The Orange and the Green

Discuss traditional folk music from the British Isles, including Ireland, here.

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maugein96
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The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Sat May 05, 2018 11:44 pm

OK, I couldn't convey to forum members why I never played accordion as a kid, and hopefully this will explain it better than my feeble verbal attempts. This is a last ditch attempt to convey precisely what the situation was, and still is, and I promise that I'll never post any links to this sort of material again.

In the part of Scotland where I grew up we were nearly all more Irish than Scottish. if you were a Protestant you played this stuff:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm9PH8QO2M4

If you were Roman Catholic this is the other version:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSV79qvviIk

The music itself sounds innocent enough and some of it is very enjoyable, but the only thing is the tunes were sectarian in nature, celebrating various historical battles and other deeds which took place in Ireland years ago. The tunes are often played to deliberately provoke people of the opposite religion, often outside their respective places of worship.

Scottish Country Dance music or any other type of Scottish music was not really of our culture, but we had the option to take it on board.

My father was a Protestant and my mother was Roman Catholic, so I decided that I'd better leave all the local accordion styles well alone.

Both clips were recorded in Scotland, despite the Irish nature of the tunes, and apologies for the rabble in the first clip where some "bad words" can also be heard in connection with the Pope. I knew some of the accordionists in the band featured in the second clip personally, and they were great players, but I preferred their renderings of Irish tunes which were not of a sectarian nature. Danny Owens and Andrew Kirkwood were both neighbours of mine, and Andrew lived in the house below mine so I got to listen to all of the stuff he played for free.

Feel free to take issue with any of the content, but I'm afraid that I cannot adequately describe the situation verbally.

I am proud of my heritage, but with about 75% of Irish blood in my veins it is often difficult to maintain that pride when I see and hear stuff like the content of those video clips.

Here is the music I woke up to most days of the week, as played by Andy Kirkwood. I loved it until my late father explained what it was all about. Ignore the diatonic Paolo Soprani in the caption. Andy played it on a big 4 voice PA with Irish tuning., the make of which now escapes me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9aaSU-rfDU

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Sun May 06, 2018 2:13 am

John has been very open and courageous in describing the sectarian nature of some musical traditions. I can assure anyone who reads this that this music simultaneously celebrates culture whilst promoting hatred.

We all, I feel sure, only want to hear and play music which is pleasing and inoffensive, but there are those who use music for the specific purpose of insulting and offending the "others."

"Weaponising" music in this way is despicable, but I must tell you that I have encountered a few musicians who perpetuate this crazy practice by the singing/playing of rebellious songs. I took serious issue with one man who routinely promoted such offensive material, telling him of dire prognostications should he ignore my warning. I have seen him a couple of times since, but he has not been able to look me in the eye.

Music is beautiful and can convey fabulous concepts such as love and happiness. I promise faithfully that my accordions will only play the kindest and loveliest music.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Sun May 06, 2018 9:19 am

Thanks Stephen,

I had to search for a while before I could find suitable "watered down" stuff to put on here, leaving out clips with obvious para-military uniformed bands..

When I first started playing the accordion, those tunes sort of "got in the way", as they're in your head forever. You're less likely to remember them when you play other instruments.

The accordion is the first choice of instrument for many, but it wasn't for me in the days when I lived in the area concerned, due to the implications of playing it. The flute was even worse, but I'm not going into that here. You need to have lived with sectarianism daily to even begin to understand it, and 65 years later I still don't understand it. Just please consider that unfortunately the accordion is used as a tool by these bands to invoke religious hatred and tension, as may not be obvious in the clips, but I know what I'm talking about.

The pure Scottish accordion styles are totally independent from sectarian music, and shouldn't be confused with it. Those styles are played to "happy people for their enjoyment", and more than one member has already told me that I shouldn't try to analyse it. It's just that a lot of the more accomplished sectarian players also like to dip their toes in the water with it.

In most of Scotland you'll never hear or see sectarianism, but in areas such as those depicted in the clips that is the only reason some people get up in the mornings.

Think I'll go and find a flute forum now and tell them the same thing.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Sun May 06, 2018 10:01 am

Hi John,

Well, this board is all about Folk Music of the British Isles, and the music you have drawn attention to certainly fits into that category by any reasonable definition.

