“HAVE YOU GOT ANY NEWS FROM THE ICEBERG?”

A casual disinterested observer, noticing that this essay is accompanied by a compact disk, might conclude that this essay is about music.  That casual disinterested observer would be exactly right.  Music makes me feel better and so this essay is dedicated to our well-being, both yours and mine.  If the rest of the world wishes to get in on the feeling good spirit, they are welcome to be the guests of the proprietor of Ezra’s essays.   (Note from Judy:  Songs one and two are reversed on the CD.  Sorry.)

In spite of my extra innings of age, my hearing seems to have remained nearly intact.  And so it is that I am able to enjoy music of all kinds from the opera to country music.  The compact disk that accompanies this essay is basically of folk music with a sprinkling of a little country music as well.  There are four selections on this custom made CD, starting with a selection from Guy Clark, which the dealers in music would probably classify as country.  At heart, Mr. Clark’s piece is a philosophical one.  Clark is a composer who was born in West Texas in the 1940s, who is basically a composer and singer of his own music.

I would like to tell you that my prose is simply prose.  It doesn’t rhyme and could not be set to music.  So whether Guy Clark’s message is country or not is beside the point.  As a composer of music and lyrics, Clark has observed that some days he writes the songs and other days the songs write him.  Literally, songs don’t write Mr. Clark.  When the words don’t come, he says, “Ain’t a damn thing you can do.”  So Guy Clark leads off this little hit parade.

The second selection is sung by John Denver, who is also the composer of “Some Days Are Diamonds and Some Days Are Stones.”  This is also a philosophical piece.  Denver came from New Mexico and in his later years he wandered toward Hollywood and eventually Denver, Colorado.  His music was usually played by a full orchestra.  While the dealers may classify his works as country, the fact is, they had wide crossover appeal and commercial success.  On one occasion a few years back, Miss Chicka and her husband attended a concert by John Denver in the sanctuary of St. John’s the Divine in New York City which was filled to capacity.  We were entranced.

The selection that I have chosen for the enclosed CD is “Some Days Are Diamonds and Some Days Are Stones.”  In the essay that I submitted in the last mailing, I observed that as life progresses, the stones badly outweigh the diamonds.  But as Guy Clark would say, “Ain’t a Damn Thing You Can Do About It.”

Tragically, John Denver died in a crash of his own aircraft in 1992.  At the time, he was involved in a divorce suit with his wife, whom he had seemed to worship in earlier years.  There is a line from the song about diamonds and stones which is probably a tip-off.  That line says, “The face that I see in my mirror more and more is a stranger to me.”  I believe that it is a mea culpa in an effort to absorb the blame for the divorce.  In 1992, Denver had just taken delivery of a new aircraft and he was practicing take-offs and landings.  One of the landings went awry and John Denver was gone.  We will miss his music for a long time to come.

The third song on the CD is one that I wish I had written.  It has to do with the giant ship Titanic.  As the new century dawned, the British set out to build the biggest imaginable ship to serve its trans-Atlantic trade.  You may recall that in 1912 there were no airplanes flying across the Atlantic Ocean and if you wished to travel from London to New York, it had to be done by ship.

Historians tell us that the Titanic left Liverpool Harbor and made a stop or two until it got to Queenstown in Ireland.  At that time, the British occupied the country of Ireland.  They took on a few passengers and then headed out across the Atlantic Ocean for New York.  One way or another, the captain of that ship elected to use the northern route in his passage to New York.  Perhaps it had to do with saving a few hours or days in that the northern route probably was shorter than the southern route.

However, on April 15th, south of Newfoundland, the Titanic ran into an iceberg which ripped a hole in her foredeck, and she sank.  Before all of this happened, the Brits had hinted to the world that the Titanic was going to be an unsinkable ship.  That was not the case.  The loss of life was horrendous.  Of the passengers on the ship, 705 survived the crash with the iceberg.  But 1,523 lives were lost.  According to legend, the ship’s band sat on deck and played “Nearer, my God, to Thee” as the waves drowned them.  Using the northern route turned out to be a colossal mistake and as it turned out the ship was far from unsinkable.

