Any mummers, nice mummers ’lowed in?
This Christmas, I would like to leave you with a Newfoundland flavour. There are a couple of us with West Quebec roots, who are choristers with Atlantic Voices, the Newfoundland and Labrador Choir of Ottawa. Personally, I am soaking up and relishing the music and culture of our east coast.
On December 13th, Atlantic Voices presented “A Christmas Ceilidh for Fiona Relief,” to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Fiona. The sold-out event included performances from the Ottawa Celtic Choir, Orleans United Church Choir and “100 Floors Above” (Robin Guy and Scott Richardson). All proceeds went to the Red Cross’s Hurricane Fiona relief fund.
Adding to the evening's choral selections, talented flautist Kelly Moorcroft contributed David Overton's arrangement, Fantasia On “I Saw Three Ships”. Also featured were Elizabeta Cojocaru (piano) and Ian Richardson (violin).
Diane Rayner, a member of Atlantic Voices, is from Newfoundland. She kindly provided the following information about The Mummer’s Song:
“My mother, Madonna Dinn, of Witless Bay, Newfoundland, was featured in a ‘Purity Syrup’ commercial to the tune of The Mummer’s Song, which aired on NTV for approximately ten years during the 1980’s and early 90’s. She may have been chosen because she had a great sense of humour and she loved to dance, sing and knit. She loved The Mummer’s Song, and was proud to be on TV and also represent her small community.”
Celeste Bradbury Marshall, of Atlantic Voices, who is also a member of The Fumblin’ Fingers, a band that always performs before each of our concerts, added this:
“Mummering was, and still is, an old tradition leading up to Christmas Day, usually stopping by December 3rd, and also known as Tibbs Day. My fondest memory of getting ‘mummered’ was here in Ottawa. A Christmas get-together was planned with the band. Suddenly, I heard ‘Knock, Knock, Knock: three knocks on the door,’ then: ‘Any mummers, nice mummers, ‘lowed in?’ I immediately recognized it and swung open the door to a half-dozen mummers. The place went into an uproar. It was the band, of course.”
Now you, like Celeste, are about to get mummered by mummers in disguise:
The Mummer’s Song
Hark what’s the noise out by the porch door?
Granny there’s mummers, there’s twenty or more;
Her old, withered face brightens up with a grin,
Any mummers, nice mummers, ‘lowed in?
Come in, lovely mummers. don’t bother the snow;
We can wipe up the water sure after you go;
Sit if you can, or on some mummer’s knee,
Let’s see if we know who you be.
There’s big ones and tall ones and small ones and thin,
Boys dressed as women and girls dressed as men;
Humps on their back and mitts on their feet,
My blessed, we’ll die with the heat.
There’s only one there that I think that I know,
That tall feller standing o’er alongside the stove;
He’s shakin’ his fist for to make me not tell,
Must be Willy from out on the hill.
Now that one’s a stranger if there ever was one,
With his underwear stuffed and his trap door undone;
Is he wearing his mother’s big forty-two bra?
I knows but I’m not gonna say.
Don’t ‘spose you fine mummers would turn down a drop,
No home brew, nor alkie whatever you got;
Now the one with his rubber boots on the wrong feet,
Has enough for to do him all week.
S’pose you can dance, yes they all nods their heads
They’ve been tapping their feet ever since they came in;
Now that the drinks have been all passed around,
The mummers are plankin’ her down.
Hold on to the lamp and be careful the stove,
Don’t swing Granny hard for you know that she’s old;
No need for to care how you buckles the floor,
‘Cause mummers have danced here before.
My God how hot is it? We better go,
I ‘low we’ll all get the devil’s own cold;
Good night and good Christmas, mummers me dears,
Please God we will see you next year.”