Just four days after the events of September 11, 2001, Martin and I had a recording session. It was an arduous two hours as we were changing microphones, repositioning microphones as well as changing where I would stand. Then we dealt with various other technical glitches that had to be fixed. As the session drew to a close we had not recorded what had been planned for the day. David Smith, our recording engineer, called up from the booth to suggest we record one more song before calling it a day.
Looking through our prepared songs, I chose the shortest one, “Dear Lad O’Mine.” Martin found his copy, I positioned my sheet music on the music stand preparing to begin recording, when we heard David say from the booth, “oh, my.” David had read the first line of the poetry, “War gods have descended, the world burns up in fine.” Oh, my, indeed.
Strong words, strong musical setting and an emotional connection to what had forever changed our city and world four days earlier gave us the strength to record the song in one take.
To clarify the use of the word, “fine,” Webster’s Dictionary’s seventh usage of the word is “awful” used in the most intensive way possible.
Canadian Poet Katherine Hale collaborated with Gena Branscombe on this song. The two women donated the proceeds from the publication of this work to the Canadian Red Cross World War I effort. In a letter to her publisher, Arthur Schmidt, Miss Branscombe stated she was not happy about working with Miss Hale.
How true the words of the poem ring out in our world today. War is war that starts with an evil act against innocent people. Our dear soldiers are remembered every second they are parted from their loved ones, prayers are raised for their protection and we wish them a speedy, safe return home. These soldiers are our cherished fathers, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, husbands, wives and friends who have given of themselves and their lives to protect us.
Recently a copy of the original 1915 edition of the song came up for sale on Amazon. It now has a home in my collection of Gena Branscombe's sheet music.
War gods have descended
The world burns up in fine.
Warm your hands at the trenches fire, dear lad o’mine.
Sometime bullets cease at night,
Only songs are heard.
When you feel a phantom step
‘Twas my heart that stirred.
If you see a dreamy light,
‘Tis the Christ-Child’s eyes;
I believe he watches us,
Wonderful and wise.
Let me come to say goodnight,
Through the camplights shine;
Warm your hands at the trenches fire,
They still hold mine.
Dear lad, dear lad o’mine.
(Reprinted with permission from Katherine Hale’s niece.)
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