Every Migrant is My Fellow

Launched September 30, 2021

This album emerges from the current moment, characterized by large frightening shifts of populace and elements.  It is a time of forced flights for survival, where the certainty of home is undermined by poverty, persecution, changing climate, famine and disease. 

 

About 35 years ago, Marla found an old volume of poetry called “Songs from Vagabondia” in a used book store. Written by Canadian Bliss Carman and American Richard Hovey, it was one of 3 volumes of ‘tramp verse’ they wrote together between 1894 and 1900, the year of Hovey’s death. The poetry contained a care-free spirit and celebration of the natural world. It’s characters lived lives outside of conventional constraints.

 

Marla shared this volume with Bruce, and the two have set many of the poems to music, three of which are included here. We folded in other material that explores the topics of displacement, transition, migration…

Early in the pandemic, we soothed our own anxiety and isolation by performing a series of 40 concerts on FaceBook Live, which we called ‘Serenade In Place.’ To our great joy, we began to realize it soothed others as well, and many joined us quite frequently.

 

One of those was Anita White, whose paintings grace this project. Her way of processing experience is through painting, and we will be forever grateful that she has shared many of them with us, and for the connection we now share.  Most of the images here she painted while listening to us play during those dark days.

We hope the music and art of this project bring some solace during this time, as well as some reassurance that we are going through this, and will emerge from this together.  

Bruce & Marla

WHO DONE WHAT...

Produced by Marla Fibish and Bruce Victor

Engineered by Marla at Noctambule Studios, Larkspur California

Mixed & Mastered by Gary Mankin, Knob & Tube, San Francisco

Paintings and lettering by Anita White ©️2021  www.anitawhite.etsy.com

Photos by Alli Novak  www.luzography.com

Package Design by Sam Pelgrift & Lindsey Rallo

All tracks arranged by Bruce and Marla, except where noted

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THE MUSIC...

These musicians graciously add their wondrous talents to this project

Christa Burch, Nuala Kennedy, Liz Knowles, Tom Neylan and Rebecca Richman

 

Track 1. Murmuration 

Music: Marla

Marla: Mandolin  Bruce: Guitar (tuned CGDGCD)

 

At dusk, before roosting with the flock for the cold winter evenings, the starlings murmurate, creating dramatic, synchronized swirls of flight. Their thrilling caper warms them for the night while confusing their predators. It is thought that they continually rotate position so that none in their flock is left vulnerable on the outside more than any other. I attempted to capture the swirling joy in the tune — perhaps as accompaniment for this aerial ballet.    -Marla

Track 2. Thousands are Sailing to Amerikay

Lyrics: traditional Irish

Music: Bruce

Bruce: vocals, guitar (tuned CGDGCD) & bouzouki; Marla: vocals & mandola; Christa: bodhrán; Tom: vocals

 

We first heard this traditional Irish emigration song from Andy Irvine and Dick Gaughan on their 'Parallel Lines' CD. This song retells the experience of both the emigrants and those left behind.  I inexplicably got inspired to write a new melody, although I certainly attempted to emulate the heartfelt way that Andy rendered this song. We interweave this song with one of the Gin Cottage polkas.   -Bruce

Lyrics

Track 3. Dreamer             

Poetry: Don Blanding, Vagabond’s House 1928

Music: Marla & Bruce

Marla: Vocals, tenor guitar & mandolin;

Bruce: Guitar (tuned DADGAC); Christa: Vocals

 

Journeys of all sorts can stem from dreams of transcending the confines of one’s ordinary experience and, for the dreamer in this poem, entering the world of myth, legend, and ultimately greater meaning.  We attempted to honor those vagabonds who feel this gnawing awareness of something more…      -Bruce

Lyrics

Track 4. The Lanterns of St. Eulalie

Poetry: Carman & Hovey, Last Songs from Vagabondia 1900

Music: Marla & Bruce

Marla: Vocals, mandola and accordion;

Bruce: Vocals & guitar (tuned CGDGCD); Christa: Vocals

 

A wistful reminiscence of a beloved place and time.

