Song Series #3: Little Beggar Man

Song Series #3: Little Beggar Man




Viola and voice: June Gervais.
Coos and grunts:
Milo, one month old.

I first learned “Little Beggar Man” at age 18, from a Clancy Brothers album I listened to about a hundred times in a row on the five-hour drive between Long Island and Vermont.

I loved it because it was fast and rattling with life; and in learning to sing it, I discovered I had an odd knack for memorizing long strings of words. This seemed a sort of useless ability until I discovered that memorizing poetry allowed it to settle deep into my muscle and blood and, with time, to alter me.

“Little Beggar Man” is good for live performing, with all its rowdy energy, but in the past few years it’s become special to me for other reasons—soul reasons. I learned to play viola in public school, fell in love with traditional music as a teenager, and messed around until I learned, very clumsily, to play a little by ear. A little. Believe me when I say I could never get by in a real Irish session. But what I love about making music is that occasionally—grateful beggar—I get to take part in something wilder and more wonderful than I could ever conjure on my own.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *