Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sunday Night is.... Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica Rascals

1942 performance by Borrah Minevitch and gang.

The harmonica was dad's instrument. As I sit here one of his last two harmonicas is before me on the desk. He played the harmonica to his fellow labour campers in the Ukraine during the war, and he taught it to us. We had a harmonica each.

His set piece piece was the Brahms Hungarian Dance no 5. He performed round the camp fire of the ex-boy scouts reunion in Budapest, the year we accompanied him. He played it at his last birthday too.


Billy C said...

Father's eh, George. Mine had a few harmonicas around the place, too.

The scene: Winter time and dark at 4 o' clock. A victorian terraced house in the heart of The Potteries in the late 1940's. No television. Father comes home from work. Feeds his pigeons. Scrubs and changes out of work clothes. Gas mantle flickering each side of the fireplace, which has been well poked to create one of the few rationed blazes of the day. Beef stew and dumplings on the table. That's soon gone into hungry tummies. Dad reads the paper. An eight year old Billy C sits in the galavanised bathtub on the hearth enduring the ritual of having his hard earned dirt scrubbed from every crevice of his body. Rough towels. Nightshirt. Sneaks under paper and melts into father's arms. Snuggled mode.

Harmonicas. Brother John (three years older than Billy C) begins to play. Father puts down paper and reaches into side pocket of his chair. (No one but he is allowed to sit in 'his' chair.) Out comes the harmonica. A battling duet. Danny Boy: Show Me The Way To Go Home. Laughter. Brother John plays on. Father puts his harmonica away. Hugs Billy C in the war weary arms that have seen him safely through Dunkirk, North Africa, Italy and Burma. Billy C is one of the main reasons he is battle weary. A gentle father's kiss. Drooping eyelids. Woodbines. Carbolic soap. Up the wooden hills to Bedford.

Evenin' breezes sighin', moon is in the sky
Little man, it's time for bed
Daddy's little hero is tired and wants to cry
Now, come along and rest your weary head.

Peace. Perfect peace.

Now? Misty eyes and memories.

I love the harmonica, George.

George S said...

That's gorgeous, Billy. The mouth-organ was a small, easily transportable instrument. You just slid it into your pocket and not much harm could come to it there.

My father's repertoire included It's a Long Way to Tipperary, Clementine, The Blue Danube and a number of Hungarian popular tunes. We played trios sometimes. Or, if dad was driving, my brother and I played duets in the back.

My parents smoked Woodbines too when we came here, then, as I remember, it was Player's No6. Possibly Capstan somewhere along the line. My mum finished with Consulate ('Cool as a mountain stream').

The harmonica is a lovely thin sound. I like it best on the slower, meditative songs.