I joined the Friday night session, which is smaller. That way it's easier for someone less experienced, such as me, to get in a bit of practice performing.
There are a fair number of folk songs that involve horses and the people around then. Ghost Riders is performed most times we gather, and I have sung Jack Gladstone's Valley of the Little Big Horn a couple of times since learning it.
As usual the music went on late. This time we were up until 4am. In a fabled past sessions went on to dawn. But the stamina of youth now eludes us. I awoke at 8am after far too little sleep. When I was younger I did a lot of travelling, but this is now the only place where I get to sleep in a dormitory. So I drifted into wakefulness accompanied by gentle snoring and a mixed smell of winter mustiness and warm bodies. And I thought of coffee, which was quick to brew.
I brought a new song to the gathering - Fiddler's Green. It isn't the nautical song of that name, but another which has come to memorialise fallen cavalrymen. It's not difficult to play and sing, which is good for me. And it's not well known, so I have bagged it as a repertoire piece in that company.
Fiddler's Green originated as a poem. Sung, is slow and haunting. It makes me think, for I have ridden across places where cavalry fought within living memory. Not the US Cavalry, of course, but that which fought on both sides of the Eastern Front in the Second World War. I came across a Romanian cavalryman who had ridden nearly to the Caspian Sea, on the marches of Persia. Few of those men, or their horses, returned.
Here are the words:
Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green.
Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers' Green.
Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.
No trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers' Green.
And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And enemies come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers' Green.