Eleanor McEvoy, Ailie, Paula Meehan, Moyra Barry : Ceiliúradh Mhna Na h-Eireann (Celebrating the Women of Ireland 5)

A little over ambitious with my scheduling!

I forgot that not only did I have a duty to celebrate the season of St Patrick here on The Jukebox I also had to celebrate in person and recover from those celebrations!

So, a little delayed, but I trust well worth the wait, the Official Immortal Jukebox St Patrick’s Day Post!

Now read on ….

All Hail St Patrick!

All Hail the Women of Ireland

Today we conclude our tribute to the intelligence, wisdom and beauty the Women of Ireland have brought to the arts of Song, Poetry and Painting.

Songs by Eleanor McEvoy (At the Mid Hour of Night & A Woman’s Heart) & AIlie (The Rocky Road to Dublin).

A Poetry Reading by Paula Meehan  – ‘The Pattern’.

A Painting by Moyra Barry (1886-1960) : ‘Cinerria’

More years ago than I care to count seeking sanctuary from the crazed cacophony of life in London I frequented an out of the way social club whose clientele was largely comprised of Irish men and women who had emigrated to England in the late 40s/early 50s.

For an hour or two I would savour a pint or two of plain and drink in the rich accents and the rich conversation.

One of the habitues of the club, a whiskery Corkman, let’s call him Seamus, always greeted me by announcing, ‘You buy me a pint of porter and I’ll sing you one of Moore’s Melodies’.

My reply was always, ‘Done – let’s start with, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ and if the thirst is on you and the humour on me we won’t stop until we’ve sung, ‘Oft in the Stilly Night’, ‘The Harp’ and, ‘The Minstrel Boy’ before we leave.

I usually emerged spiritually refreshed if somewhat intoxicated from the porter and the romanticism of the melodies.

Thomas Moore was something of a 19th Century superstar in English and Irish society.

His, ‘Melodies’ lyrics set to established Irish tunes and melodies were much admired by Lord Byron and became songs that entered deep into the consciousness of generations.

As such, in modern Ireland, they came to be regarded, in certain chilly circles, as period pieces from the parlour best left to the tourists to enjoy.

A view I never had any time for.

So, I was delighted to learn that Eleanor McEvoy had recorded an album entirely devoted to Thomas Moore Songs, ‘The Thomas Moore Project’.

The distinguishing mark of Eleanor’s career, for me, was a wholly admirable creative restlessness which led her never to attempt to simply repeat earlier successes but rather to challenge herself to open up new artistic territory with every new record.

It seemed to me that her background; incorporating a music degree, a spell in the RTE Symphony Orchestra and a string of imaginative singer/songwriter albums made her an ideal candidate to present refreshed versions of songs from Moore’s great canon illuminating them brightly for new generations to enjoy.

And, praise be!, the, ‘Thomas Moore Project’ turned out to be an absolute triumph due to the endless care and consideration with which the songs were approached.

Original, imaginative arrangements combined with superb instrumental playing and heart-piercingly intimate vocals shook the dust off and revealed the ravishing beauty and sophisticated emotional acuity of Moore’s works.

Eleanor McEvoy’s take on, ‘At the Mid Hour of Night’ reanimates those, ‘past scenes of delight’ and is indeed rapture to hear.

‘At the mid hour of night when stars are weeping, I fly
To the lonely vale we lov’d when life shone warm in thine eye;
And I think that if spirits can steal from the region of air,
To revisit past scenes of delight; thou wilt come to me there,
And tell me our love is remember’d even in the sky.
*
Then I’ll sing the wild song, which once ’twas rapture to hear,
When our voices, both mingling, breathed like one on the ear,
And, as Echo far off thro’ the vale my sad orison rolls,
I think, oh my love! ’tis thy voice from the kingdom of souls
Faintly answering still the notes which once were so dear!’
*
*

Our Poetry Reading today comes from a former Ireland Professor of Poetry, Paula Meehan.

She has a plenitude of poetic powers at her command.

Reading through her works it seems that no aspect of the struggle to live a human life in our times has escaped her poetic eye and ear.

There is tenderness and rage, grief and joy and empathy embedded in her poetry.

She is a Poet who believes in the enduring power of Poetry to affect the human heart.

Her Poems exemplify the truth that there is a never to be sounded mysterious energy and power in Poetry.

She has said that, ‘ …Poems tell stories but there are also poems that just give you a moment of vision or transcendence .. two lines, two lines can save a life, I believe it.’

