A Half-Remembered Ghost Story Rendered in Song

Gerhardt by Siskin Brace.

This song is from the "Names" collection of nine songs written and recorded in 2012 by Siskin Brace. Siskin Brace are me and Leeroy Lugg (a web designer by trade, nowadays specialising in websites for charities and non-profit organisations who works under the name Suspire Media). Jennifer Murray provides the rather beautiful oboe solo towards the end of this track, while Elaine Bloor adds the haunting backing vocals. The acrylic painting that accompanys the song online is by artist Joanna Bloor.

The initial idea for the song came from a ghost story I read as a boy. I haven't been able to track down the original so I'm not sure how acurate my memory of the tale is. But as far as I recall it's the story an old and war-weary general, a veteran of the European wars of the nineteenth century, who returns to his childhood home to find the ghosts of his long-dead family sitting around the kitchen table waiting for him. Although it did not name him, some reference in the text convinced me the old general was intended to be Gebhard Blucher, commander of the Prussian forces at the Battle of Waterloo. I may have got this wrong. Thinking back, it does seem a little unlikely. In recognition of my uncertainty on this point, we called the song Gerhardt; almost, but not quite, Blucher's first name. I made a number of significant changes to the story in the lyrics I wrote, but this partially forgotten tale - I don't even remember its title, let alone the author's name - was the starting point.

A more direct influence on the song's lyric and general ambience was the house I grew up in, my own childhood home, which at the time I wrote the song, I was visiting on a regular basis. The house was in rather poor repair by then, and for me the old place had aquired something of a haunted atmosphere. Haunted not so much by the spirits of the dead, but by the past itself. There were times, when I was outside cutting back the overgrown garden, for instance, when I would glance up at the house and almost expect to see the pale and solemn features of my boyhood self staring out at me from the back bedroom window.

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