My grandfather was born in the late 1800s, and consequently, the songs I learned at his knee included a lot of music hall songs and folk songs. Here are a few of the ones I loved as a child, and still like singing today. These are not necessarily the most authentic performances, but they have the tempo and spirit I enjoy.
Norah Blaney: Oh, Mister Porter! (1937?)
Lily Morris: Waiting at the church (1940s?)
Jessie Wallace: My old man said follow the van (BBC documentary on Marie Lloyd, 2007)
Ella Shields: Burlington Bertie (1900?)
Great White Way Orchestra: Yes, we have no bananas (1923)
Grandpa was a Welshman from the Rhondda valley, a miner and later a carpenter, and a lead tenor in both the Treorchy and Pontypridd Male Voice Choirs (here’s the Treorchy Male Voice Choir singing “Myfanwy”, another song he taught me). He was forced to leave Wales during the Great Depression to find work, and ended up in Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, where he was employed as a furniture maker until he retired. There was a large Welsh community in Wycombe, and I remember people coming back to his house after chapel on Sundays to sing and drink tea.
Like many working class people, he was a devoted admirer of the great singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson, and in his honour, I end this post with Paul Robeson singing the lovely Welsh anthem, Land of My Fathers.