In, ‘The Pattern’ Paula Meehan captures with truth and tenderness the gravitational power of the Mother/Daughter relationship.

Today’s painting is by Moyra Barry.

Her special gift was for flower paintings.

These works have a quality of engaged observation and radiance which forces the viewer to take a breath and really Look!

Image result for moyra barry images

Now to a new star from Ireland.

Ailie (Blunnie) from County Leitrim.

Image result for ailie blunnie images

Her debut album. ‘West to the Evening Sun’ was a confident and mature work showcasing a talent that was wholly of the Now while being in no way cut off from the rich and diverse heritage of Irish music.

Highly atmospheric production added to the poetic imagination of her songs ensured the album packed a real punch.

Here she gifts us an unforgettable and invigorating version of the Rocky Road to Dublin.

Ailie plays Piano, Bass and Electric Guitar as well as all the singing here.

Daragh Dukes’ production  makes the whole thing gleam.

My, ‘Brand new pair of brogues’ did some high stepping to this one I can tell you!

I am going to conclude this tribute to Irish Women with a song by Eleanor McEvoy which has rightly become a modern standard, ‘A Woman’s Heart’.

I hope this series has made plain that there are some things only a Woman’s heart can know and that we should be grateful for that knowledge being passed on to us in Songs, Poems and Paintings.

There will never come a time when Eleanor will not be asked to sing this song and there will never come a time when it fails to move all the hearts of those who hear it.

All hail the Women of Ireland!

For Peg, Marguerite, Ann, Roisin, Hannah and Martha Brosnan, Irene, Geraldine and Nina Fitzpatrick, Maura Dee, Deirdre and Sinead Trant, Niamh & Aisling Blackburn and Patricia & Grace O’Sullivan.

 

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Sinead Lohan, Catherine Ann Cullen, Letitia Hamilton, Ceiliúradh Mhna Na h-Eireann (celebrating the Women of Ireland 4)

The Jukebox continues the celebration of the glories of Irish Women with :

Songs from Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (An Mhaigdean Mhara) & Sinead Lohan (Sailing By).

A Painting by Letitia Hamilton (1878-1964)  – ‘A Rest from Hunting’.

A Poetry Reading by Catherine Ann Cullen (Meeting at the Chester Beatty).

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, a Donegal native, is a wonderful fiddler and a spellbinding singer.
*
With the traditional music group Altan she has honoured that tradition and shown that there is a considerable global audience for the music when it is performed with heart and drive.
*
And, when Mairéad sings the song below there is something more than heart and drive; there is the shiver of an encounter with the numinous.
*
Her singing here dives to the deep core of the song and to hidden truths swaying in the subconscious.
*
This is a lament and all of our lives will have cause at some point to call out for a lament.
*
No life escapes loss and exile. All time is borrowed.
*
Is cosúil gur mheath tú nó gur thréig tú an greann

Tá an sneachta go freasach fá bhéal na mbeann’

Do chúl buí daite is do bhéilín sámh
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh ‘s í ‘ndiaidh an Éirne ‘shnámh
A mháithrín mhilis duirt Máire Bhán
Fá bhruach an chladaigh ‘s fá bhéal na trá
Maighdean mhara mo mhaithrín ard
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh ‘s í ‘ndiaidh an Éirne ‘shnámh
Tá mise tuirseach agus beidh go lá
Mo Mháire bhroinngheal ‘s mo Phádraig bán
Ar bharr na dtonna ‘s fá bhéal na trá
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh ‘s í ‘ndiaidh an Éirne ‘shnámh

 

 

You seem to be pining and forsaking the fun
The snowdrifts are heavy by the fords in the burn
Your bright golden tresses and smile gentle and mild
I give you Mary Kinney who has swum the ocean wide
“Darling mother, ” cries Máire Bhán
From the banks of the ocean and down by the tide
“Mermaid, my mother, my pride”
I give you Mary Kinney who has swum the ocean wide
I’m tired and weary and will be ’til dawn
For my darling Mary and my Pádraid bán
As I ride on the billows and drift with the tide
I give you Mary Kinney who has swum the ocean wide.

 

The Poet showcase today is Catherine Ann Cullen.

She has written a wonderful lyrical and informative essay (in essence an introduction to her PhD) which references the ‘Singing Without Ceasing’ and the ‘Murmur of Voices’ which formed the musical and cultural landscape of her childhood.

This is perhaps the source of the poise and intense musicality gold-threaded through all her writing.

