Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Beaches of St. Valery

For my first post of the new year (and the second post ever for this blog), we're going to learn some history, boys and girls.  As an aside, I hated history classes in junior high and high school, and remember practically nothing of what I was supposed to have learned in them.  In college, I actually audited a couple of history courses just because I thought they were interesting (nobody audited classes at Rice, so they weren't too sure what to do with me), and took one pass-fail for the same reason--I was interested in the subject, but didn't want to have to learn all the dates and things.  Anyway, my knowledge of history in general is pretty lacking.  But, as you have perhaps guessed from my blog's name, Scottish folk music is a wealth of information about all sorts of things, history included, and I find things tend to stick in my mind better when I know a song about the subject.  So, transport yourselves back to the time of World War II, and let Davy Steele teach today's lesson.

The Beaches of St. Valery, written and performed by Davy Steele with the Battlefield Band

(I assume since that was on YouTube I'm not going to be arrested for sharing copyrighted music in this blog.  However, if I'm wrong and if you come visit me in jail, please bring lots of Scottish folk CDs!)

For the larger story and to put the song in context, here are some other resources.

Summary of the Dunkirk evacuation

An organization dedicated to the small boats that were involved in the evacuation

Actual recordings about the event in the BBC archives

Anyway, there's lots of others.  Good ol' Google will be helpful if you're interested.

Some personal reflections about the song: the first time I heard it was at the North Texas Irish Festival, being performed by Loescher and Kenneth.  I burst into tears (unexpectedly and rather embarrassingly) in the middle of it.  Then I did the same thing when they played it again in their next set.  It took me a very long time before I could tell anyone what the song was about without getting choked up.  I'm not really sure why it got/gets to me so much, but I guess that's the power of music.  Incidentally, I ran into Wolf Loescher last night at a Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) party, and mentioned that story to him (the context is too complicated to explain, but trust me that it made sense that I went up to pretty much a total stranger and told him he made me cry a few years ago.)  He said thank you, and that me telling him that meant a lot to him.  Which is how I know that this whole Scottish folk music obsession is so right.

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