Bram Morrison | Passing Them On

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Passing Them On

by Bram Morrison

A master of the art of leading audiences in enthusiastic sing-alongs featuring some old favorites, and a few surprises.
Genre: World: Folklore
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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Eddystone Light
2:00 $1.00
2. Herman the Worm
3:48 $1.00
3. The Erie Canal
3:48 $1.00
4. The Star of the County Down
2:28 $1.00
5. Crawdad Song
4:27 $1.00
6. I Know an Old Lady
4:20 $1.00
7. En Montant La Rivière
2:16 $1.00
8. Carrion Crow
2:35 $1.00
9. I Came Home Drunk Last Night
3:48 $1.00
10. You Made Me a Pallet On the Floor
3:19 $1.00
11. The Housewife's Lament
3:44 $1.00
12. The Garden Song
2:55 $1.00
13. Roman Castillo
1:54 $1.00
14. The Kretchma
3:59 $1.00
15. We'll Pass Them On
4:24 $1.00
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
I am best known as the Bram of Sharon, Lois & Bram, since 1978 entertaining children and their families through recordings, live concerts, one-hour TV specials, and two television series: Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show broadcast on CBC-TV in Canada and Nickelodeon in the US; likewise our Skinnamarink TV series on CBC-TV and The Learning Channel. Our theme song, 'Sninnamarinky-dinky-dink. I love you' has become a meme across Canada and with many fans in the US. We are the recipients of numerous awards, including three Junos [Canadian Grammies], Doctor of Humane Letters [Hon], The Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian award. We were rated by TV Guide as Number Two of the Ten best children's TV series, second only to Mr. Rogers, who is entitled to his top spot in perpetuity.

However, long before 1978, I was listening to the likes of Pete Seeger and The Weavers, the Canadian folksinger Alan Mills, the multilingual singer/actor Theodore Bikel, and many more. From them I learned my love of folk songs and the cultural messages which they carry from one generation to another, and I started my musical career singing for adults in the coffee houses and folk festivals of the 60's, into the 70's and 80's. I know many songs from a variety folk traditions, and people say that I am good interpreter, and that I make my guitar speak in many musical languages.

These are the notes that are included in my CD package of 'Passing Them On':


I am the Bram of Sharon, Lois & Bram. I don’t write songs. All of them on this recording have come to me from others; some are generations old, and we don’t know who wrote them. Others, more recently written, are by composers who have been steeped in traditional folk music. I have chosen the songs to represent a small sampling of the broad range of musical and poetic styles to be found in the immense repository of folk music, and I am Passing Them On to you.

1. The Eddystone Light:

The Eddystone Rocks off the South coast of England have sunk countless ships since navigation started in those waters thousands of years ago. The first lighthouse was turned on in 1698 and has been replaced by three others in succession over the centuries to this day. This song is a fo’c’sle shanty, sung by sailors for their own entertainment while off duty, not a rhythmic work shanty, such as ‘Haul Away Joe’ and ‘What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?’

2. Herman the Worm:

This is plain silly. As I said in the concert, the science of Lumbricology tells us that earthworms have five aortic arches, instead of one heart, circulating the blood. It amuses me that Herman’s girlfriend Patty was not a worm at all, but a caterpillar, and that his grandmother was a fruit-eating worm, not an earthworm.

3. The Erie Canal:
The Erie Canal originally ran about 363 miles from Albany, New York, on the Hudson River to Buffalo, New York, at Lake Erie. It opened in 1825 and contains 36 locks, through which it rises about 565 feet East to West. The canal was narrow and shallow; goods and passengers were carried on barges originally pulled by mules which walked along a towpath beside the canal. The song was written by Thomas Allen in 1905, after they had switched from mule to engine power, making it a nostalgic song even then.

4. The Star of the County Down
I learned this Irish song from the singing of Tom Kines, a wonderful Irish tenor from Ottawa. As I said in the concert, it is one of the most beautiful songs I know, and I sing it at every opportunity.

5. The Crawdad Song
Crawdads are also called crayfish; they are not fish at all, but crustaceans which live in fresh water, unlike their larger lobster relatives, which live in the salty sea. Boiled up and seasoned with special spices, they are considered a delicacy throughout the Southern United States, especially in Louisiana.

Note: The next three songs came to me from the singing of Alan Mills, my old friend and teacher from Montreal. I accompanied him on guitar during many concert tours and on some recordings, all the while learning songs from his repertoire, and soaking in his love of folk songs, which he sang beautifully in English, French and – not many people know this – in Yiddish. He taught me that folk songs were, and continue to be, living artifacts, lovingly sung, caressed and adapted by the singers who pass them on from one generation to the next.

6. I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
Alan Mills wrote this song based on a poem by the English poet Rose Bonne. It has travelled the world, and become one of the best-known songs in the children’s repertoire. As happens with folk songs as they travel through time, there exist many versions of it, the best known being the one recorded in 1953 by Burl Ives, who made his own changes. I sing it exactly as I learned it from Al. If you listen carefully, you can hear rain starting to fall on the theatre’s roof, during the goat verse.