I highly recommend her collections, ‘A Bone in My Throat’ and, ‘Strange Familiar’.

She has also written a book, nominally for 6-8 year olds, ‘The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat’ which is truly enchanting whatever age your birth certificate might say you are!

All Poetry is a kind of cartography – a description and revelation of the Poet’s territory and the developing outline of a personal, emotional, cultural and literary landscape.

The poem below shows Catherine Ann Cullen weaving a brilliantly coloured and textured tapestry of recollected feeling. .

 

The Painting today is by Letitia Marion Hamilton.

Her paintings of the Irish landscape and rural life have the quality of intoxicatingly hazy summer dreams that linger in the imagination.

Artwork by Letitia Marion Hamilton, A REST FROM HUNTING, Made of oil on board

 

It is very rare for an artist enjoying critical and commercial success and with the promise of greater success in store to decide to simply walk away to pursue another life away from the stage.

Yet, that is exactly what Sinead Lohan has done.

In the mid/late 1990s she released two highly prized records, ‘Who Do You Think I Am’ and, ‘No Mermaid’ which still get selected from the Jukebox’s extensive library on a frequent basis.

Two of her songs were covered by Folk Icon Joan Baez and all seemed set fair for a stellar career as she was capable of writing distinctive hypnotic songs and of performing them with beguiling charm.

No new material has emerged since 1998 so we will have to treasure what we have.

Thanks for the songs and the singing Sinead.

If you enjoyed this post and know anyone who is Irish or of Irish heritage (and you do!) share it with them and ask them to share it further.

Next Post tomorrow Sunday 17th March, St Patrick’s Day – don’t miss it!

Eleanor Shanley, Inni-K, Rita Ann Higgins, Estella Solomons : Ceiliúradh Mhna Na h-Eireann (Celebrating the Women of Ireland 3)

Our celebrations today continue with:

Songs by Eleanor Shanley ( Come Back Paddy Reilly) & Inni-K (Teardrop).

A Painting by Estella Solomons (1882-1968) ‘Moppie Morrow’.

A Poetry Reading by Rita Ann Higgins : ‘The Hedger’.

The Irish temperament is formed out of the knowledge that, in the end, no one survives this world without a broken heart.

Irish singers, painters and poets have for millennia embodied this truth in their works.

Tragedy abides but the true artist, not ignoring the darkness, finds within themselves sparks of joy to light up the glowering sky.

In the voice of Leitrrim’s Eleanor Shanley we find a tenderness and sustaining sweetness that glows in the heart.

The song she sings here Percy French’s, ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly’, has a special poignancy for me as it was my late mother’s favourite song and its haunting air accompanied her coffin as we carried her out of the church at her funeral.

It was also sung as a lullaby to my wife by her late father.

We think of them both with love and gratitude and with smiles and tears whenever we hear this song.

The garden of Eden has vanished they say
But I know the lie of it still
Just turn to the left at the bridge of Finea
And stop when half way to Coote Hill

Tis there I will find it I know sure enough
When fortune has come to my call
Oh, the grass it is green
Around Ballyjamesduff
And the blue sky is over it all

And tones that are tender and tones that are gruff
Are whispering over the sea
“Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home Paddy Reilly to me”

My mother once told me that when I was born
The day that I first saw the light
I looked down the street on that very first morn
And gave a great crow of delight

Now most newborn babies appear in a huff
And start with a sorrowful squall
But I knew I was born in Ballyjamesduff
And that’s why I smile on them all

The baby’s a man now, he’s toil-worn and tough
Still whispers come over the sea

“Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home Paddy Reilly to me”

The featured Painter today is Estella Solomons who was a Dubliner.

She was a member of a distinguished Jewish family with both her father and brother being mentioned by he great chronicler of Dublin life – James Joyce.

Her mother was a Poet and her Sister an opera singer.

She was deeply involved in the Irish Republican movement as a member of Cumann na mBan and in the cultural life of post revolutionary Ireland through her own work and that of her Poet and publisher husband, Seamus O’Sullivan.

The humble steady gaze of her paintings and prints have a meditative stillness which can be intensely moving.

Image result for estella solomons images

Rita Ann Higgins is a Poet whose work has fierce feminine energy and lacerating emotional force.

As a Galway Woman from a large working class family she has broadened the canvas of Irish Poetry through an alert, inventive voice charged with righteous anger and absurdity.

This is a Poetry responding to and teeming with life in all its maddening plenitude.

