! God save our Queen and Heaven bless The Maple Leaf forever! At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane, Our brave fathers, side by side, For freedom, homes and loved ones dear, Firmly stood and nobly died; And those dear rights which they maintained, We swear to yield them never! Our watchword evermore shall be "The Maple Leaf forever!" Chorus Our fair Dominion now extends From Cape Race to Nootka Sound; May peace forever be our lot, And plenteous store abound: And may those ties of love be ours Which discord cannot sever, And flourish green o'er freedom's home The Maple Leaf forever! Chorus On merry England's far famed land May kind heaven sweetly smile, God bless old Scotland evermore and Ireland's Em'rald Isle! And swell the song both loud and long Till rocks and forest quiver! God save our Queen and Heaven bless The Maple Leaf forever! Chorus
The Radian version:
O, land of blue unending skies, Mountains strong and sparkling snow, A scent of freedom in the wind, O'er the emerald fields below. To thee we brought our hopes, our dreams, For thee we stand together, Our land of peace, where proudly flies, The Maple Leaf forever. Chorus: Long may it wave, and grace our own, Blue skies and stormy weather, Within my heart, above my home, The Maple Leaf forever! From East and West, our heroes came, Through icy fields and frozen bays, Who conquered fear, and cold, and hate, And their ancient wisdom says: Protect the weak, defend your rights, And build this land together, Above which shine the Northern Lights, And the Maple Leaf forever! (Chorus)
The Benton lyrics:
In days of yore from splendid shores, Bold and true, our founders came, And planted firm those rights of old, Into Canada's fair domain, This hallowed oath and legacy, We vow to yield it never!, For life and peace and liberty!, The Maple Leaf Forever!, The Maple Leaf, our emblem dear, The Maple Leaf Forever!, Long may it wave and God defend, The Maple Leaf Forever!, Thro' battle flame in lands afar, Our brave warriors side by side, For freedom, home, and lov'd ones dear, Firmly stood and nobly died, Their sacrifice and valour shine, Their Names Will Live Forever!, O Valiant hearts whose deeds proclaim, The Maple Leaf Forever!, The Maple Leaf, our emblem dear, The Maple Leaf Forever!, Long may it wave and God defend, The Maple Leaf Forever!, O land where season's gifts abound, Earth's own bounties rich embrace, Where flowing waters' majesty, Sing the hymn of freedom's grace, From oceantide to northern light, All bound as One Together!, Dominion blessed from sea to sea, The Maple Leaf Forever!, The Maple Leaf, our emblem dear, The Maple Leaf Forever!, Long may it wave and God defend, The Maple Leaf Forever!,
On Sunday night we watched the 1982 film The Man From Snowy River, which I hadn't seen in years. The movie is set in Australia and- added bonus- is filmed there. It is the story of young mountain man Jim Craig who, after the death of his father, must go to the lowland to make his way in the world, hoping to one day return to his father's land. The Man From Snowy River stars Tom Burlinson as Jim, Sigrid Thornton as Jessica, his love interest, and Kirk Douglas in a duel role as both Harrison and Spur. I don't recognize most of the actors in the film, though they may be well known in Australia for all I know. I quite enjoyed seeing The Man From Snowy River again after all this time. To be honest, the plot isn't anything to write home about, but the film has other strengths which compensate for weaknesses in the story. One of these is the cinematography, which is great. The Australian scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and it is beautifully filmed.
Another thing to love about the movie is the soundtrack, which is quite good. One of my sisters had the piano music for the Main Theme and Jessica's Theme and I heard those frequently while growing up, so it's a good thing that I like them.