7. En Montant la Rivière
A beautiful lumberman’s canoe paddling song from New Brunswick:
C’est dans le mois de mai, en montant la rivière
C’est dans le mois de mai, que les filles sont belles
Que les filles sont belles, Ô gai, que les filles sont belles.
Et que tous les amants, y changent leurs maîtresses…
Pour moi, je n’changerai pas, car la mienne est trop belle…
Elle a de beaux yeux bleus, une bouche vemeille…
Ah qu’il me serait doux, doux de vivre avec elle…
Dans un petit logis, tout prèt d’une fontaine…
C’est dans le mois de mai, etc’…

In the month of May, paddling up the river, the girls are so beautiful. All the young men trade girlfriends, but not me, because mine is so pretty. She has beautiful blue eyes, and ruby lips. How sweet it would be to live with her in a little house right next to a bubbling spring. In the month of May…

8. The Carrion Crow:
An old English folk song, which is known in this Nova Scotia version as ‘The Kangaro’, which makes some people think it is Australian. ‘Kangaro’ is just a distortion of ‘Carrion Crow’, and is a bird, not a marsupial. I never know which way I’m going to sing it from one verse to the next.

9. I Came Home Drunk Last Night
I thought of singing this American comic folk song getting drunker and drunker with each verse, but that is a trick best left to Foster Brooks.

10. You Made Me a Pallet on the Floor
This well-known American folk song exists in many versions, some of them quite sexual. This gentle version is from the singing of The Weavers.

11. The Housewife’s Lament
The lyrics to this song were found in the diary of Sarah A. Price, a nineteenth century American housewife. Whether she wrote them herself, or found them, is unknown, and I do not know the source of the melody - it sounds Irish to me. The poem as it appears in the diary has many more verses listing the various torments brought on by the changing of the seasons, but I have chosen to sing just a few. I have been trying for many years to find a way to sing this song, but it has always been a challenge musically, and emotionally. I almost didn’t make it through to the end this time.

12. The Garden Song
This lovely song by Dave Mallett speaks of the relationship of humans to the Earth. It has become one of the standards in the folk repertoire, having being sung and recorded by many prominent artists. I have made a couple of small changes in my version to suit my personal outlook on life.

13. Roman Castillo
This is a song of mysterious origin to me; it is described as an 18th Century Mexican folk song, but it sounds more Spanish to me. I have been unable to find the source of the story told in the song, but it is definitely in the heroic/tragic category.

¿Donde vas, Roman Castillo, donde vas pobre de ti?
Ya no buscas mas querellas de nuestras damas de aquí
Ya está herido tu caballo, ya está roto tu espadín
Tus hazañas son extrañas, y tu amor no tiene fin.

Antenoche me dijeron que pasaste por aquí
Que tocaste trece veces y el cancel quierias abrir
Que mis criados espantados por nada quierian abrir
Que entonces tú gritaste, ‘¡Abran o van morir!’

Ten piedad, Roman Castillo, ten piedad pobre de mí
Si persistes en tu vida de dolor voy a morir
Eres noble, eres bravo, hombre de gran corazón
Que tu amor no manche nunca mi reputación.

Where are you going, Roman Castillo, you poor thing? Stop looking for love affairs with the women around here. Your horse is lame, your sword is broken, and your love is endless.
The other night they told me that you stopped by here and tried to open the gate; that my servants, terrified, refused to open it, and you shouted ‘Open or die!’
Have pity, have pity on poor me, Roman Castillo. If you keep living like this I will die of pain. You are noble and brave, a man of great heart. Never let your love stain my reputation.

14. The Kretschma
In Russian, kretchma means an inn or tavern, and in this song it is an imaginary night-club. This song has been a showpiece for folksingers with a dramatic bent, like Theodore Bikel, from whom I learned it. I added the excerpt from the popular Russian folk song ‘Kalinka’.

15. We’ll Pass Them On
In 1993 [released 1995], Sally Rogers wrote an homage to Pete Seeger, asking the question, “When you’re gone, who will sing your songs?” That was 21 years before Pete died in 2014. She knew how important Pete Seeger was to entire generations of progressive-minded people around the world. This song goes right to the heart of the folk process, of how songs carrying important human values are passed from parent to child and to grandchild. This is what I have been doing as a part of Sharon, Lois & Bram since we started together in 1978 – by now, we have had a lot of fun, and connected to three generations. We are all links in the long history of humankind, and it is our responsibility to recognize that, to understand the values that we inherited from our parents and grandparents, and to bequeath the things that are worthwhile to the following generations, passing them on.

Recorded live at the Teatro Santa Ana in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, February 23 and March 9, 2015.
Recorded by Ken Basman
Mixed, edited and mastered by Paul Mills
Cover photo by Denise Grant
Jacket design by Paul Mills
Classical guitar hand made by Jose Juan Granados, Paracho, Michoacan, Mexico
Executive producer Bram Morrison, Toronto, Canada



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