The Slumber Boat

Baby’s boat the silver moon
sailing in the sky
sailing o’er the sea of sleep
while the clouds float by.

Sail, baby, sail
out upon that sea.
Only don’t forget to sail
back again to me.

Baby’s fishing for a dream,
fishing near and far.
His line a silver moonbeam is,
his bait a silver star.

Sail, baby, sail
out upon that sea.
Only don’t forget to sail
back again to me,
back again to me.

I became taken with this song and decided to learn it for myself. You don’t hear many lullabies these days. Such simple innocent timeless imagery is conjured, the moon, the sky, the clouds, the sea. Baby’s boat the silver moon… the lyrics were written by children’s poet and lyricist Alice C.D. Riley sometime around 1898. The music was written by Jessie L. Gaynor. I found a version of this song performed in 1914 by famous Mezzo-Soprano Christine Miller which was released on Victor Records. You can listen to it on National Jukebox, I urge you to check it out (unfortunately it’s unembeddible in WordPress).

There are a couple of modern versions of this song as well. There’s one from the mid-sixties by Mrs Miller, a fascinating figure (and no relation to Christine Miller). Mrs (Elva) Miller gained some notoriety self-releasing albums of shrill, off-key renditions of popular songs. According to Wikipedia, “Miller was apparently unaware at first that her musical ability was being ridiculed, but eventually realised it and decided to go along with the joke.” This clip on YouTube features a comedic introduction by someone claiming to be her husband and calling her Mrs Festoon.

I really enjoyed the process of recording this song. Though the piano leads the arrangement, I gave the bass and drums some real power. It seems counterintuitive for a lullaby, but I liked the effect. Cork songwriter Lynda Cullen lends her vocal talents, and Paul Moore (Polo Moro) improvised some lovely fiddle parts, I’m so pleased with the final version that’s going to be on the album. The simple imagery of the lyrics lends itself to a very literal visual interpretation, so I made an animated video to accompany the song. I couldn’t tell if the vintage sleeping baby illustrations I used were girls or boys. So I changed the lyrics to make it a lullaby sung to a girl, where originally it was a boy. Because why not?

Show this to your little ones at sleepytime. Okay, goodnight.

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One response to “The Slumber Boat

  1. On YouTube I found a lovely modern performance of this song by Geoff Hermann. I didn’t include the performance in this post because it was part of a longer video. But at my request he was good enough to re-upload the song separately. I hope you enjoy it…

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