In recent years, Ken Barker, a poet and a lyricist, composed a poem about this tragic accident.   Kevin Evans set it to music and it is the third song on this CD.  Evans sings this song to the accompaniment of his own guitar.  Evans originally came from Nova Scotia and in recent years has become the director of Liam Clancy Productions in Ireland.  Evans is a magnificent guitarist and his voice is a very pleasant one indeed.  If you can listen to this song without sobbing, you are a better man than I am.

Much was made of the loss of human life on the Titanic.  As the song will tell you, lyricist Barker laments the loss of a female polar bear and her cubs.  It is this line from the Barker poem that I have lifted for the title of this essay, “Have You Got Any News of the Iceberg?”  The song is fairly self-explanatory.  I wish that I had been clever enough to even have thought about writing about the polar bear’s tragedy.  But I completely struck out.

The final selection on this hand-crafted CD is “The Orchard.”  The song is sung, again, by Kevin Evans and he is the person who wrote the music as well as the lyrics.  The people around this house believe that “The Orchard” is a magnificent piece of work.

If you are inclined to listen carefully to “The Orchard,” here are a few translations that might help you understand it.  In the first place, much is made about the word “comeraghs.”  It is pronounced “comerah.”  It is an apple that is grown in southeastern Ireland.  Then there is the use of the word “potcheen (pronounced po-cheen.”  The singer mixes potcheen with cider and it tastes “like hell.”  Potcheen is Irish bootleg whiskey made from corn mash.  I suspect that indeed bootleg whiskey in Ireland tastes like hell.

The action takes place in a town called Dungarvan.  Dungarvan is located in County Waterford on the southeastern coast of Ireland.  I believe that all of the rest of the lyrics in “The Orchard” will be clear to you.  Kevin Evans has done a magnificent job of making a song about the location that he now calls home.  This recording was made apparently in a bar in Dungarvan and, as you can tell, it was a live performance.

For those of us involved in the later innings of our lives, there is a line or two that tends to stick in my head.

“Now I am 91; my days are near done.

My Annie is long since gone.

Our days were good,

As well they should,

But it’s time that I passed on.”

So a man with the attitude that “our days were good, as well as they should” deserves some great understanding.

 

Well, there you have the four samples that are included now on this CD.  Lyrics to three of the four songs are included. We thought that including the song about the iceberg was superfluous.  Those words are very clear.  And I wish to tell you that the more I listen to the polar bear’s lament, the more I tend to join him in his grief.  As a man who writes only in prose, I admire those who can write in rhymes and eventually set their rhymes to music.  I can’t do that but I admire those who do.  And I envy those with arresting voices who can also play a guitar so beautifully.

As you can see, the casual observer who thought that this was an essay about music was quite right.  The hope around here is that you enjoy this music.  If that happens, we will feel greatly rewarded, and if you end up humming or singing a little bit, that is so much the better.

 

E. E. CARR

February 4, 2010

Essay 436

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: I would very much like to know if Pop has ever attempted to write rhymes. If my mother is to be believed, Pop is a fan of limericks, particularly of the vulgar variety. All I know is that my mother loves creating uncomfortable rhyming ditties and that she has to have gotten that tendency from somewhere. So I am saying that it is possible that such works exist but Pop has not deemed them suitable for publication on this site. We shall wait and see if he has anything to say about it.

On a different note, “Any News of the Iceberg” by Kevin Evans is another one of those songs that you can hear and recognize as pretty music, but that you would never in a million years find on your own. At least I wouldn’t.

One Response to '“HAVE YOU GOT ANY NEWS FROM THE ICEBERG?”'

  1. Ann Baker says:

    Hi, The Comeraghs in the song The Orchard are a mountain range near Dungarvan County Waterford, not an apple.

    It is a beautiful area, and Kevin Evans is a native of there,

    Ann

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