I Saw Thee Ships – Traditional
This was the first of at least three fine snowmen that I spotted as I traversed Toronto’s Ramsden Park* with a steady rain moving in. By the time I had finished recording – tricky in wet weather – it had turned into a steady downpour…uh of rain, not snowmen!
With no-one in sight and only the muted sounds of sirens, distant traffic and a spirited scrimmage on the nearby outdoor rink for company, I felt that I was alone in my own world, save for this spooky guy: burrs for eyes (oh, I get it: brr-rs!), dried grasses for hair and a pebble for a nose, how could I resist pausing to see what he had to say?
It turns out that it was a request for I Saw Three Ships!
I pulled some music out, but realized that I didn’t actually have this tune that had suddenly popped into my head – besides, as I checked a couple of indexes, the sound of rain against my open music was a little disconcerting – this was surely an opportunity to simply play by ear. So, after assembling my flute and jerry-rigging a shelter for my Edirol digital recorder against the elements, I gamely let her rip!
In giving a quick listen to the results, I love how the sound of the falling rain gives the effect of surface scratches of an old 78. For the briefest of moments I considered making up some bogus story of finding some old recordings at a garage sale of Marcel Moyse playing Christmas Carols – you know, like that Jackson Pollock I was talking about!
As I packed up, and just before I hustled off to drop off my brown paper packages tied up with string, I saw a dog-walker approaching. His dog, Merlin, was so fetching with the big stick he was running along with, I had to snap a photo and subsequently fell into conversation with two guys Merlin had in tow. Some talk about dog breeds, the sloppy weather…and then it came up that they had heard the flute from far across the park. It was suggested that the sound had travelled surprisingly far on account of the damp weather, and certainly the flute can project great distances outdoors, especially when played in the upper register.
I guess you never really know when you are truly alone, or who your audience might be.
Merry Christmas, Merlin!!
* Who was Ramsden anyways?? I’m just taking a guess here, although I feel I should know the background of one of my favourite local parks. I’m sure there’s a plaque tucked away somewhere where I can double-check…hopefully I’m not barking up the wrong tree with the following:
The Canadian National Exhibition, founded in Toronto in 1879, developed rapidly in the early 1900s into the world’s largest annual fair. Its impact on popular culture and material culture has yet to be explored by scholars. Between 1910 and 1939, a small but significant aspect was the exhibition and sale of Canadian, British and international art at a level unparalleled elsewhere in Canada at the time. By 1922, this had evolved to include modern applied art by prominent British artisans. The Arts and Crafts silversmith Omar Ramsden (1873-1939) was one of the most consistent exhibitors, showing nine times between 1922 and 1934. -source: Canadian Heritage