Every now and again you hear a record that startles you by the freshness of its imagination.

‘The King has Two Horse’s Ears’ by Inni-K (Eithne Ni Chathain) from 2015 was one such record for me.

Irish Folk? Certainly.

But experimentally infused with Pop, Jazz and World Music accents.

All carried off with tremendous confidence and élan.

A record that repaid repeated listening.

Her new album, ‘The Hare & The Line’ has much to live up to!

In memory of Sheila Doyle and Joan Hickey.

Notes :

Eleanor Shanley recorded three highly recommended albums with the legendary group De Danann : ‘Jacket of Batteries’, Half Set in Harlem’ & ‘Wonderwaltz’.

I particularly prize her Solo albums – ‘Desert Heart’, and ‘A Place of My Own’ .

The two records she made with Ronnie Drew – ‘A Couple More Years’ & ‘El Amor De Mi Vida’ have a wonderful warmth.

If you enjoyed this post and know anyone who is Irish or of Irish heritage (and you do!) share it with them and ask them to share it further.

Next Post on Saturday 16th March – don’t miss it!

Maura O’Connell, SÍOMHA, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Lilian Davidson : Ceiliúradh Mhna Na h-Eireann (Celebrating the Women of Ireland 2)

We continue our celebrations today with :

Songs by Maura O’ Connell (Helpless Heart) &  SÍOMHA (July Red Sky)

A Poetry reading by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (Studying The Language).

A Painting by Lilian Lucy Davidson (1879-1954) : Wicklow Goats.

A Paul Brady song sung by Maura O’Connell – it really doesn’t get any better.

Maura inhabits a song, finds its essence and then using all the considerable craft at her command sets it free to bloom in our imaginations.

There is a repertoire of traditional songs and modern folk classics that generations of Irish Women singers have returned to over and over again seeking to release and reveal the wisdom and mystery these masterworks contain.

Time after time I find it is to the Maura O’Connell versions I turn to first and last because these songs shine brightest and settle deeper in the heart when she sings them.

There is reverie and rapture here.

Reverie and rapture.

And, the video clip is enormously nostalgic!

 

 

Our painting today comes from Lilian Davidson who was born in Bray, County Wicklow.

Her work shows she was aware of movements in European Art and had secure painterly skills.

I am struck by the vivacity of the light and colour in her paintings which seem to gleam before the viewer.

In addition to her paintings she also wrote plays, poems and short stories under the name Ulick Burke.

The National Gallery of Ireland keeps her portrait of W B Yeats.

Image result for lilian lucy davidson images

Our Poetry reading today comes from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.

For almost half a century now she has been adding magical poems to the cairn of Irish poetry and the global word hoard.

In her poems language is thrillingly allusive and alive.

It is in the testing of thought and belief through charged engagement with language that Poetry is made.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin has said that her Poems emerge out of her desire, need, to question – Is this true? Do I really believe this? Do I really feel this?

If the Poem lives the question is answered.

Often in ways that could not have been anticipated.

True Poetry is always surprising both to the Poet and the reader.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin has written many true poems.

 

 

SÍOMHA (Brock) is, in her music, wholly Irish and wholly international.

She draws deeply on the traditions of traditional music, folk music, chanson and gypsy jazz to create an alluring synthesis.

On stage she has an energy, expertise and magnetism in her singing and guitar playing which wins and holds audiences.

We are all going to hear a lot more from SÍOMHA!

 

This post in memory of Mary O’Sullivan and Nora McElligott.

If you enjoyed this post and know anyone who is Irish or of Irish heritage (and you do!) share it with them and ask them to share it further.

Next Post on Thursday 14th March – don’t miss it!

Dolores Keane : Never Be The Sun – Voice and Vision from Ireland

‘.. Every night their mouths filled with Atlantic storms and clouded-over stars and exhausted birds. And only when the danger was plain in the music could you know their true measure of rejoicing in finding a voice where they found a vision.’ (Eavan Boland)

‘As long as Dolores Keane is walking around this earth, I won’t call myself a singer. I think she’s the voice of Ireland.’ (Nanci Griffith)

To my mind the besetting malady of modern life is atomisation.

Meagre lives lived in migraine-fraught locked and barred isolation.

When I seek a musical antidote to my despair about this situation I turn most often to a singer, Dolores Keane, whose every breath embodies not atomisation but connection. Embed from Getty Images

Dolores had the immense good fortune to be born, in 1953, into a family who were keepers of the flame of Irish Traditional Music in a time when the deep treasures of the tradition were at risk of being swept aside by the glittering lures of commercial modernity.

