Sunday, March 11, 2012


M'Lady Nancy (after a tune by Bert Jansch)

Instrumental song titles are fascinating. 'The Raven Speaks'. 'Cape of Good Hope'. We identify, and we conjure, or not. It was only after I was woken on Denman Island one morning by the incredible song of a multi-warbling raven that I appreciated the Woody Herman jazz title I'd long ago acquired; until then it was just another tune. And if you've ever been to the southernmost tip of Africa and heard the whoosh of water and the howl of wind, and read the plaque that commemorates the death of so very many souls as well as the vessels in which they floundered, 'Cape Aghulus' evokes a personalized dirge or ditty too. But even then, identification, the sound of syllables in a phrase bringing pictures of the past or plucking at the heart-strings, can be misleading. After all, the 'Horn of Africa' is not the 'Cape of Good Hope'. Had I not sketched it from the deck of a ship (the Braemar Castle, back in 1963) I would not know this much, nor be caring for the song title too. Identifications are most personal. Song titles strike at the senses!

'M'Lady Nancy' bobbed up bright and joyfully into my consciousness from watching wave upon wave of song titles pass before me on my computer screen. Yes! Here was one to select for my iPad. After all, Lady Nancy (as i still address my envelopes headed toward Australia) on April 01 is about to turn a beautiful 90 years of age. She has been my friend for nearly 30 years, has snail-mailed almost monthly over the last three or so years in particular, and had visited me where we first met on Denman Island, coming back several times to Canada. 'Reciprocity' is the essay I wrote about her. She was even my Matron of Honor. 'M'Lady Nancy' is a tune I now identify with! You too? I didn't even know I had it! The instrumental guitar piece is on my 1971 'Rosemary Lane' album, by the famed Bert Jansch. All those years of having it for my enjoyment, and only now does it surface into my consciousness? How many other things are close-by for our awareness, that we do not appreciate? Instrumentals aren't specific; it's what we bring.

Ascribing a personal identification to a song tune, given the title, is fascinating. There is many a tune I would not have selected (or album I would not have purchased) had the word 'Africa' not enticed me. I've found the same in visual art too; some of the giclee reproductions of my paintings have sold because the buyer identifies with Northern Ontario's 'Blue North', has been before Alberta's 'Before The Mountains', has spent time in old Quebec and recognizes the caleshes and the St. George Gates and The Plains of Abraham in my painting 'De Historia et Veritate'. Ha! What if such titles were given to instrumental tunes played on my guitar? Would someone find more personal pleasure in the composition because of a title? Reciprocity! Esoteric allusions enliven; signify!

'M'Lady Nancy' has the richness and delicacy of a classic pavane. Jansch's composition was for some lovely Nancy who stirred his soul. His tune I now appropriate and play to stir my own. My very real M'Lady Nancy has given me great joy over the years, given great richness. There is the abiding sense of a fellow soul in communication and accord and care and concern. Ours has been a friendship that has lasted the test of time, that endures past the immediate, and that continues into the future. And as a song title for her, on her 90th birthday, here is one that each and every one of us does identify with: 'Happy Birthday!' .... Happy birthday to you, indeed, M'Lady Nancy! What an inspiration!

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