Saturday, 5 March 2016

Time for the people to sing

There appears to be a debate developing about national anthems in this land of ours.It would appear that the main concern is what the people sing at sporting events,and I understand that, but songs mean different things to different people at different times.
A good martial bellow,full of patriotic fervour may be pretty good standing on the terraces, but I think it's time we reflected on songs that reflected what really matters.
So I present my readers some alternatives, and I hope my avid readers up in the East Midlands Labour party bunker will enjoy my choices,why they may even wish to sing along-if that's not too divisive!
All the songs can be found on YouTube.
So firstly i want to get rid of that dreary loathsome peon of praise to Mrs.Windsor,if your a religious royalist,it may well float your boat, but as a republican atheist of long standing-'God save the Queen'is not anywhere in my songbook!
I believe there is a much better national anthem,and I will come to that later,but first my suggestions for the four nations that make up the British Isles.
First, the Principality of Wales.A land with so many fine songs it is a difficult,nay impossible task, 'Cwm Rhondda' would be popular, but in my view it's far too religious- so that's out.'Men of Harlech ' is great to bellow out at the Arms Park, but it a little too jingoistic for me, and always in my mind associated with bloody Michael Caine in 'Zulu'
So may i suggest 'The Bells of Rhymney' a beautiful lament that reminds us of the struggles in the mining industry, and written by an American-the late Pete Seeger.
Ireland. Well of course Ireland already has a fine anthem in 'The Soldiers' Song', but sadly we will have to wait until there is once again a united Ireland,and the gerrymandered sic counties are part of the Republic.
In the meantime however , what about Tommy Makem's ballad 'Four Green Fields' it's certainly better than the sentimentality of 'Danny Boy',which is fine in the boozer or the boxing match, but nowhere else in my mind.
As an alternative there is always Phil Coulter's 'The town I loved so well',especially poignant when sung by the late Luke Kelly,but a song that brings Derry alive.
Scotland, again like both Wales and Ireland a land with masses of rousing songs which are frequently about our past glories especially when we gave the English a good kicking- well not that often since Bannockburn and after the 'Butcher' Cumberland did fearsome damage at Culloden.
I can't advocate too many Jacobite songs for obvious reasons, although 'Parcel of Rogues in a nation' has its charms.
There is of course always the supreme song and poem by Burns 'A man's a man for a' that' that should be the real national song of socialism throughout the Isles, but that may just be too much for others to thole.
So I'll content with either version of 'The Ballad of John McLean' or my favourite 'The March of John McLean'
"The Gorbals are oot the day,ah Glesca belangs tae him'
I'm sure to my enlightened readership, especially to those in Nottingham, you don't need telling who McLean was,and if you need a clue,he wasn't Jim Murphy !
Now on to England, the largest of the four nations, and sadly the one with the fewest alternatives, oh I know that many favour Blakes 'Jerusalem',especially the Rugby fraternity, but it's a bit churchy for me,although a fine song none the less. Others have suggested 'Land of Hope and Glory' which has amazing music.but sadly in my view has a dreadful imperialist tinge.
No there is only one song for England.Edward Carpenter's 'England Arise'
Who can resist a song  with the final verse:
"Forth then ye heroes,patriots and lovers
Comrades of danger,poverty and scorn,
Mighty in faith of Freedom  your great Mother
Giants refreshed in the emerging dawn."
(You may note I've forgotten one word in the stanza, that's your test for the day!)
And so finally to what should replace 'God save....'
I did thing of course that 'The Red Flag' was a good candidate for a socialist song book, but only if sung to the original  to Jim Connell's chosen air 'The White Cockade' rather than the dirge we usually hear,based on the German hymn 'Der Tannenbaum'
So we need something else, and oddly it is to Germany I looked.Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' is a majestic awe inspiring piece,but I think it's already used elsewhere, my final choice is in fact a 15th c folk song,sung by the peasantry who were revolting against some Swabian princes,banned until 1848, banned again by the Nazi's and sung in the concentration camps of the third Reich.
'Die Gedanken Sind Frei'
"I think as I please and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees this right I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater to duke or dictator
No man can deny,die gedanken sind frei'
Wouldn't that sound awesome belted out at the end of every Labour Party conference

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