Monday, 5 September 2016

Rise Again

Last week Jono, at Ottoson, posted about a Canadian folk singer whom I'd heard of frequently, but never actually sat down to listen to. The song he included in his post was "The Mary Ellen Carter," written and performed by Stan Rogers, and had as its refrain "Rise again! Rise again!" It has lingered in my head ever since; it was well sung by Rogers, with an intriguing story and meaningful lyrics.

The refrain also reminded me of quite a different tune called "Rise Again," written by Leon Dubinsky and performed by The Rankin Family, a band of siblings; both the songwriter and the band hail from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia - my backyard, so to speak. It's a moving tune, just like the Stan Rogers song, not just for the music and lyrics, but also for the back stories of the artists. Stan Rogers was killed in a fire aboard an airplane in the US at the age of 34. Raylene Rankin, soloist in "Rise Again," passed away at the age of 52 following a ten year battle with cancer. Both singers were huge talents whose lives ended far too soon.

"Rise Again" was just becoming well known around the time that our son and daughter were in elementary school, and one year in the mid-90's the music teacher at the school took on the project of teaching all her classes the sign language for the tune, in order to present it at a special assembly for parents. I was a stay-at-home mother and fortunate to be able to attend daytime functions. This particular one blew me away; it brought tears to my eyes and gooseflesh to the rest of me.

As you listen, imagine watching five hundred children, ages five to twelve, using sign language in unison to "sing" the lyrics, as this haunting melody was played in the school gym, with the afternoon sunlight slanting in through the high windows:


Lyrics:
(Source for lyrics:  http://www.songlyrics.com)

When the waves roll on over the waters
And the ocean cries
We look to our sons and daughters
To explain our lives
As if a child could tell us why

That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees
We rise again in the faces
of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again

When the light goes dark with the forces of creation
Across a stormy sky
We look to reincarnation to explain our lives
As if a child could tell us why

That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees
We rise again in the faces
of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again

We rise again in the faces
of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again
..........................
"Rise Again" is one of my favourite songs - ever - and I hope you enjoy it, too.


Additional notes from Wikipedia:  "Rise Again" was written  as " ... an anthem of resilience and hope at a time when Cape Breton Island was going through an economic crisis. According to Dubinsky, the song is about "the cycles of immigration, the economic insecurity of living in Cape Breton, the power of the ocean, the meaning of children, and the strength of home given to us by our families, our friends and our music."" And: "Because of Dubinsky's Jewish faith, it has also sometimes been performed by Jewish groups at commemorations of the Holocaust."

18 comments:

  1. It's beautiful. I hope sign remained for a lot of the children.

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  2. Music moves people in a way that nothing else can. That's why I'm a dj. :)

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    1. So true. It must be rewarding to be able to do that for so many people.

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  3. Beautiful song. The harmonies remind me a little of the Roches, three sisters who sing folk music together. And the lyrics remind me a little of the chorus to "Nuclear Apathy" by Crack the Sky:
    Rise up, children, life goes on and on.
    Wise up, children, life goes on and on.
    I am always fascinated when someone is giving a speech and they have someone signing it along with them. As a musician, it always looks to me to be a master performance. I'd probably appreciate it more if I knew sign language, though. Maybe I should learn some of it.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. I'll be checking out the Roches shortly. Signing fascinates me too. I took an adult ed course in it when I started my working life and was looking for ways to fill my evenings. I found it hard to be fluid, but that's probably a matter of practicing (like so many other skills). But it was definitely interesting and worth doing.

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  4. Sometimes being a highly sensitive person brings you moments of glory, to have, to hold, to cherish, to remember.

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    1. So well put, EC. You're absolutely right.

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  5. I loved Raylene's voice and the harmonies were beautiful in that family band. I didn't know that she died and it makes me sad. It may now be among my favorites.
    Thanks for the shout out.

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    1. It is sad, isn't it - such a sweet voice she had. She passed away in 2012. I was glad to be reminded of this memory by your post.

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  6. Remarkable song. For better, hopefully, our influence never ends. Thanks.

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    1. "For better" - yes, let's hope that.

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  7. In my minds eye, I can see you in the auditorium with the sun shining through the high windows, watching 500 children, and you have a big lump in your throat. Beautiful song-it must have been amazing. Were the kids singing and signing the lyrics or just signing them? Is it because the song would have been difficult for them to sing? There were a lot of high notes!

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    1. They were only signing, which added to the remarkability of those brief minutes - the gym was silent except for the recording being played. All the kids were concentrating on their signing. It was unforgettable. I'm thinking the music teacher may have chosen this instead of singing just as a change from the usual, plus we had some children at the school with learning challenges and I believe at least one was hearing impaired and used signing. I probably should have included that part in my post except I didn't remember it until you asked the question :)

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  8. Interesting! I haven't heard this song, and I'm at work so I can't listen to it now, but I'll be sure to come back this evening and click the video. :)

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  9. lovely! Never heard the song before.

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