Unitarian Hymnal Sing-along

In which Kathryn attempts to sing a different song everyday from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, 'Singing the Living Tradition'. Earlier posts are based on songs from the Reader's Digest songbooks she found at yard sales as a child, including: 'Reader's Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs', 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook', and 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy'. Bonus Folk song material from: 'Folk Song USA', by John and Alan Lomax.

08 May 2006

"Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out the Barrel)"

One just doesn't hear the words to this polka enough. Not all the words, which I now know were translated from Czech, where its original title was 'Unrequited Love'. One can see why that didn't go over as well. It's very strange to sing this. I don't entirely disagree with words going with this music--I haven't been shy about revealing my feelings about this in earlier posts--but while singing it accapella my mental dance band keeps drowning out my voice. I want to dance along.

Polka dancing was a very important part of my upbringing. We polka-ed at weddings, primarily, but those were very key family times when I would see all sorts of distant cousins that my mother would have to re-introduce to me each time. I associate polkas with warm family feelings, lots of smiles and hearty laughter. I would polka with my grandfather, and with my father, and my mother, and my younger cousins: anyone at the party was fair game for a polka partner, regardless of age, sex, or ability. I remember one wedding where one of my cousins was marrying into an Italian family--that was a very high energy group, an Italian-Polish wedding. I remember the bride dance: pay a dollar, dance with the bride or groom, receive a shot of whiskey (sometimes it was a cigar). At the end the bride is surrounded with circles of people who have danced with her, and the groom has to fight his way in.

After that dance (where the groomsmen were the ones passing out the liquor) I remember one very drunk gentleman, possibly also a cousin, whirling me away into another polka. My adolescent heart leapt. I can think of only one other time in my life when a handsome man just whisked me away into a dance without asking, with that special combination of style and confidence that makes the heart beat faster. That was at a gay bar in San Fransisco where I didn't recognize the man as a member of the group I came with, since he had removed his shirt, and what the heck was he dancing with a woman, anyhow? I doubt that that time was a polka, unfortunately, that might have made it somehow more understandable to me.

I did polka with my Uncle Mike at his fiftieth wedding anniversary, and again with him at my wedding. At a Slavic festival in college I polka-ed all afternoon with a blond and handsome stranger that I never saw again: he was a great lead. At a friend's wedding after college I polka-ed with a man, and decided then and there to sleep with him, the dance was that great. The sex was not a disappointment either, when it came to that. I've always believed that people have sex the way they dance, to a large degree. Years after that relationship ended it felt like appropriate closure to polka with him at my wedding, too.

I don't get invited to extended family weddings any more, I'm too far out and out of touch. I miss the polkas a lot. Last year one of my good friends got married; it was the first Jewish wedding that I had been to, I didn't know what to expect. I knew lots of people there, which was lovely, and my husband warmed my heart by asking the band to play 'Georgia on My Mind', 'dirty', and danced slow and sexy with me. But when they played a polka I knew that he wasn't the choice for that dance. I let my own traditions lead me, and pulled my just-married friend out to dance with her. It was perfect, and we laughed and laughed.


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