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The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)

George Papavgeris 27 Aug 13 - 03:10 PM
Leadfingers 27 Aug 13 - 05:32 PM
CET 27 Aug 13 - 07:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Aug 13 - 08:30 PM
George Papavgeris 28 Aug 13 - 01:15 AM
GUEST,Erich 28 Aug 13 - 01:40 AM
Leadfingers 28 Aug 13 - 03:23 AM
Reinhard 28 Aug 13 - 04:42 AM
George Papavgeris 28 Aug 13 - 06:25 AM
George Papavgeris 28 Aug 13 - 06:28 AM
George Papavgeris 28 Aug 13 - 08:40 AM
George Papavgeris 28 Aug 13 - 12:44 PM
George Papavgeris 28 Aug 13 - 01:26 PM
Rumncoke 28 Aug 13 - 01:54 PM
George Papavgeris 28 Aug 13 - 07:00 PM
Joe_F 28 Aug 13 - 11:25 PM
George Papavgeris 29 Aug 13 - 10:39 AM
George Papavgeris 29 Aug 13 - 02:37 PM
Elmore 30 Aug 13 - 12:38 PM
George Papavgeris 30 Aug 13 - 02:00 PM
Joe_F 30 Aug 13 - 04:19 PM
George Papavgeris 04 Sep 13 - 07:23 AM
George Papavgeris 04 Sep 13 - 10:08 AM
George Papavgeris 04 Sep 13 - 10:48 AM
George Papavgeris 04 Sep 13 - 02:38 PM
George Papavgeris 04 Sep 13 - 06:48 PM
George Papavgeris 05 Sep 13 - 11:07 AM
George Papavgeris 05 Sep 13 - 01:02 PM
George Papavgeris 05 Sep 13 - 02:18 PM
Mick Tems 05 Sep 13 - 03:56 PM
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Subject: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 27 Aug 13 - 03:10 PM

A piece of work consisting of several songs, whose creation spans more than 80 years. The lyrics were written in the 1890s, and they were put to music (some of it traditional tunes) in the 1970s. They were re-recorded in 1996 by a group of stellar musicians and singers (who in fact toured the work as a show as well), and I heard them on a bootleg CD in 2000 and fell totally in love with the whole works. I am now the proud owner of the very last of the 1000 CDs cut for it. Scouring YouTube for examples of these songs yielded pitifully few examples (though one in particular impressed me, and I told the artist so), which I thought a shame - works such as these should be accessible to the newer generations and should be heard even more often around the country than they actually are.

I am referring of course to Rudyard Kipling's "Barrack Room Ballads", as put to music by Peter Bellamy and recorded on the Realisations label by Brian Peters, Dave Webber, John O'Hagan, Anni Fentiman and John Morris with help from Fi Fraser and Gina Le Faux, in the album "The Widow's Uniform". Having obtained all relevant permissions, I am now going to upload the songs - all except one, for good reason - over the next few days. I have purposely kept the images to a minimum in order to avoid distracting from the songs themselves. I hope I do them justice. If I have not, I am the one to blame.

So, we start today with the first track:

The Widow at Windsor


NOTES: The recording used is from the album "The Widow's Uniform" (REAL CD 0101). Lyrics: Rudyard Kipling ("Barrack Room Ballads"). Music: Peter Bellamy. Full permissions obtained from the copyright holders and all artists involved, for which I am deeply grateful.

Queen Victoria wore a black dress and white cap throughout her 40 years of widowhood but in Kipling the "widow's clothes" are her soldiers' uniforms. This poem records an ambivalence of attitude on the part of the "beggars in red" towards their Queen Empress, though rumours that the Queen was offended by the poem are probably untrue. She was well capable of being flattered by the subjects' apparent devotion - "morituri te salutant"!


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Aug 13 - 05:32 PM

Good On You George !!


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: CET
Date: 27 Aug 13 - 07:09 PM

Keep 'em coming! Is your reason for not uploading one of the songs for public consumption?


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Aug 13 - 08:30 PM

Thanks George.

