A Community for “Caledonia”

Recently found this stirring group rendition of my favorite song, a folksy bit of homesickness for Scotland:

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“The Sang o the Saracen Maid”

Thanks again to the good people at the Thistle & Shamrock, I have another great contemporary Scottish folk song to love.  Last Sunday I heard “The Sang o the Saracen Maid” and fell for it hard; it’s about all I’ve listened to for a week.

Here it is:

I was prompted to do some research about the background of this heartrending tale.

This YouTube video directly precedes the one above; the author of the original poem introduces it.

Here’s a written story of the poem’s origin.

Here are the words to the poem.

And the lyrics to the song.

This is the old legend being retold here.  Isn’t it sad?  I’d never heard this before.  Local folklore is the best!

Here’s another telling of the same story.

The Life Affirming Song List

Today, like most every day, is having its share of heartbreak and discouragement.  So much of what we care about in life is beyond our immediate control, and when we do care deeply about things, their failure to work out smoothly can lead to especially poignant pangs.  If we insist on concentrating on the sour tastes, they can come to dominate our palate. 

Yes, life is frequently full of bitter sorrows.  There’s no way around it, and we live with the sure knowledge that our problems won’t magically disappear anytime soon, and that there’s plenty more grief in the future.  On top of all that, there’s always a steady, whispering feeling in the back of your mind that no matter what…everything will be all right.  I’ve felt like that a lot this year, and on that note (get it?), here are 15 songs that help remind me that despite the large measure of sadness dished out to each of us (not after the sadness or without it, but despite it), life is sweet. 

Steven Spielberg once joked in an interview about E.T. that he was “a nice Jewish boy who keeps making movies about the Resurrection.”  I’d modify that slightly.  His movies, like most of the really popular adventure, romance, and science fiction movies–and the most moving songs–aren’t about Resurrection so much as they’re about Restoration–not rising from the dead so much as rebuilding something beautiful that had been broken or lost.  You see that in Spielberg’s movies (think Hook), and you see it in most of these songs. 

Guaranteed to make you feel good, and alphabetical by artist, here they are:

The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun”

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Recommended Listening: “Tolstoy”

So I’m flipping through folk music CDs at the library one day and I see this compilation called Songs Inspired By Literature.  I check it out and give it a listen, but it’s mostly forgettable.

Except for Bob Hillman’s song “Tolstoy.”  In fact, I saw this CD again last week and checked it out just for this song.  The next time I teach Tolstoy in World Lit, I need to bring this in.

It merits all the usual superlatives: fresh, original, and (especially for folk music) fun.  The music is a resonating punch of running guitar chords, set to a brashly declarative lyric that shifts from appreciation of the author to brief plot summaries to bracingly apt images that serve as metaphors for the Russian giant’s achievement.

At one point, Hillman praises Tolstoy’s work for its “gargantuan themes” and for being “impossibly long,” and offers this modern example of something that could illustrate what he means: “Down to the quivering lip and the look in your eye / When your father died / And you couldn’t quite say what you wanted to say / But you touched his hand and he knew you were there.”  It’s not random, it’s an uncanny impersonation of exactly the kind of subtle psychological insight Tolstoy crafted out of simple glimpses of ordinary life, seen as a panoramic tapestry. 

And, ironically, he delivers this paean to epics in about two and a half minutes.  Listen to it free at Rhapsody.