Coming from the London pub/folk scene like Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling, Bear’s Den have an interesting array of songs on their album Islands.
First up is Agape and here’s the lead singer and songwriter Davie explaining what the song is about:
“Agape is a word that has been taken and used by Christianity to mean something it didn’t originally mean and I guess I kinda did the same. Agape, to me, is about being open with people and not hiding anything from the people you care about. As a word, strange as this sounds, Agape to me sounds like a book opening and we were looking for a song that had that kind of feel to it for the first song on the album. We were also listening to ‘About Today’ by The National a lot and lyrically I wanted this song to come from a similar place.”
So they’ve taken some poetic licence by calling their song Agape when it actually means: the highest form of love, especially brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.
Next song with an RE link is Isaac which tells the tale of Isaac nearly being sacrificed by his dad Abraham from the Old Testament. Davie explains:
“There is a biblical story called The Binding of Isaac that I’ve always found really interesting. I was reading Wilfred Owen’s war poetry and stumbled across a poem about the binding of Isaac in relation to war. After I read that and really thought about the story I found the whole thing very confusing. I started wondering what Isaac’s life would have been like after his father nearly sacrificed him and how it would have felt from his perspective. Whether I could have understood it or not. The song is imagined from the perspective of a friend of Isaac’s.”
Maybe I won’t need to use the Bob Dylan song Highway 61 in the Year 8 lesson on the Binding of Isaac anymore!
The final very folky song from Bear’s Den is Magdalene which is about what happened to Irish unmarried women who got pregnant in the 20th century. Here’s Davie again:
“I was really shocked when I first heard about Magdalene laundries and the stories that have emerged about them. They were designed as institutions for “fallen” women who were sent there in order to repent for their sin in the pursuit of becoming pure again. In reality many of these institutions essentially practised slavery on these women. A lot of the reasons why women were sent there in the first place were ridiculous and were often through no fault of their own. I watched Philomena after writing this song and my feelings are similar to Steve Coogan’s character in the movie. The song allowed me to vent my anger, frustration and sadness for all those who needlessly suffered.”
Perhaps you’ve seen the film Philomena with Steve Coogan and Judie Dench in it which tells the tale of these women being forced to repent their sins and lose contact with their birth children.