the latter part of 1991 and early 1992, I was living in a little
cottage on the banks of the mighty Murrumbidgee, just outside
Narrandera. During my time there, I saw many a RIVERINA DROVER on the
'long paddock'. As I had lived away from Australia for many years, the
experience reminded me of those I had witnessed on the 'long paddock'
in my New England childhood days. Norm Dean was running the Narrandera
Hotel at the time,known to one and all as the 'top end pub'.
Right Reverend Dr. Barry Hunter AM was the revered and much-loved
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Riverina for twenty-one years, from
1971-1992. He flew his own single-engined plane in order to get around
a Diocese that covers nearly one-third of the State of New South Wales.
Of the many poems he produced over his years there, RIVERINA 1984,
written to celebrate the centenary of the founding of the Diocese,
struck a particularly resonant chord in me and I asked if I might set
his words to this tune.
BONNIE was written in anticipation of my daughter's first visit to
Australia. Having been born in England, Australia loomed as a very far
and very different horizon. She wasn't disappointed.
Henderson was my friend and fellow Australian songwriter from the late
nineteen fifties in Sydney until his premature death in Brisbane in
August 1991. HEY THERE, SONGMAN, a song for 'Hendo' (as he was
affectionately known to all), was written in response to a request from
Don's wife, Sally, for something that could be used as a preface to 'A
Quiet Century', the posthumously published collection of Don's songs
and poems. I used the titles and themes of many of them to tell his
story. The dedication, which accompanies the book, says, with thanks
for all you gave, and in loving memory of the times we shared." It came
from the heart.
During my many
years living in England, particularly in London, I learned of the men
from the Republic of Ireland who travelled across the Irish Sea to make
the living in England that was not available to them at home. Many
found work in the construction industry. Those with families had to
resign themselves to not seeing their loved ones for months at a time,
perhaps only at Easter and Christmas when the ferries from Holyhead to
Dun Laoghaire were packed to the gunwales and drunk dry before the
crossing was completed. But the Irish are not the only ones. All over
our bruised and battered world, men and women are forced to leave
hearth and home to make a living on a FOREIGN STRAND.
Hall's story has stayed with me ever since visiting in 1965 what had
been his home turf. I had been preparing for the release of one of my
earliest traditional song collections 'Bolters, Bushrangers and
Duffers'. A gaunt, ghostly, charred old chimney was all that remained
of John Walsh's 'Wheogo' homestead in the Weddin Mountains of
southwestern New South Wales, where Ben Hall worked and met Walsh's
daughter, Bridget, whom she later married. The police who killed Ben
Hall strapped his bullet-riddled carcass onto the back of his horse and
led it through the STREETS OF FORBES. Ben Hall's brother-in-law, John
McGuire, was sitting outside a shop as the grisly procession went past.
Though it may never be proved, and though these words are usually
credited as 'traditional', there are reasons for thinking John McGuire
may well have been the original author. They are here set to a tune of
my own making.
legendary American gospel and blues singer, Brother John Sellers, first
came to Australia at the beginning of the nineteen sixties with the
Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. After the Dance Company's tour ended,
Brother John stayed on a while in Australia and eventually he and I
were the opening artists for Jim Carter's seminal Sydney folk club, The
Troubadour. We became great friends and, needless to say, he took me on
many a musical journey into the heart of Afro-America. He had been on
the gospel tent show circuit in the southern states of his homeland,
from the age of four. He told me that they used to put up a banner
proclaiming "Fire falls from Heaven when little Brother John sings!" I
found that to be true. I can still see him in my mind's eye, shaking
the devil out of the huge gospel tambourine he played, and bringing to
roaring and compelling life songs I had only ever heard on record, or
seen in song books. SING ON, BROTHER JOHN.
DAYS was written for the season of Lent in 1991. It was first sung at
Christ Church St. Laurence in Sydney, whose Rector of some thirty-two
years, Austin Day, became my friend and mentor.
is nothing permanent," said Heraclitus, "except change." THE MAN I
MIGHT HAVE BEEN is a song of transition, of taking stock, of coming to
terms, of reflection on the purpose of life's journey. The title comes
from a Henry Lawson poem and is also found in one of Morris West's
novels. At an earlier date, the English poet, Adelaide Ann Procter
(1825-1864) wrote, "No star is ever lost we once have seen, We always
may be what we might have been." Heraclitus, by the way, was a Greek
philosopher who lived from 540-475 BC. "Upon those that step into the
same rivers," he said, "different and different waters flow down."
Eto is a world-renowned master of the Japanese koto, both as a
performer of the classical repertoire, and as a composer. I wrote a
SONG FOR KIMIO ETO because, at a particularly dark and difficult period
of my life, his music soothed my troubled soul, inflamed my weary
heart, and inspired my creativity. It still does.
Best thing going, and that's a fact. But where human love is concerned
- as I'm sure you're well aware, dear reader - you can't always predict
the outcome. Nevertheless,as Robert Browning pointed out, "Take away
love and our earth is a tomb." That said, LOVE, DON'T EVER MAKE A FOOL
OF ME AGAIN.
When she was a baby,
the chorus of BONNIE'S LULLABY was the only thing more or less
guaranteed to get my daughter to sleep at night. It was generally sung
while pacing up and down with her in my arms, and had to be kept going
a while after she was finally in bed. Otherwise, I'd be summoned back
when but halfway down the stairs.