It is not a comfortable subject for me, for reasons of which you are well aware, but it is an issue which is important enough to be discussed openly and honestly.

I would rather have seen a video clip featuring "Jug of Punch", but have always been able to face reality.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Geronimo » Sun May 06, 2018 10:18 am

maugein96 wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 9:19 am
The accordion is the first choice of instrument for many, but it wasn't for me in the days when I lived in the area concerned, due to the implications of playing it. The flute was even worse, but I'm not going into that here. You need to have lived with sectarianism daily to even begin to understand it, and 65 years later I still don't understand it.
Sectarianism is easy to understand. Any idiot can do so. It's in our tribal nature, like racism and chauvinism. It's not as much that you don't understand it rather than that you do not permit yourself to understand it and/or yield to it.

That's what being civilized is about. Your proximity to the abuse stopped you from embracing its identity forming elements. You found a substitute in musette, incidentally steeped in similar bagpipe-supported segregationism moving on to accordion but in a safe geographic distance not involving you in its conflicts.

Good for you. My own relation to the accordion is more academic. It's just a polyphonic instrument to me posing an intellectual challenge. I am not all that much into "accordion music" as a genre. Which is sort of funny considering that I did a lot of Irish folk music while on violin. Maybe I just prefer being different/rebellious.

Not all that dissimilar from what you ended up doing.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Sun May 06, 2018 3:07 pm

Geronimo,

The only thing that saved me from it was the fact my parents were of different religions, and naturally did not support any sectarian cause.

As I say the guy downstairs from us was one of the better players and the whole block would be shaking when he got going.

I pleaded with him to teach me how to play when I was about 8 years old. He said "I cannot do that. Go and ask your father and he'll tell you why." I did so when it was explained to me that I was being brought up as a Protestant so couldn't possibly start playing Hibernian music on the accordion.

I was devastated, as I had been memorising the tunes for years. That's what happened. Kids could sing and whistle the tunes from whenever they were able, without having any knowledge of their significance. That knowledge came later and choices had to be made on whether to take to the music of either side. At that stage I had decided I wanted no part of it whatsoever.

The village had a population of about 2000, and there were probably only a few hundred who were active members of the various religious organisations. However, they were there to be heard on parades and other occasions, and unfortunately it just so happened that the accordion and the flute were their choice of musical instruments. When the bands reached the churches of their rival groups they would stop marching and play medleys of tunes at full volume, with the intent of causing outbreaks of violence.

Several of the villagers were also active members of Irish terrorist groups of both denominations and various sectarian "incidents" occurred from time to time. Fortunately we all knew each other so there weren't any fatalities, but it all took a rather more serious turn when "The Troubles" started in Northern Ireland in 1968.

I think I'd better leave it there, and thanks for your understanding of the situation.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Geronimo » Mon May 07, 2018 8:10 am

maugein96 wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 3:07 pm
Several of the villagers were also active members of Irish terrorist groups of both denominations and various sectarian "incidents" occurred from time to time. Fortunately we all knew each other so there weren't any fatalities, but it all took a rather more serious turn when "The Troubles" started in Northern Ireland in 1968.

I think I'd better leave it there, and thanks for your understanding of the situation.
Well, I grew up in quite-post-war Germany. "Understanding" is always a strong word for someone who wasn't in the same time and place. All one can reasonably do is take in the readily available information and watch for signs of oneself becoming a part of similar downward spirals.

For what it's worth, I think you are doing well and I am glad my own instrument play has not had to cope with politics in addition to my personal shortcomings.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Mon May 07, 2018 10:48 am

Hi Geronimo,

As you are probably aware, in some countries musicians have served time in jail because the genre they played was banned by their governments. I'm not well up enough on history to be able to document precisely how or why, but political issues are usually involved.

The music in the clips is both religious and political, and despite the fact that only a small minority of people bother to get involved with it these days, it simply refuses to go away. There have been numerous attempts to outlaw the whole scene, but those have proved futile.

The problem is that some of the accordionists involved are very competent in other styles, and many of them often play innocent enough Scottish music until the audience demands a selection of sectarian tunes. The player will often be heckled and cajoled to oblige, and the pressure for some is too great to resist. Some players flatly refuse to become involved, and they are the ones who should be respected instead of being booed off the stage. It is a situation which is localised to certain parts of Scotland, and it just so happens that is strongest in my home area.