From the age of four Dolores lived in Caherlistrane, County Galway, with her aunts Rita and Sarah.

The Keane sisters played accordion and fiddle but their greatest accomplishment was their heart stopping prowess as duet singers of ballads in the Sean-nos or old style.

Literally growing up at their feet Dolores imbibed their mastery through every pore of her being. In the kitchen and in the parlour songs sounding the depths of human experience were sung with full hearted candour and artistic delicacy.

Dolores, as a child, was exposed, initiated, into the, ‘Big Music’. Later, while still a young woman she was able to give life to the Big Music herself.

Knowing, in her heart and bones, where she was from set her free to voyage out into the wider world armed with a sense of inner poise.

The golden lesson Dolores learned from Rita and Sarah was that a singer’s duty was to devote all the emotional and technical resources in their gift in service of the song.

To bring a song to quickening life required discipline, engagement and above all attention. Attention to lyric, story and melody.

Attention to breath and pace.

Artistic, emotional and spiritual attention. Dolores listened with rapt attention to the artistry of her aunts. The proof of how diligently she attended can be heard through every moment of her sublime performance of, ‘The May Morning Dew’ from her debut solo record, ‘There Was A Maid’.

There can be no such thing as the definitive performance of such a song.

Traditional singers taking on the challenge are in pursuit of a wild hare which will always eludes capture.

There is always, always, more singing in the song.

Yet we can say that it is hard to imagine that anyone has ever engaged in a more thrilling pursuit than Dolores.

She inhabits, ‘The May Morning Dew’ so intensely that we feel connected to a complete world.

Connected to a living hospitable community.

Connected to the trees and the sky, the flowers in the valley, the calling of the small birds and the farmyard dogs.

Connected to the sound of the kettle boiling on the hob as neighbours converse on matters of great local import under the sky blue and clear.

Feeling the tender warmth of such a world we must feel too the chill and the pang of knowing that all things must pass, all things must pass.

So the beloved house will become but a stone on a stone and the lovingly tended garden a a riot of weeds.

And, like the red rose our parents, our friends and relations and, we cannot deny it ourselves, will perish in the May morning dew.

Dolores’ singing arrests time and allows us, each in our own way, according to our history, to contemplate and perhaps come to terms with the timeless truths of the song.

Next a contemporary song, ‘Never Be The Sun’ written by Donagh Long.

Every listener to this song will recall the one, who for them, will always be the light. Always be the light.

I have never listened to this performance without salt tears cascading down my face.

I really have no words to express how magnificent Dolores singing is here except to say that as she sings I leave the dusty Earth behind as she sets the very sun, the deepest ocean, the moon and the stars in sway.

Listening to Dolores singing epic ballads from the treasury of folk music history has convinced me that very few modern songwriters have works to compete with that great writer, ‘Trad’.

Still, we can all allow that Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson have added mighty stones to the cairn of the song hoard.

And, it is certain that the late Guy Clark, supreme craftsman of the narrative ballad, has too.

The pain and the promise of emigration seems to be always present in Ireland’s history and culture. As such it has proved a rich seam for songwriters to mine.

With, ‘Emigrant Eyes’ Guy Clark, with typical skill, yokes the sweep of history with the hope and the blood and the tears of generations to make a song crying out for a singer who can hold all these in balance.

A singer who can span oceans and centuries and set the heart and imagination ablaze.

In Dolores Keane he finds that singer.

I will leave you with a privileged glimpse into the roots of Dolores Keane’s art.

Together with her beloved Aunts Rita and Sarah she sings, ‘Once I Loved’ .

As they sing they evoke for me all time and no time.

History and pre-history.

Fairy forts and ancient barrows.

Passage graves, beehive chapels and high crosses.

Healing wells and hedge school philosophy.

Blind Harpers and hermit Saints.

The flight of the Heron and the Curlew.

The rush of the wind over the reeds.

The mysterious music of the constant moon and the day-blind stars.

Dolores Keane, while gifting us untold riches, has come through well documented struggles with depression, alcohol and cancer.

She is a singer of the stature of Bessie Smith, Umm Kulthum and Aretha Franklin.

She has sung herself, and us as listeners, back to where the singing comes from.

I wish her health and peace and songs to sing whenever she chooses to sing them.

 

Notes: Dolores Keane has an extensive catalogue.

Every record she has ever made is worth of your attention.

