A Richard Thompson 'Modah Ani'
October 28, 2010
Last night a friend and I caught the Richard Thompson Band on their Dream Attic tour. This is, I think, the fourth time I've been lucky enough to see Richard play; I've seen him twice with his band, over the years, and once on the Thousand Years of Popular Song tour. (I think I was the only person in the audience that night who screamed with joy when he played "So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo." What? I used to sing it with my madrigal ensemble!)
Last night's show had a somewhat unusual set list, to my mind. The first set was the entirety of the new album ("even the bad songs," Richard quipped, which got a laugh) and then the second set was an assortment of favorites from recent albums and from his amazingly deep back catalogue. There's a review of the show here at Masslive, for those who are curious.
Unsurprisingly, I woke up this morning humming RT songs. Specifically, I was humming one of my favorites among the new tunes he played last night, a track called "Sidney Wells." The song is in 9/8 time, also known as "compound triple time", used in slip jigs -- or so Richard told us last night.
The lyrics are somewhat grisly, but since the new album is relatively new to me, I don't know most of them by heart yet. And I often sing in the shower -- usually some variation on morning liturgy, to keep my head and heart in the right place while Drew entertains himself with toys outside the shower door. Can you see where this is going?
Yep: this morning in the shower I wound up setting Modah Ani, the morning prayer for gratitude, to the tune of Richard Thompson's "Sidney Wells." Drew seemed to like it, and I'm tickled by the repurposing of the melody, so I'm enclosing the mp3 below. If you're ever looking for a new Modah Ani tune, feel free to add this one to your repertoire!
I'm also enclosing, below, a recording of Richard Thompson and his band performing the song so you can see where this melody is borrowed from. (I couldn't find a video of the band performing "Sidney Wells," so the YouTube video below is visually uninteresting -- just a still image -- but the music is there.)
The tradition of using popular melodies for liturgical purposes is an old one, but this is the first Jewish liturgical use of Richard Thompson that I know of; if there are others out there, please enlighten me!