From my own point of view, it was easier just to turn my back on the accordion altogether until I was mature enough to make my own choice when I was no longer living in the area. The desire to play was still there but I chose to look elsewhere for inspiration. Some of my fellow countrymen, especially those who have never lived with sectarianism, and people from outside of Scotland who love the music, will probably never be able to work it out.

All I can say is that hundreds of would be accordionists probably took the same decisions that I did for the same reasons.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Geronimo » Mon May 07, 2018 11:21 am

maugein96 wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 10:48 am
As you are probably aware, in some countries musicians have served time in jail because the genre they played was banned by their governments. I'm not well up enough on history to be able to document precisely how or why, but political issues are usually involved.

The music in the clips is both religious and political, and despite the fact that only a small minority of people bother to get involved with it these days, it simply refuses to go away. There have been numerous attempts to outlaw the whole scene, but those have proved futile.
When the cantor of a protestant church (J.S. Bach) writes a "Great Catholic Mass", handwavingly that's also both religious and political. The score basically was simmering in the music scene for rather long (something like 80 years after Bach's death IIRC) until secular (or semisecular) performances of sacred works became mainstream acceptable and performing the whole thing became feasible.

Until then, the music refused to go away. It was too good to be thrown away, never mind that it was unperformable due to its uncompromising ignorance of "religious correctness".

It is my guess that similar things will happen with some of the better pieces now firmly associated with sectarian circumstances: they will resurface once the controversial context of them has become historical. I remember performing a four-choir version of "Erhalt uns Herr, bei Deinem Wort" by Michael Praetorius where the text had been slightly changed to forego Luther's original "und steu'r der Pabst und Türcken Mord" ("and veer the Pope's and Turks' murder spree") and replace it with a slightly less specific reference to "Foes".

It's easier to appreciate the music itself for what it is if the references have gone stale.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Mon May 07, 2018 12:53 pm

Geronimo wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 11:21 am

It's easier to appreciate the music itself for what it is if the references have gone stale.
The day that happens in Coatbridge, I reckon the place will be full of Martians on holiday!

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by losthobos » Mon May 07, 2018 1:39 pm

maugein96 wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 12:53 pm

The day that happens in Coatbridge, I reckon the place will be full of Martians on holiday!
As Billy Connolly said "violence will continue as long as they're shitting in our shoes and we're pissing in their Bovril"

I heard Mao Tse Tung had taken the accordion on board and given to his marching troops so they could be heard before entering villages....

After seeing your marching band videos i'm not sure what would strike fear in me most... the Orange the Green or the Red
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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Morne » Mon May 07, 2018 1:53 pm

While I was aware of that conflict, I never thought about it along those musical lines. I can imagine it being unwise to be heard playing the "enemy's" music. From a far-removed third party it might sometimes seem like a song's just some innocent banter, but those nearer to it might have a wholly different reaction.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Mon May 07, 2018 2:50 pm

Morne wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 1:53 pm
While I was aware of that conflict, I never thought about it along those musical lines. I can imagine it being unwise to be heard playing the "enemy's" music. From a far-removed third party it might sometimes seem like a song's just some innocent banter, but those nearer to it might have a wholly different reaction.
Hi Morne,

Not many people outside of Scotland realise that sectarianism exists here. Fortunately it is generally confined to those areas where a large percentage of the population is of Irish extraction, or occasionally where certain religious groups with no hard and fast Irish connections decide to get involved with it. In those areas where the former applies we are educated in separate schools and often discouraged to fraternise with the "enemy" as you put it.

Most people only pay lip service to the segregation ideals of the die-hards. However, you always have to be careful what you say in public, and if a remark is made in a public place that could be construed as "sensitive", somebody will usually say "Remember we're in mixed company" (meaning that people of more than one religion are present). We just have to learn to live with it, and unfortunately musical preference is often not a free choice, as you have observed.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Geronimo » Mon May 07, 2018 3:09 pm

maugein96 wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 11:44 pm
OK, I couldn't convey to forum members why I never played accordion as a kid, and hopefully this will explain it better than my feeble verbal attempts. This is a last ditch attempt to convey precisely what the situation was, and still is, and I promise that I'll never post any links to this sort of material again.

