Music

As far as music was concerned, Bellairs had no particular talent but could more or less carry a tune and would sometimes, we’re told, sing stanzas of his favorite song while strumming an imaginary guitar. Bellairs had a strong interest in folk music, as well as classical, with Richard Dyer-Bennett being one of his favorite singers. Dyer-Bennett visited the Notre Dame campus February 21, 1958, and we’re told Bellairs later met Dyer-Bennett, escorting him around either Notre Dame or another one of the campuses where Bellairs later taught. Myers remembers The Vicar of Bray being one of Bellairs’ favorite songs, one about a churchman who survives the several waves of English religious wars by shifting his allegiances in order to keep his job.

Some of Bellairs’ other favorite music included popular classical pieces such as La donna e mobile from Rigoletto and the Ride to Hell from Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust, performed by the Boston Symphony and conducted by Charles Munch. Myers says that he and Bellairs, along with others in their social group, wore the grooves off that record during their undergraduate days. And although one could hardly classify him as a folk artist, Tom Lehrer was another Bellairs favorite, whose first album, featuring Fight Fiercely, Harvard, was played endlessly.

Other favorites included an early comedy LP by Peter Sellers, featuring the fractured tune Wouldn't it be Loverly sung by Sellers in his deadpan Indian accent; Beyond the Fringe, with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Jonathan Miller; and the Michael Flanders and Donald Swann review At the Drop of a Hat, particularly the song "Have Some Madiera, m'Dear!"

Have some madeira, m'dear, I've got a small cask of it here
And once it's been opened, you know it won't keep
Do finish it up, it will help you to sleep
Have some madeira, m'dear, it's really an excellent year
Now if it were gin, you'd be wrong to say yes
The evil gin does would be hard to assess
Besides it's inclined to affect me prowess
Have some madeira, m'dear

Bellairs first heard another favorite song several years later on Chicago's great cultural station, WFMT. Myers says the song, a mock-prohibition ballad called It's Rum, By Gum! and sung by a deep-voiced contralto named Barbara Dane, was one John "scoured the record stores of Chicago" for until he finally obtained a copy:

We never eat fruitcake because it has rum
And one little bite turns a man to a bum,
We never eat cookies, because they have yeast,
And one little bite turns a man to a beast.

Away, away with rum by gum,
With rum by gum, with rum by gum!
Away, away with rum by gum!
The song of the Temperance Union!