I remember seeing the stage production at Sidmouth. I know some people were very uneasy about it, because they felt it served to glorify the British Raj. I never saw it that way. Kipling believed in the Raj, all right, but his writing presented it pretty objectively, warts and all.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 01:15 AM

CET: "Cells" was put on the album without its opening verse, by accident (although it had been recorded), and the artists would rather not have it put out as it is, out of respect for Kipling and his work, although the song makes perfect sense even without that verse.

Kevin McG: What can I say - those people cannot have listened to the words. Even to this Greek, the truth is obvious: From the album notes...

(Kipling was) both vaunted and condemned on the most cursory and selective examination of his work." Sometimes he "set up an idea just to deny it - a trick he used frequently, and which earned him a deal of odium from those who take their literature in soundbites or second-hand"

In fact, the very thing that attracted me to the Barrack Room Ballads, was Kiplings ability to see events and his time from at least two perspectives - the imperial British one and the personal, cog-in-the-wheel (i.e. Tommy's) one. Both pride and misery/exploitation. How can one call him racist when he has lines like these: "But there is neither East nor West, Border nor Breed nor Birth - When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth"! How can one call him an apologist for the British Raj with songs like Danny Deever, Ford o' Cabul River, the humiliation of That Day... Take his Recessional - even Orwell accepted it as a "denunciation of power politics".

But none are as blind as them that won't see, so WTF. We can't save the whole world from stupidity.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: GUEST,Erich
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 01:40 AM

I'm glad that I bought the CD some years ago and I listen to it very often in spite of the rather poor Sound.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 03:23 AM

I always quote Gunga Din - how can a man be called racist after writing that ?


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Reinhard
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 04:42 AM

Does the full recording of Cells still exist? It'd be neat it that could be put online to augment the CD version.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 06:25 AM

I seriously doubt it, Reinhard, in fact I am virtually certain it does not.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 06:28 AM

Next track:

Back to the Army Again

NOTES: The short service system introduced by Cardwell in 1871 improved both recruitment and, by virtue of the regulars being younger and fitter, the Army's fighting calibre. Note, though, the poet's point that training was hampered by the shedding of experienced men. But for "the man of four an' twenty that asn't learned of a trade", reduced to the Reserve for 12 years on fourpence a day, one alternative to vagrancy was to rejoin the Colours under a false name. This rollicking study of the ploy suggests that the recruiting barracks frequently welcomed such men and turned a cheerful blind eye to their evident experience.
It is interesting to note that here is Kipling directly attacking, for its treatment of the ordinary trooper, the Establishment that lionised him.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 08:40 AM

Corrected link for the above (one picture out of place plus title correction) :
Back to the Army Again


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 12:44 PM

Track 3:
Tommy

NOTES: Kipling added many expressions to the language but not, as sometimes thought, the soubriquet "Tommy Atkins" which dates back to the time of Waterloo. Kipling's soldiers' poems, however, make one feel he really SHOULD have been the inventor; none more so than his indictment of society's attitude to the private soldier: "...making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep..." Another robust assault: this time upon the accepted attitudes of society as a whole.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 01:26 PM

The Widow's Uniform - Part 4/15:

Ford o' Kabul River

In December 1878 disaster befell a squadron of 10th Hussars attempting to cross the Kabul River. Swept away by rapids, weighted down by their cloaks and equipment, some 50 men were drowned or kicked to death by frantic horses. Though no major loss in the context of the bloody second Afghan War, the tragedy (no doubt because it was an accident, not a battle) caused deep shock at home and evidently made its mark on the 13 year old Kipling.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Rumncoke
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 01:54 PM

I have liked Kipling's work for a very long time, I have heard 'Tommy' sung - I think from this setting, and I put my own tunes to Danny Deever and a few others which are perhaps more apt for me to sing, but the BRB have always seemed to have a fundamental understanding of the Human condition.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 07:00 PM

The Widow's Uniform - Part 5/15:

Bill 'Awkins

Among the least well known of the Barrack Room Ballads, this song shows Kipling's ability to encapsulate a way of life in one small episode: a proletarian comedy of manners in four stanzas.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Joe_F
Date: 28 Aug 13 - 11:25 PM

"The lyrics were written in the 1890s, and they were put to music ... in the 1970s" skips over a good deal. I once spent a while browsing in old issues of the journal of the Kipling Society, and discovered that many -- perhaps most -- of Kipling's songs had been set to music more than once during his lifetime. Some of them made it into the music halls. Unfortunately, the old tunes seem to have disappeared almost completely; I have never seen any recent mention of the copious sheet music & anthologies that must once have existed.

