Thursday, April 10, 2008

War and Music

As a former elementary school music teacher turned homeschooling mother, I was always looking for ways to incorporate music into our studies. History has always been a favorite subject with all of my children. And sadly, history has forever been full of war.

Yankee Doodle was probably the first "war song" they all learned. When the three oldest boys were little, we participated in a Revolutionary War themed history day with the local homeschool group. The boys dressed up in some frontier costumes, held their Paris toy frontier rifles and sang "The Rifleman's Song at Bennington".

Visiting the Gettysburg Battle field and the little shops in the area, we discovered Bobby Horton and his terrific Civil War CD's (actually, when we discovered them they were cassettes - CDs having not yet been invented!). We listened as we drove around in the car and learned to sing such songs as Wait for the Wagon, Just before the Battle Mother, The Battle Cry of Freedom, The Army of the Free, Tenting on the Old Campground, Weeping, Sad and Lonely, and Rally Round the Flag. (Oh my, typing this sure does bring back the memories!)

The years rolled by. Soon my oldest son was choosing music for his Junior voice recital. To end the performance, he selected four songs with texts written by Rudyard Kipling. Two of the pieces were Boots and Danny Deever. With classic poetry texts and set to music by different composers, these songs were a dramatic ending to his recital.

by Rudyard Kipling


We're foot--slog--slog--slog--sloggin' over Africa --
Foot--foot--foot--foot--sloggin' over Africa --
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Seven--six--eleven--five--nine-an'-twenty mile to-day --
Four--eleven--seventeen--thirty-two the day before --
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Don't--don't--don't--don't--look at what's in front of you.
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again);
Men--men--men--men--men go mad with watchin' em,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Try--try--try--try--to think o' something different --
Oh--my--God--keep--me from goin' lunatic!
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Count--count--count--count--the bullets in the bandoliers.
If--your--eyes--drop--they will get atop o' you!
(Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again) --
There's no discharge in the war!

We--can--stick--out--'unger, thirst, an' weariness,
But--not--not--not--not the chronic sight of 'em --
Boot--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

'Taint--so--bad--by--day because o' company,
But night--brings--long--strings--o' forty thousand million
Boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again.
There's no discharge in the war!

I--'ave--marched--six--weeks in 'Ell an' certify
It--is--not--fire--devils, dark, or anything,
But boots--boots--boots--boots--movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Danny Deever
by Rudyard Kipling

"What are the bugles blowin' for?" said Files-on-Parade.
"To turn you out, to turn you out", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes you look so white, so white?" said Files-on-Parade.
"I'm dreadin' what I've got to watch", the Colour-Sergeant said.
For they're hangin' Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play,
The regiment's in 'ollow square -- they're hangin' him to-day;
They've taken of his buttons off an' cut his stripes away,
An' they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

"What makes the rear-rank breathe so 'ard?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's bitter cold, it's bitter cold", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes that front-rank man fall down?" said Files-on-Parade.
"A touch o' sun, a touch o' sun", the Colour-Sergeant said.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, they are marchin' of 'im round,
They 'ave 'alted Danny Deever by 'is coffin on the ground;
An' 'e'll swing in 'arf a minute for a sneakin' shootin' hound --
O they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'!

"'Is cot was right-'and cot to mine", said Files-on-Parade.
"'E's sleepin' out an' far to-night", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"I've drunk 'is beer a score o' times", said Files-on-Parade.
"'E's drinkin' bitter beer alone", the Colour-Sergeant said.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, you must mark 'im to 'is place,
For 'e shot a comrade sleepin' -- you must look 'im in the face;
Nine 'undred of 'is county an' the regiment's disgrace,
While they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

"What's that so black agin' the sun?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny fightin' 'ard for life", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What's that that whimpers over'ead?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny's soul that's passin' now", the Colour-Sergeant said.
For they're done with Danny Deever, you can 'ear the quickstep play,
The regiment's in column, an' they're marchin' us away;
Ho! the young recruits are shakin', an' they'll want their beer to-day,
After hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

Today I learned of another song my son could sing from my new friend Chris at The Collaborative Piano Blog. This story is hearbreaking because the text is from a letter written home from a young soldier in Iraq. He wrote this letter to his wife and five year old son, asking that it only be opened if he died.

This young soldier did not come home. US Army Pfc. Jesse Givens died in Iraq on May 1, 2003.

The letter has been set to music with Mrs. Given's permission. Listen to this performance by Lee Hoiby, composer and pianist with Andrew Garland, baritone.

1 comment:

Chris Foley said...

Thanks for the link, Kathy. Guess what--the music is available from Lee Hoiby! Check my update for details.