Archive | February 2016

Unorthodox Adventures

I swear this is not a French Canadian music blog. Probably.

But today I bring you another recent find, “Les Cousinages” by Genticorum.

The text is from the point of view of a newly wed man. On the first night of his marriage, a man comes knocking on the door, and his wife says he’s her cousin. They invite him in, feed him, and set up a bed for him beside theirs. That night, the husband discovers his wife in the arms of her “cousin.” He sarcastically concludes, “When one has a beautiful wife, all men are her cousins.” It’s quite funny. (Actually, it’s pretty misogynistic… As an aside, I have this–quite possibly mistaken–impression that English folk songs tend to be about badly-behaved men while French folk songs tend to be about badly-behaved women. I can already think of exceptions, but I think it’s time to close these parentheses.)

There’s lots of information about this song in Chantons la chanson by Marc Gagné and Monique Poulin, another book published by L’Université Laval. There, it’s entitled “Le Premier Soir de mes noces” (“The first night of my marriage”), or “Le Mari et le Cousin” (“The Husband and the Cousin”). They recorded the version sung by Rosée Doyon of Beauceville, Beauce. The tune looks different from Genticorum’s, and the text is too (even the nonsense is different!). Astonishingly, they include a phonetic transcription, in the International Phonetic Alphabet, of the words as sung by Rosée, and it’s full of characteristics of Québécois French.

According to Gagné and Poulin, versions of this song are widespread in Canada, France, and Belgium. They make this observation (my translation): “The anonymous authors of traditional songs seem to have had a particular taste for narrating certain unorthodox adventures of conjugal life.” Finally, there is apparently a word in French, maumariée, which looks to be derived from “badly married” and specifically means “a traditional song about conjugal misfortune.”

Cannonballs in April

There’s this very pretty song I’ve liked for a while called “Le 10 d’avril” (“The 10th of April”) by Les Charbonniers de l’enfer, a Québécois group. It’s about some people sailing to France when a corsair (I didn’t know that was an English word! It means a privateer) fires cannonballs at them, wounding one of the officers. As he’s dying, the crew somehow gets some American officers (conveniently close at hand) to fetch his sweetheart so they can see each other one last time. Don’t ask me how that works (aren’t they out on the ocean?), but the sweetheart arrives and says she’d exchange all sorts of things (her gold ring, etc.) to heal him.

Then, just the other day, I listened to a song called “Le Vingt D’avril” (“The Twentieth of April”) by another Québécois group, Genticorum. And I realized it was a different version of the same text. For one thing, in one version the ship leaves on April 10th and in the other on April 20th… There are also other differences, but some lines are almost identical. The tune is completely different, though, and I have to say I think Les Charbonniers de l’enfer’s is much prettier.

Searching for the origins of the text, I found it as “La Mort du colonel” (“The Death of the Colonel”) in Vision d’une société par les chansons de tradition orale à caractère épique et tragique by Conrad Laforte and Monique Jutras, volume 27 in L’Université Laval’s Les archives de folklore. The tune printed in this book is clearly related to the one Les Charbonniers de l’enfer sing. The book gives a couple of different versions of the text, plus lots of variants of individual verses. Among all these variants, the ship alternately leaves on the 12th, the 15th, the 21st, or the 25th of April (none of which match the dates in the two versions above!). Or just in April, generally. Or in May. The main version in the book was sung by one Sévérin Langlois, age 59, on August 25th, 1966 in Cannes-de-Roche, Québec. And the book says that there are 127 versions of this song: 1 from Belgium, 7 from the U.S., 8 from Switzerland (a…land-locked country?), 26 from France, and 85 from Canada.

The Wildings Cover

Last week when I shared the title and description for Wildings, the companion to Sparkers, I had no idea I would be able to reveal the cover so soon. But it’s ready, so here it is!

Wildings Cover

The art is by Manuel Sumberac, and it reveals something that was not mentioned at all in the book description, namely, that music plays a big role in Wildings! Did you think I could write a book that wasn’t about music? What’s more, I finally wrote a cellist!

This cover is quite different from the Sparkers cover, and I love both of them. I hope this one makes you more excited for Wildings!

Wildings: The Companion to Sparkers!

The time has come…to stop being coy about Book 2! So, here goes: My second book is entitled Wildings  and is due out November 1st. It’s a companion (not a sequel) to Sparkers, and it begins five years after the events of the first book. The main character is Rivka Kadmiel, a wealthy magician girl from the city of Atsan. At the beginning of the book, she moves to Ashara, the city where Sparkers is set. Here’s my publisher’s description:

Rivka is one of the magical elite and the daughter of an important ambassador. But she harbors a deep secret: She once had a twin brother, Arik. When Arik failed to develop his own magical abilities, the government declared him a wilding, removed him from his home, placed him with non-magical adoptive parents, and forbade him any contact with his birth family. Now it is as if he never existed at all.

But Rivka refuses to forget her twin brother. Even though she knows she could lose everything—her father, her friends, even her freedom—she sets out to find Arik. She has nothing to go on except her still-new magical powers and her love for her brother. Can that possibly be enough to bring them together again, when all of society believes they belong apart? 

Several characters from Sparkers appear in Wildings. In particular, Marah’s brother Caleb plays a bigger role than he did in the first book.

Wildings is now on Goodreads. I don’t have a cover yet, but I’m looking forward to sharing it with you when I do!

Captain Kidd’s Wondrous Jacobites

Yes, it’s another song connections post! At this point, this should probably be a formal blog series/feature, except each post is lazier than the last.

I recently encountered the song “Ye Jacobites by Name,” and as I listened to it, it struck me that it sounded like “Captain Kidd.” You can read a bit about this piratical song here and listen to Tempest’s rock version here. (Funnily enough, one of Wikipedia’s “Selected recordings” of “Captain Kidd” is… Owen Hand’s “Ye Jacobites by Name.” The Wikipedia page for “Ye Jacobites by Name” says nothing about “Captain Kidd.”)

Now, I first heard of “Captain Kidd” when someone told me it was the “same” as the shape note tune “Wondrous Love” (known as a hymn to many non-shape note singers). So by transitivity “Ye Jacobites by Name” = “Wondrous Love.”

As it happens, someone else has already done all the genealogical research into the history of these songs. You can read all about “Ye Jacobites by Name,” “Captain Kidd,” “Wondrous Love,” and much more here.

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“Captain Kidd” in The Shenandoah Harmony

And speaking of shape note tunes, the newest shape note book, The Shenandoah Harmony, has a song in it called “Captain Kidd.” The text, however, is not “My name is Captain Kidd, as I sailed, as I sailed,” but rather “Thro’ all the world below, God is seen all around.” You can listen to the Shenandoah Harmony tune here.