The Man From Snowy River is also a great film to watch if you enjoy watching people galloping skillfully about on beautiful horses. This is essentially an Australian western, and the horsemanship in it is impressive- especially in one scene where Jim rides his horse Denny down an impossibly steep cliff. The first time I watched the movie, I thought that this must have been a trick shot, with the camera at some sort of angle. I couldn't figure out how they would do it though, because the scene looked on the up-and-up. As it turns out, the scene was legit. Burlinson, who did most of his own stunts in the film, rode down the cliff side several times, as did his stunt double. The resulting scene uses footage from both of their rides so as to see the insane descent from different angles. It's pretty amazing.
Incidentally, the film is based on a poem of the same name by Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson which he wrote in 1895. Fun fact: he also wrote "Waltzing Matilda".
THERE was movement at the station, for the word had passed around That the colt from old Regret had got away And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound, So all the cracks had gathered to the fray. All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far Had mustered at the homestead overnight, For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are, And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.
There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup, The old man with his hair as white as snow; But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up - He would go wherever horse and man could go. And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand, No better horseman ever held the reins, For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand - He learned to ride while droving on the plains.
And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast; He was something like a racehorse undersized, With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least, And such as are by mountain horsemen prized. He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die - There was courage in his quick impatient tread; And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye, And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.
But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay, And the old man said, "That horse will never do For a long and tiring gallop - lad, you'd better stop away, Those hills are far too rough for such as you." So he waited, sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend - "I think we ought to let him come," he said; "I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end, For both his horse and he are mountain bred."
"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side, Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough; Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride, The man that holds his own is good enough. And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home, Where the river runs those giant hills between; I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam, But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."
So he went; they found the horses by the big mimosa clump, They raced away toward the mountain's brow, And the old man gave his orders - "Boys, go at them from the jump, No use to try for fancy riding now. And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right; Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills, For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight, If once they gain the shelter of those hills."
So Clancy rode to wheel them - he was racing on the wing, Where the best and boldest riders take their place, And he raced his stock-horse past them and he made the ranges ring With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face. Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash, But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view, And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash, And off into the mountain scrub they flew.
Then fast the horsemen followed, and the gorges deep and black Resounded to the thunder of their tread, And the stockwhips woke the echoes and they fiercely answered back From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead. And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way, Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide; And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day, No man can hold them down the other side."
When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull - It might well make the boldest hold their breath; For the wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full Of wombat holes, and any slip was death. But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head, And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer, And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed, While the others stood and watched in very fear.
He sent the flint-stones flying, but the pony kept his feet, He cleared the fallen timber in his stride, And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat - It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride. Past the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground, Down the hillside at a racing pace he went, And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound At the bottom of that terrible descent.
He was right among the horses as they climbed the farther hill, And the watchers on the mountain, standing mute, Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely; he was right among them still, As he raced across the clearing in pursuit. Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met In the ranges - but a final glimpse reveals On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet With the man from Snowy River at their heels.
And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam; He followed like a bloodhound on their track, Till they halted, cowed and beaten; then he turned their heads for home, And alone and unassisted brought them back. But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot, He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur; But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot, For never yet was mountain horse a cur.
And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise Their torn and rugged battlements on high, Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze At midnight in the cold and frosty sky, And where around the Overflow the reed-beds sweep and sway To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide, The Man from Snowy River is a household word today, And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.
I've been reading Abraham Cowley's 1650 essay Of Agriculture, which was written in praise of the noble work of gardening and husbandry. I myself admire those who cultivate gardens, especially since I struggle to keep my house plants alive. One of my brother-in-laws is an avid gardener, though I don't how he finds the time, as he and my sister have nine kids and he is a full time pastor. Nevertheless, this is his vegetable garden this year:
Here is a particularly good passage from Cowley's work: "I shall only instance in one delight more, the most natural and best-natured of all others, a perpetual companion of the husbandman; and that is, the satisfaction of looking round about him, and seeing nothing but the effects and improvements of his own art and diligence; to be always gathering of some fruits of it, and at the same time to behold others ripening, and others budding: to see all his fields and gardens covered with the beauteous creatures of his own industry; and to see, like God, that all his works are good."