My personal favourites are:

‘There Was A Maid’

‘Solid Ground’ ‘

Broken Hearted I’ll Wander’ & ‘Farewell To Eirinn’ (With John Faulkner)

‘De Dannan’ & ‘Ballroom’ (from her time with the group De Dannan)

 

Rita & Sarah Keane’s mesmeric singing can be found on, ‘Once I Loved’ & ‘At The Setting Of  the Sun’.

There is a heart wrenching documentary, ‘A Storm in the Heart’ on Dolores’ life by Liam McGrath.

The best book on Traditional Music I have ever read is Ciaran Carson’s, ‘Last Night’s Fun’.

A fascinating insight into Caherlistrane where Dolores grew up can be found in the history/memoir, ‘Caherlistrane’ by Mary J Murphy – available online from Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway.

Maura O’Connell – Silence and Stories: Maggie, Down By The Salley Gardens

Posts for Paddy’s Day 1

Christmas. New Years Day. Spring Solstice. Easter. Midsummer Day. First leaf fall. First fall of snow.

Way markers of the passing year. Each new feast chiming with all those that have gone before in the quickening parade of our lives.

And, if you are Irish, or of Irish stock, St Patrick’s Day.

On my twitter account (@thomhickey55 – sign up now if you’re not signed up already!) I describe myself, among other things, as, ‘Almost Irish’. That’s because though I was not born in Ireland both my parents and all my forebears were.

So, I unhesitatingly believe that whatever literary or rhetorical gifts I possess are drawn from a deep Celtic well. My mother told me a million stories and taught me how to tell them too. My Dad taught me how to listen to the important things that are always said in silences.

Stories and silences. Silences and stories. Of such things are true songs and poems made. By singers and poets who have listened, learned and dwelt in the silences surrounding the stories they offer up to us.

So, for the week that’s in it, I’m going to feature on The Immortal Jukebox some of the Irish singers, musicians and poets who have told the stories, sung the songs and made the poems that have touched my heart and lifted the spirits as the parade of my own life has passed by.

There are many stars in the firmament of Irish roots/traditional music and the nation has been particularly blessed by a generation of luminously talented women singers including Dolores Keane and Mary Black.

But, for me, the singer who has always shone the brightest and heartrendingly illuminated the miraculous combination of power, poetry, joy and tragedy contained within a really great song is Maura O’ Connell.

Some mysterious quality in her voice, which frequently brings me to tears, seems to bring out the truth that, ‘behind every beautiful thing there’s some kind of pain’. I can’t think of another singer who marries the story and the silence with such delicate grace as Maura O’Connell.

Her ability to find and reveal the beating heart of a song after searching within herself for the truest way to offer up its gifts, without histrionics or affectation, is achingly exemplified in, ‘When You and I Were Young Maggie’.

There is no grandstanding when Maura O’Connell sings. She once said that, ‘My intention was to just sing the song clearly. I just wanted to be there to serve the song, rather than to show off a particular vocal style’.

She seems to me to have perfected the art of sifting a song for the precious metal at its core. Through instinct and craft she finds the stillness and silence within a song. Then, with respect, discretion and measured emotion using all the resources of her vocal talent and personal presence; the very essence of her being – she sings. And we encounter a true artist.

Maura O’Connell knows that a true song though anchored in the time and culture of its creation will, if performed with a true heart and true art, live on into the future and speak to peoples never imagined by its author.

In W. B Yeats, ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ Maura found such a song. Though thousands of singers have sung this song it’s Maura O’Connell who sounds the deepest depths of Yeats’ incantatory cadences. Surrender, with gratitude, to the spell she and Yeats have cast.

Now a poem from a true inheritor of Yeats’ bardic role in the life of Ireland and the life of poetry, Seamus Heaney. The sudden manner of his death was a profound shock for Ireland and the world wide poetic community. Yet, while acknowledging our grief we draw sustenance from the poems which will surely continue to speak of the human condition down the ages as do the poems of Homer, Virgil and Yeats.

In his wonderfully vigorous poetry we are brought into imaginative contact with earthed lightning. And, sometimes we are guided to a realm that is usually just out of our vision, though always there.

Flaggy Shore 2

A place where known and strange things pass right in front of us and the world is made anew. Seamus Heaney made poetry which caught our hearts off guard and blew them open.

Postscript

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

Dedicated to Peg Brosnan, Mikey Brosnan (RIP) and Kevin and Nora McElligott (RIP).

Thanks to Catherine Dunne for the haunting image