Kipling was of course imperialist, and he was sexist by recent standards, but he does seem to have been remarkably free of racial & religious bigotry. He wrote an interesting poem ("The Mother-Lodge") about a Masonic lodge he seems to have belonged to in India. He was proud of what a mixture it was.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Aug 13 - 10:39 AM

The Widow's Uniform - Part 6/15:

Danny Deever

NOTES: One of Kipling's "smash hits", it made a huge immediate impact when first published. Even those detractors who deem Kipling a versifier rather than a poet generally concede this to be an exception. Kipling witnessed and reported military executions, though the poem's eponymous victim is fictional. The routine was exactly as recorded here in fine, horrifying detail.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 29 Aug 13 - 02:37 PM

The Widow's Uniform - Part 7/15:

Troopin'

"the six year men are free...", this being the minimum period of service with the Colours. The song is full of the joy and optimism of the soldiers returning home from long service overseas, without regard to the precarious future that awaits them (though the poet is well aware of it). MALABAR and JUMNA were two of the battalion-size troopships doing duty to and from India.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Elmore
Date: 30 Aug 13 - 12:38 PM

Thanks for this thread. I had forgotten how wonderful the song/poem "Tommy" was. It makes me wish that Peter Bellamy was still around.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 30 Aug 13 - 02:00 PM

The Widow's Uniform – Part 8/15:

Mandalay

One of Kipling's best known and best loved works. Bellamy's setting is by no means the first, though some previous efforts have failed to reflect – perhaps to recognise – the strong element of pathos and underlying bitterness.

"Mandalay" was inspired by the reminiscences of participants in the third Burmese War (1885-90), ending with the overthrow of the tyrant King Thibaw. Kipling himself visited Burma in 1889, falling deeply in love (his words) with a girl sitting on the pagoda steps just as he described.

The poem has also been one of many to arouse hostility. Some claim it to be patronising; a claim that simply is not supported by the text – perhaps an instance of critics seeing what they want or expect to see. Far from patronising the East and its people, the singer genuinely craves a return to his "cleaner, greener land". Kipling is describing a clear case of acculturation, before the term was current, but it is the English soldier who is the victim, and it is Burma and the Burmese – or at least one Burmese – that he considers in every way superior to England and its inhabitants.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Joe_F
Date: 30 Aug 13 - 04:19 PM

Yes, indeed -- but Kipling does not conceal (and, I guess, does not altogether disapprove of) the poisonous effects of the soldier's imperial status. In contrast with the beefy-faced London housemaids, the Burma girl is not just neater & sweeter, but sexually available at lower cost and without commitments:

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;...

(Maurice Samuel made bold to point out that the Ten Commandments were issued just east of Suez.) Kipling goes on & on about that in another wonderful song, "The Ladies", in which the soldier recounts his amours in the Raj & then ends with a rather squishy regret ("now I must pay for my fun" -- nothing about what *they* must pay), but returns to the real world with the line

So be warned by my lot (which I know you will not).

"Mandalay" was very well known in the U.S. well into the 20th century, to a tune (with an almost unsingable range) written by someone in Cincinnati!


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 04 Sep 13 - 07:23 AM

The Widow's Uniform - Part 9 of 15:

The Young British Soldier

Poor, uneducated and ingenuous, the raw recruit to service overseas faced as many fatal hazards off the battlefield as on it. Kipling records, with candid accuracy, the wise counsel of an experienced survivor, down to the famous and brutal last stanza.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 04 Sep 13 - 10:08 AM

The Widow's Uniform - Part 10 of 15:

Gentleman Rankers

The lower ranks of the Army served as an anonymous refuge for many disgraced or impoverished gentlemen (including at least one old schoolfriend of Kipling). Out of place among the troopers, shunned by the officer class, the "poor little lambs" offer a different light on – and an indictment of – the rigid class system giving rise to their plight. Kipling's portrait is sympathetic but clear-eyed and singularly unromantic. There are suggestions that he was displeased by such softenings of the harsh edges of his poem as the "Whiffenpoof Song" – we hope he might have approved more of Peter's setting and Brian's dry treatment of it.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 04 Sep 13 - 10:48 AM

