Friday, October 19, 2007

A Sure Fire Show Stopper

With about an hour and a half to go before our show walk through my violinist and I have been going over some of the tunes. We try to remain true to the era, which means that most of the songs we perform will be well over 150 years old. I have a great deal of respect for songs like that. There were times when singing for my children at bedtime I would get into that whole human continuity thing, amazed that I was part of nearly a thousand years of lullaby when I would sing Bhaidin Fheilimi or some other ancient tune. I often wonder when I look at the music people play now whether or not any of them will still be sung after that amount of time has passed.

Music at that time (circa 1880) tended to be shamelessly maudlin and emotional. They were great weepers and wailers when they gathered to sing. So, here's our showstopper.

Click Here For The Tune

Father, Dear Father, Come Home From The Bar
Words and Music by Henry Clay Work

(spoken introduction)

'Tis the song of little Mary
Standing at the bar-room door
While the shameful midnight revel
Rages wildly as before. (/into, begin music)

Father, dear father, come home from the bar!
The clock on the steeple strikes one;
You said you were coming straight home from the shop,
As soon as your day's work was done.
Our fire has gone out, our house is all dark,
And mother's been waiting since tea,
With poor brother Benny so sick in her arms,
And no one to help her but me.
Come home, come home, come home!
Please father, dear father come home.


Hear the sweet voice of the child,
Which the night winds repeat as they roam!
Oh who could resist this most plaintive of cries,
"Please father dear father, come home."

Father, dear father, come home from the bar!
The clock on the steeple strikes two;
The night has grown colder and Benny is worse,
But he has been calling for you.
Indeed his is worse, Ma says he will die
Perhaps before morning shall dawn;
And this is the message she sent me to bring,
"Come quickly! Or he will be gone."
Come home, come home, come home!
Please father, dear father come home.


Father, dear father, come home from the bar!
The clock on the steeple strikes three,
The house is so lonely, the hours are so long
For poor weeping mother and me.
Yes we are alone. Poor Benny is dead
And gone with the angels of light,
And these were the very last words that he said
"I want to kiss Papa goodnight."
Come home, come home, come home!
Please father, dear father come home.


The chorus of this song is a breeze, very easy to teach to a crowd. I do, however, intend to cheat. When I'm trying to get something like this going I have great success when I "seed" the crowd, with folks from the acts, stagehands, bartenders, the German Girls (I had to promise that we would play Der Lorilei oh my what a sacrifice! Force me to play something that beautiful!) Who pick up the chorus around the room. If there is a quiet voice, or a dry eye when we're done with this one I will be surprised.



Blogger Sherry said...

i can not count the times i was outside of the bar door, or, in the bar trying to get my father to come out, my mom refused to set foot inside so she would send me.

no music accompanied me tho.

i like the tune.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Camera Obscura said...

Two years ago, my daughter's middle school did two very short melodramas with an olio in-between, and one of the girls sang this in the olio. Imagine it floating out in a sweet soprano of a 12-year-old...

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Ah, this is a tear-jerker.

I remember my mother singing it when I was a girl (in proper accent.) She also has tales of being sent down to the bar with a nickel and a can for beer, for the grown-ups, of course. . .

7:30 PM  
Anonymous blackdog said...

Nope, no dry eye in the crowd if what happened to me is any predictor.

Carry on, Minstrel.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Reminds me of Frank McCourt telling of his father drinking up the dole.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1880's... Hmmmmmm.........

Temperance movement much?

- oddjob

12:08 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

Kansas was the first "dry" state writing it into their constitution in 1885, they are the same folks that gave us Carrie Nation with her hatchets.

4:30 PM  
Blogger BadTux said...

I can just imagine a redneck daddy, his kid tugging on his sleeve about a sick kid at home, saying "Whadya want me to do about it? Go away, go bug your momma." Then drinking more beer because he just didn't want to think about it and there was nothing useful to be done.

Child mortality was pretty serious back then. Probably half the graves in the old family cemetary from the late 1800's are the graves of children. So a dying kid was something that most folks of the era would have known first-hand. By and large there wasn't much to be done about a sick kid. Doctors back then were little more than butchers. But then you had those odd little Victorian sensibilities imposed on top of these realities, and that's what you're seeing here -- Victorian sensibilities imposed on top of a working man's realism, intended to paint a man doing as much for his kid as could be done as some sort of insensitive brute. The Victorians used this sort of stuff to justify the treatment that working men got in their mines and factories, much as Southern planters had used tales of Negro savagery to justify the treatment that blacks got on their plantations. In their own way, the Victorians made Karl Rove look like an amateur.

-- Badtux the Socio-historical Penguin

4:47 PM  

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