This is a picture taken in Halifax Harbour this week by a local photographer; it is of an elderly man watching two ships coming into port: the tall ship Amerigo Vespucci and the Queen Mary II.
With ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh, Like stars in heaven, and joyously it showed; Some lying fast at anchor in the road, Some veering up and down, one knew not why. A goodly vessel did I then espy Come like a giant from a haven broad; And lustily along the bay she strode, Her tackling rich, and of apparel high. The ship was nought to me, nor I to her, Yet I pursued her with a lover's look; This ship to all the rest did I prefer: When will she turn, and whither? She will brook No tarrying; where she comes the winds must stir: On went she, and due north her journey took. - William Wordsworth
I've arrived home from this year's family jamboree and have been unpacking and doing laundry. It was a great weekend; my 25 nephews and nieces ran wild, loving every moment they spent together from the moment they woke up ('way too early) in the morning to when they were finally corralled in bed at night (where they proceeded to giggle and whisper instead of sleep). As for the adults, we attempted to keep up with the kids during the day then sat up into the early hours of the morning, talking and playing games. I'm now tired, sun burnt and itchy (if anything, the black flies were worse this year) but happy; it was a great three days. Here's one of my nephews in costume for the family talent show- he and his siblings were singing "All God's Creatures Got A Place In The Choir":
The drive from where I live to where we were staying in New Brunswick takes about three and a half hours, so I downloaded an audiobook for the trip, choosing P.G. Wodehouse's A Damsel In Distress. I had read this book before, not listened to it, but Wodehouse is always a hoot to listen to being read aloud. A Damsel In Distress is a stand-alone work, not being connected with his Jeeves or Blandings stories in any way, and it's a whole lot of fun. I'm planning to do a review of it over the next week or so and so won't get into a description of the plot right now, but I really enjoyed revisiting the witty, frothy work. More on that later. In the meantime, here's Celtic Thunder singing "All God's Creatures Got A Place In The Choir"; their production was more professional, but ours was cuter.
We had our closing dinner for the choir season last night at a local restaurant. A good time was had by all, the food was great, and I arrived home uncomfortably full, having dined not wisely but too well. During the course of the evening, the society's president gave a short speech in which he provided us with an update on the state of the choir's coffers. It turns out that this was a banner year for us; the Christmas concert is well attended every year, but frequently the spring concert is less of a draw. This spring, however, the Broadway program really packed in the crowds. Cha-ching!
"Do it big, do it right and do it with style." -Fred Astaire
Irving Berlin's was born on May 11, 1888. He lived to be 101 years old, passing away in 1989. Not only did he live through most of the 20th century, he provided a soundtrack for it. He is one of my favourite songwriters; I was extremely happy when our choir sang a medley of his music in our Christmas concert. But rather than raving on about him, I'll share the opinions of a few musical connoisseurs who are far more competent than I: "It's a rare gift which sets Irving Berlin apart from all other contemporary songwriters. It is a gift which qualifies him, along with Stephen Foster, Walt Whitman, Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg, as a great American minstrel. He has caught and immortalized in his songs what we say, what we think about, and what we believe." - Douglas Moore
"Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music. Emotionally, he honestly absorbs the vibrations emanating from the people, manners and life of his time and, in turn, gives these impressions back to the world—simplified, clarified and glorified." - Jerome Kern
"I want to say at once that I frankly believe that Irving Berlin is the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.... His songs are exquisite cameos of perfection, and each one of them is as beautiful as its neighbor. Irving Berlin remains, I think, America's Schubert. But apart from his genuine talent for song-writing, Irving Berlin has had a greater influence upon American music than any other one man. It was Irving Berlin who was the very first to have created a real, inherent American music.... Irving Berlin was the first to free the American song from the nauseating sentimentality which had previously characterized it, and by introducing and perfecting ragtime he had actually given us the first germ of an American musical idiom; he had sown the first seeds of an American music." - George Gershwin