Raise Your Banners

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Raise Your Banners

Raise Your Banners was recorded at the Green Top Circus Centre, Sheffield, in 1995 to coincide with the first festival of political song ‘Raise Your Banners’ held in our city that year.  The sound engineer was Ian Stead, who later also digitally remastered it.

Unity Raise Your Banners High! We are grateful to John Tams for this rallying call, which we adopted as the title of a Festival of Political Song, held in Sheffield in 1995, on the 80th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill. Arrangement by Mike Reid of our choir.

Joe Hill  Written by Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson ten years after his execution by firing squad, this song more than anything has kept the memory of Joe Hill alive. His last words, “Don’t mourn, organize!”, are a message for all struggling for equality and justice against the mood of the times. Arranged by Nigel Wright of our choir. Copyright: MCA Music.

La Plegaria a Un Labrador (The workers’ prayer) Victor Jara’s plea to Chile’s farm labourers to join with urban workers in taking their tools and lives into their own hands. Jara was a leader in the People’s Song Movement, and was murdered by the military junta which overthrew the Allende government. Arranged by John Abraham of Cor Cochion. Copyright: Essex Music Group.

More than a Paycheque “We bring asbestosis, silicosis, brown lung, black lung disease.” A poignant reminder of the price paid by many workers and their families for a job in an unhealthy environment. Arranged by ‘Tactlass’ and Emer McKay after ‘Sweet Honey in the Rock’ (Y.M. Barnwell) Copyright: Westbury Music Ltd.

Aji ya Mozambique  A song of celebration (in Shangaan) dating from the victory over the Portuguese, and the ending of colonial rule in 1975.

Imagine There can be few who do not know John Lennon’s utopian ballad. We sing Mike Reid’s arrangement, in the hope being part of a revival of such sentiments in the “caring 90s”. Copyright: BMG Music Publishing.

Deep River This beautiful spiritual carried hidden messages of resistance and hope for Africans held as slaves, since to talk openly of escape would result in death. Arrangement: News Chronicle Song Book / Nigel Wright.

From a Distance Much in the tradition of Joe Hill, who adapted new words to well known tunes, these words written by Annie Blindell question our attitudes to Ireland, and could equally apply to colonialism the world over. Original song by J. Gold; arrangement by Tony Wilde. Copyright: Rondo Music.

Hamba Kahle Umkhonto  Often heard in the period of Apartheid on clandestine broadcasts from the Frontline States, and sung at ANC funerals, this song of the armed wing Umkhonto We Siswe was arranged by members of our choir from a tape of singing at Chris Hani’s funeral. The moving lament symbolised for us the mixed emotions of anger, fear, and anticipation in the months leading up to the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.

Ndoda Another song of resistance from Africa telling people not to block the road to freedom, sung in the iNdebele dialect of Zulu. This was a massed song at the annual Street Music Festival in Leeds in 1994.

Bandiera Rossa  Anthem of the Italian Communist Party, written before the Spanish Civil War but popularised by the many volunteers who learnt it there.

Ke a Rona A ‘warm-up’ song (and dance!) that we learnt from Aubrey Mokoena, who has sung in the ANC choir. It is a way of claiming space, and the right to be in it -“This belongs to us!”

Last of the Great Whales In the words of Sheffield-based singer Roy Bailey, “Of the many songs written in England over the last few years, this must be one of the most moving and beautiful – it’s a song for our time.”  Written by Andy Barnes; arranged by John Abraham. Copyright: Friendly Overtures.

(Something Inside) So Strong Originally written by Labi Siffre about Apartheid, in recent years this song has been adopted as an anthem of Gay Pride, urging us all to dare to be different, and to hold on to our rights and our deeply held convictions. Arrangement by Peter Churchill. Copyright: Empire Music Ltd.

Lean on Me  Written by Bill Withers, this well known ballad urges you to “Lean on me, when you’re not strong; I’ll be your friend; I’ll help you carry on”. Arranged for us by Mike Reid and Emer McKay of our choir. Copyright: EMI Music Publishing

Co-operation  A funny children’s song from Durham Woodcraft Folk. This arrangement, by Tony Wilde, has tested the choir’s tolerance and spirit of co-operation to the limit, trying to achieve the intended result!

Rolling Home A rousing tune you may think you have sung along to in any folk club, but actually a relatively recent composition by John Tams, with chorus arranged in the pub by a few members of our choir. Copyright: Oops Publishing Ltd.

Unity Raise Your Banners High! The choir accompanied by Mike Reid on keyboard, Neil Woodall on bass guitar and Steve Morris on drums, in a rousing finale.

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