In the part of Scotland where I grew up we were nearly all more Irish than Scottish. if you were a Protestant you played this stuff:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm9PH8QO2M4
You know, I actually cannot understand much of a word of the lyrics here for whatever they may be worth. It's sort of "meh, not my kind of music and setup". But to get your point, it's actually rather instructive to read the comment section including upvotes. WTF?

Short example "exchange":
Michael Toner
2 years ago
orange bastards
+1

Dallas Bear 1872
2 years ago
The Cry Is No Fucking Surrender!!!
+2

Hugh Maxwell
2 years ago
+Michael Toner Fenian c***..
+2

Robert Lewis
2 days ago
Loyalists practice buggery. Up the IRA.
It's obviously not just the music that I fail to connect with here. While I am sympathetic to preserving traditions, this variant indeed seems like something that makes steering clear of not the worst idea.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Mon May 07, 2018 3:29 pm

losthobos wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 1:39 pm
maugein96 wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 12:53 pm

The day that happens in Coatbridge, I reckon the place will be full of Martians on holiday!
As Billy Connolly said "violence will continue as long as they're shitting in our shoes and we're pissing in their Bovril"

I heard Mao Tse Tung had taken the accordion on board and given to his marching troops so they could be heard before entering villages....

After seeing your marching band videos i'm not sure what would strike fear in me most... the Orange the Green or the Red
Terry,

Singing was banned in all of the Glasgow pubs for years because of it, and I had to browse You Tube for a long time before I could find anything tame enough to be able to post on here. A lot of the colourful flags involved have subtle but provocative connotations.

The Billy Connolly quote you posted tended to illustrate the point.

Coatbridge and the surrounding towns and villages (including ours) had a very strong sectarian following, and the speech used by the older generations was more Ulster Scots than Lanarkshire.

In the days when there was still an element of apprehension about us being invaded by aliens, they used to say that the Martians would never dare to come to our area in case there was an Orange or Hibernian parade on.

Anyway, hopefully I'll have been able to convey what the situation is with the regard to the accordion music involved, and I daresay everybody (including me) is getting a bit weary of the subject. I was hoping to avoid having to dedicate a post to the subject, but it kept creeping into other posts I got involved in. I therefore thought I'd bring it out into the open so that I could finally put it to bed.
Last edited by maugein96 on Mon May 07, 2018 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by maugein96 » Mon May 07, 2018 3:53 pm

Geronimo wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 3:09 pm

It's obviously not just the music that I fail to connect with here. While I am sympathetic to preserving traditions, this variant indeed seems like something that makes steering clear of not the worst idea.
Geronimo,

They've been trying to sort this whole issue out since the 17th century, to no avail.

Rather than trying to explain it all here, I've posted a link to Wikipedia, which gives an abbreviated explanation of the political situation, but the sectarian element is justifiably given little media coverage.

The feedback on the You Tube video clips is typical of the reactions of people of the opposing groups to them.

The vocabulary is particularly offensive, and is intended to be as such. The "English" spoken in parts of south west Scotland and Ulster is similar, and not easily understood by others.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_Ireland

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Re: The Orange and the Green

Post by Stephen Hawkins » Mon May 07, 2018 10:53 pm

Geronimo,

Let me help you to understand a little better.

Glasgow has many football clubs, the most recognisable being Rangers & Celtic. Match days have very little to do with football, as most of the "fans" would rather engage in violence against the equally stupid and dangerous "fans" who support the other club. Rangers have predominantly protestant "fans", whilst Celtic plays host to those of the catholic persuasion.

Demarcations exist in very many aspects of life in the West of Scotland and, as I said before, even music is "weaponised" in this never ending unrest. I see no prospect of things improving in the future. The battle of the Boyne happened in 1690, and these people are still fighting now. 330 years is a long time to bear a grudge, but these people see it as an on-going and intractable crusade.

I would like to suggest that you type in "the troubles in northern Ireland-images" where you may gain some insight into just how deeply rooted this hatred actually is. A very small spark can ignite ferocious violence, and music can easily provide that spark.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

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