May Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Summertime

Well, it’s May Day and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland it’s been a wonderful sunny day. As ever I am celebrating this landmark date in the calendar with a few of the old customs. First of all I managed to do a symbolic washing of my face with morning dew – With any luck I may wake up tomorrow morning looking like a young maiden, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Next on the agenda was to gather some spring flowers for the little shrine I’ve got used to putting together on such days – Cherry blossom, narcissi and a few pink flowers I don’t know the name of. Along with a candle, some ribbon and some symbolic dew, it all looks very nice.

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Holy wells are popular places to visit on May Day or Beltane as it used to be called here in Scotland. As luck would have it we have a clootie well a short drive away and as Mr WIAA and I were both on holiday, that seemed like a good plan. This ancient spring is dedicated to Saint Curetán where the rags, dipped in the water from the well, are hung on the surrounding bushes and trees. It was once thought to have had the power to cure sick children. The spring runs into a kind of basin and just as we got there a young maiden was indeed washing her face – Just as well we knew the significance of the day or it would have all been a bit weird.

Beltane marked the beginning of summer for the ancient Celts and that was when their cattle were driven out to the higher pastures and rituals were performed to protect cattle, crops and people. Bonfires were kindled, their flames, smoke and ashes deemed to have protective powers.

Most of us are no longer pastoral people with cattle, but suburban people with garden furniture and fire pits so instead of driving my cattle to high pastures today, I have just got the rest of the accoutrements of summer out of the shed and lit a symbolic fire to celebrate Beltane. A wee spot of Drambuie also slipped down nicely and was my toast to the coming of summer.

Whenever a fire is lit the young people all seem to want to congregate round it – Darling daughter did a bit of texting and we now have a garden-full. Perhaps a bit of a novelty that drags them away from their electronic devices – Whatever, we have now left them to it, so time for a quick post to celebrate this special day.

The song I’ve chosen could not be less Scottish if it tried, but one I have always loved. Summertime was composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. The one I have in my music library is by Ella Fitzgerald who would have last week reached the age of 100. For over half a century Ella was the jazz singer who commanded the largest popular following and her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong were amongst her most notable. No long wordy post from me today then, just this lovely version of one of Gershwin’s finest compositions.

Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong:

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by George Gershwin/Dubose Heyward)

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Postscript:

It’s not an Oscar winner and I’m still learning how to do this, but here is my little film of our day out – It all ends rather abruptly I’m afraid but I will improve!

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

10 thoughts on “May Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Summertime”

  1. A fascinating insight into one of our seasonal festivals. You’ve made me want to read more. I knew about Samhain, but hardly anything about the Gaelic May Day festival, although for some reason I seem to have something stuck in my memory about Beltane and Cajun music. Love Ella;s version of “Summertime” – the perfect song for a sunny day..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been a lovely day indeed and the young people stayed out quite late so the fire pit well and truly did it’s job for Beltane. Yes celebrated Samhain last year and Mabon, Yule, Imbolc and Ostara so getting to be quite the expert – Wrote a post about each of them and found a song that fitted.

      Hello summertime (think that’s a song too but not as good as Ella’s).

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    1. Thanks – there are indeed just so many versions but this is the one I had at hand and just felt right for today.

      I’m not sure if it’s just bad timing but I can’t seem to access your site at the moment – will keep trying but hope the address on my sidebar is still the right one.

      Like

      1. I just clicked on the link and it works fine, Alyson. You know that I’m more or less a pop-up site now, so I don’t expect my audience to grow. I’ve been open again for about three days this time. If I’ve got something to post, I “pop up” until I’ve had enough and whisk back into hibernation. Closing keeps me from checking on it all the time, which has become too time-consuming. I don’t know about you, but I go on in the morning just to check something and three hours later I’m still glued to the screen. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I seem to have missed you again as not working for me this afternoon! I am working longer hours now and by the time I’ve fitted everything else into the day I leave dropping by other sites until evening – will keep trying but just wanted you to know in case you thought I was being a bit off. Doodle-syndrome again!!

          I know what you mean about being drawn in though as a couple of hours can go by and you only meant to spend 10 minutes.

          Like

  2. Ah, this post is quite the tonic on what is rather a cold grey May so far in this little corner, brrr. I would love to wash my face with morning dew too. seem to have come up in spots – at my age!?! – and I’m sure some fresh dew captured in the leaves of the honeysuckle would do the trick, although might be cancelled out by the Drambuie…
    Love your film – I think bridges are fab, there’s something exciting about them, and I particularly like your views here. ‘Summertime’ too is such a classic; I can’t imagine either that there is a bad version out there.
    Happy Beltane!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear it’s been grey with you – Lovely again with us today. No the morning dew didn’t work – I just looked the same as ever this morning!

      My film would have been better if we had decent broadband speed but I just can’t upload anything – what a faff even to include this one – Will have to become a master of the 15 second blockbuster.

      Happy Beltane indeed – The young people sat out until after 11pm last night but there was so much smoke from the fire that the house is reeking of it today. Good fun though and will have to do more of it, and the Drambuie drinking, over the summer.

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  3. A lovely post Alyson. I know zero about Mayday traditions so it was particularly fascinating for me. I’m very impressed with your film-making skills. Both my phone and camera have the capability, but I’ve only ever used either of them for still photos and wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to editing or uploading moving images. As for ‘Summertime’, as C says, it’s hard to imagine a poor version of such a wonderful song, my own personal favourite is by Miles Davis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve ended up writing about just of all the old pagan festivals now, all based on nature’s calendar (and found a song for each) – Been an education for me too.

      As for the film making, it isn’t that difficult if you are shown what to do but our broadband speed is so slow it’s getting the thing uploaded that’s the problem. This was just a first attempt and could have been so much better but hoping to improve and add sound – Watch this space!

      Like

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