New link for the above (I had to change one slide again...):

Gentleman Rankers


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 04 Sep 13 - 02:38 PM

The Widow's Uniform - Part 11 of 15:

Soldier, Soldier

Any who doubt that Kipling sometimes wrote songs in themselves, rather than poems capable of musical setting, should study this piece: a ballad in the musical as well as the literary sense. Poignantly antiphonal, it has none of the realism which so characterises the Barrack Room Ballads series as a whole, and has a chorus that makes sense only in a song.

The picture Kipling draws of the soldier who cannot bring himself to break the news to a comrade's wife that she is in fact a comrade's widow is one of his most moving – but only one image in a kaleidoscope of possibilities invoked by this intriguing song.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 04 Sep 13 - 06:48 PM

The Widow's Uniform – Part 12 of 15:

That Day

Holidaying in Bermuda in 1894, Kipling was entertained by a veteran Sergeant who confided in him this shameful tale. Kipling did not identify the action but it appears to have involved a North African unit, very likely part of the Sudan Expeditionary Force on their ill-fated mission to relieve Khartoum and rescue General Gordon. Contemporary accounts of the first battle of El Tab on 4th February 1884 describe the flight of Baker Pasha's troops in very similar terms.

If Kipling truly was the one-eyed Imperial propagandist that some allege, one can only assume that this poem – among many – must have been written by some other fellow entirely.


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 05 Sep 13 - 11:07 AM

The Widow's Uniform – Part 13 of 15:

Follow Me 'ome

Surely the finest of Kipling's many celebrations of comradeship, the song features one of his loveliest and most lingering refrains. The Biblical phrase in the coda is from the story of David and Jonathan ("Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women": 2 Samuel, 1:26)


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 05 Sep 13 - 01:02 PM

The Widow's Uniform – Part 14 of 15:

The Widow's Party

Stunning in its use of metaphor (the "widow's party" being a Victorian soldier's byword for a bloody campaign) this piece, like "Soldier, soldier" is self-evidently more song than poem. The "Johnnie…" refrains are genuinely difficult to read in plain speech. Note also the sardonic last stanza: so much again for Kipling as blind imperialist…


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 05 Sep 13 - 02:18 PM

The Widow's Uniform – Part 15 of 15:

Recessional

Few short literary works have caused such a sensation as did this poem on its publication in Diamons Jubilee year, 1897, or divided both academic and lay opinion as it has ever since. It redeems Kipling in the eyes of many, and even Orwell accepted it as "a denunciation of power politics". Yet some of Kipling's admirers wish he had not repented of his original view of the piece (he threw away the first draft), detecting a sententious "British is best" tone which undermines the poem's plea for humility. The issue will continue for as long as Kipling himself is argued over, but can any deny that it makes a magnificent piece of music?


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Subject: RE: The Widow's Uniform (uploaded)
From: Mick Tems
Date: 05 Sep 13 - 03:56 PM

Thank you with all my heart, George. I was understudy in The Widow's Uniform to Brian Peters, who played Tommy Atkins, which meant that I missed out on Sidmouth but had a chance to sing and act in the stage in Scarborough!

Tommy Atkins was the universal soldier; he was also a good melodeon player. Towards the end of the play, the playwright transported Tommy into the future to the first World War, where I sung Gethsemane:

The Garden called Gethsemane
In Picardy it was,
And there the people came to see
The English soldiers pass.
We used to pass - we used to pass
Or halt, as it might be,
And ship our masks in case of gas
Beyond Gethsemane.

The Garden called Gethsemane,
It held a pretty lass,
But all the time she talked to me
I prayed my cup might pass.
The officers sat on the chair,
The men lay on the grass,
And all the time we halted there
I prayed my cup might pass.

It didn't pass - it didn't pass -
It didn't pass from me.
I drank it when we met the gas
Beyond Gethsemane.

Such moving poetry - such stunning music.

Mick Tems


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