The lanterns in the apple trees serve to light a path home

for those who have lost their way.  -- Marla

 

Lyrics

Track 5. Every Migrant is My Fellow 

Poetry: Spring Song, Carman & Hovey, Songs from Vagabondia 1894

Music: Marla & Bruce

Marla: Vocals, tenor guitar, mandolin; Bruce: Guitar (tuned CGDGCD) & vocals; Christa: Vocals; Nuala: Whistle

 

The coming of Spring brings the return of the migrants - in this case the birds - and the stirring of nature and all its creatures. The poem captures the optimism of the season that brings renewal, and the chance to ‘make (ourselves) over’ from the ‘ragbag’ of our pasts.   - Marla

Lyrics

 

Track 6. Cecily’s Waltz       

Music: Bruce

Bruce: Guitar (tuned CGDGCD); Marla: Mandolin

 

Amidst the life transitions forced by separation and displacement, there are births. This is a waltz that planted itself in my head following the 100 Day Naming Ceremony of my youngest cousin Cecily. Upon its arrival, I looked up at the ceiling of his motel room and said "Excuse me, you clearly meant this for someone else, I don't write waltzes"; a voice (that, to my ear, sounded like Koko Taylor) replieid "shut up and pick up your guitar". At that point, I decided not to argue with disembodied voices in a motel room.     -- Bruce

 

Track 7. May & June 

Poetry: Carman & Hovey, Last Songs from Vagabondia 1900

Music: Marla & Bruce

Marla: Vocals & tenor guitar;  Bruce: Vocals & guitar (tuned CGDGCD)

 

But what of those left behind by those who leave? This lovely and evocative poem captures the hope, expectation, and excitement of those awaiting the return of the loved one (eagerly “set(t)ing his place at hearth and board”), and then the sadness and pain when the loved one fails to return.    - Marla

Lyrics

Track 8. Tiocfaidh An Samhradh / From Sandwood Down to Kyle 

Tiocfaidh An Samhradh - traditional Irish

From Sandwood Down to Kyle  © 1970 David Goulder, Robbins Music

Bruce: 12-string guitar (tuned CGDGCD) & vocals; Marla: Mandola, tenor guitar & vocals

About five years ago, I first heard the Bothy Band version of Tiocfaidh An Samhradh (Summer is Coming) and was instantly totally enamored of it. What I hadn’t counted on was that I had no idea how to read or pronounce the Irish lyrics (umm, why is Tiocfaidh pronounced Chucky?) Declaring defeat, we decided to play it as an air. We follow it with From Sandwood Down to Kyle, a longtime favorite of mine written by David Goulder, and popularized by John Renbourn. As the Autumn nears, the song’s protagonist  knows that, like the birds, he “cannot stay behind.” I would add that this song was the precipitant for my learning DADGAD tuning, in turn, sparking ceaseless “wandering” into multiple other alternate tunings.   - Bruce

Lyrics

Track 9. Lonesome Robin    ©1973 Bob Coltman 

Marla: Vocals, mandola and accordion; Bruce: Vocals, cittern & guitar (tuned CGDGAD); Tom: Vocals

 

I have sung this song for years, with it's evocative and often enigmatic lyrics, written by Bob Coltman, adding to the great body of Robin Hood songs, which so capture the imagination. This one does not celebrate Robin’s exploits, but marks his lonely death -- the narrator invoking Robin to ‘speak from his wounds,’ inviting us to join in the rousing refrain, ‘No more, Robin, No More. Your outlaw days are over!”      - Marla

 

Lyrics

Track 10. A Sigh in a Gale / The Eagle’s Whistle 

 

Lyrics for Sigh in a Gale are excerpts from Dana Walrath's verse novel about the Armenian genocide, Like Water on Stone (2014) 

Music and additional lyrics by Marla

The Eagle’s Whistle - Traditional Irish

Marla: Vocals, tenor guitar; Bruce: Vocals, cittern

Rebecca: fiddle

 

Dana Walrath’s “Like Water On Stone” is a literary imagining of the

author’s grandmother’s flight as a child from the Armenian genocide,

told by characters who speak their stories in beautiful lines.

Among the characters is a protective eagle who is bound to the

family through shared loss, and through his quill, which the father

uses to play the oud. I was captivated by the book and selected lines

spoken by the characters to form the verses of the song, adding a

simple refrain. We pair it with a traditional tune, The Eagle's Whistle,

echoing the Eagle’s spoken lines in the song,

We eagles sing no soothing songs. Our throats can only whistle.”      

- Marla

Lyrics

Track 11. Murmuration Full Flight

Music: Marla  Arrangement: Marla, Bruce & Liz

Marla: Mandolins; Bruce: Guitar & Cittern; Liz: Hardanger fiddles

We thought it fitting to settle down for the night with

another murmuration, this time graced with the beautiful,

inspired hardanger fiddle playing of Liz Knowles.

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