Recorded in the summer of 1976 in Woodstock, NY Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay: Hudson Valley Songs Old & New was released in October of that year. Designed to be a booster for the replica sloop Clearwater, as well as to tap into the national interest in history thanks to the bicentennial, the album includes a mixture of traditional songs and new songs. This album is a recording to songs relating to the Hudson River, which played a major role in the commercial life and early history of New York State, including the Revolutionary War. Folk singer Ed Renehan (born 1956), who was a member of the board of the Clearwater, sings and plays guitar along with Pete Seeger. William Gekle, who wrote the lyrics for five of the songs, also wrote the liner notes, which detail the context of each song and provide the lyrics. This booklet designed and the commentary written by William Gekle who also wrote the lyrics for: Fifty Sail, Moon in the Pear Tree, The Phoenix and the Rose, Old Ben and Sally B., and The Burning of Kingston.
The men who sailed the sloops on the Hudson River, a hundred years or more ago, came from the farms and villages along its shores. Even long after they became experienced skippers, they spoke and thought more like farmers than sailors. They knew, or came to know, that the moon affected the tides. They knew that when the moon was in the Apogee, the tides were apt to run low and slow, and that when the moon was in the Perigee, the tides were likely to run higher and faster.
Being farmers and countrymen at heart, they translated these terms into something with which they were familiar. And so they said that when the moon was in Apogee – it was in the apple tree. And when the moon was in Perigee, it was in the pear tree.
THE MOON IN THE PEAR TREE - LYRICS
Look up, sailor, and you’ll see,
The moon hangin’ up in the old pear tree,
The old pear tree on the crest of the hill,
While the moon draws the tide and the rivers fill.
What better can a sailor hope to see
Than the moon hangin’ up in the old pear tree!
Look up, sailor, and you’ll see
The moon hangin’ up in the apple tree,
The apple tree grows in the yard out back
While the moon holds the tide and the waters slack,
So a sailor’s not so very glad to see
The moon hangin’ up in the apple tree.
Look up, sailor, and don’t be sad,
The wind and the tide are bringin’ up shad,
The shad and smelt and the sturgeon too,
Comin’ up the River like they used to do.
So look up, sailor, and pray to see
The moon hangin’ up in the old pear tree.
Look ahead, sailor, and you’ll see,
Times a-comin’ back like they used to be,
When the water’s clear and way up high
Once more you see the stars in a clear blue sky.
What better can a sailor hope to see
Than the moon hangin’ up in the old pear tree.
Thanks to HRMM volunteer Mark Heller for sharing his knowledge of Hudson River music history for this series.
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