Dolores Keane, The Evertides & Eavan Boland : Celebrating the Women of Ireland 1)

March now.

The sun shines hot and the wind blows cold.

Summer in the light and winter in the shade.

March is the month when the Immortal Jukebox, in the run up to the St Patrick’s day festivities, celebrates the enormous contribution Irish artists have made to the World’s treasury of Poetry, Song and Paintings.

This year’s posts are in celebration of the works, so often under regarded, of the Women of Ireland.

Each post will feature a song by an established singer and another by a singer or group who may not yet have gained fame outside of Ireland.

I will also be showcasing a Poetry reading and a Painting.

I hope I will be making introductions that will lead you to further exploration.

Today :

Songs by Dolores Keane and The Evertides.

Eavan Boland reading :

‘The Lost Art of Letter Writing’, ‘Quarantine’ and ‘The Emigrant Irish’.

A Painting by Mildred Anne Butler (1858-1941) : A Murder of Crows

 

My admiration for Dolores Keane knows no bounds.

In her voice you can hear Ireland speaking with power and authority.

In her voice you can hear Ireland speaking of pain, exile and loss.

In her voice you can hear Ireland speaking with faith and joy.

Listen to Dolores Keane.

Listen to Ireland.

 

 

Our painting today comes from Mildred Anne Butler who looked deep into the domestic and the animal life all around her Kilkenny home.

She painted en plein air and there is a startling freshness shining from her works.

She is well represented in galleries and latterly was commemorated on an Irish postage stamp.

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Eavan Boland is a Poet of patience and fortitude.

Throughout her career she has attended to the whispers and looked unflinchingly into the dark shadows of Irish life and culture – particularly as experienced by Irish Women.

There is a complexity and precision of language and weight of thought in her work which is the mark of a major Poet.

 

The Evertides are a trio of wonderfully talented Irish Women – Ruth McGill, Alma Kelliher and Ruth Smith.

Their instrumental and vocal blend is that of Sisters in Song.

Their three part harmonies surround, enchant and elevate our senses.

The ability to enchant and to open doors into the numinous makes The Evertides a very special group.

 

In memory of Julia O’Sullivan and Hannah Hartnett.

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.

Notes :

In addition to her role in The Evertides Ruth Smith presents one of my, ‘Must Listen’ radio programmes, ‘Simply Folk’ which airs on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sundays at 10pm.

Seek it out!

The next Post in the series will be published on Tuesday 12 March – Don’t miss it!

Christmas Alphabet : M for Maura O’ Connell & Jimmy MacCarthy

Christmas is a time to allow Mystery its proper place at the centre of our being.

There is no master chart for our lives.

That is life’s beauty and its terror.

The older I get the more I believe that the essence of intellectual and spiritual maturity is to understand that each of us is a Mystery surrounded by the Mystery.

We live catching glimpses, if we would but look, of harmonies within Mysteries.

Mystery is a Gift awaiting acceptance.

In deep valleys and high peaks and on grey suburban streets the door to Mystery waits to be opened.

Reports of the Mystery often come from the daydreamers; the madcaps, the geeks with the alchemist’s stone.

In meditation and madness and holy merriment they can hear the grass grow and the heartbeat of the squirrel.

They bring back reports from the other side of silence.

One such voyager is Jimmy MacCarthy, an Irish songwriter steeped in The Mystery.

His song, ‘Bright Blue Rose’ is an invitation to and an invocation of The Mystery.

And it is a holy thing and it is a precious time.

Forget-me-nots among the snow.

It’s always been and so it goes.

For all of you who would discover.

For all of you who seek to understand.

Strike out on your own path.

You’ll find a very special hand.

One bright blue Rose.

Two thousand years and still it grows.

Life and Death Eternally.

One bright Blue Rose.

One bright Blue Rose.

 

Now, if you want to find a singer who can invoke The Mystery, who can make a song a Holy and precious thing, you need look no further than Maura O’ Connell.

She has a voice that can with spare elegance illuminate the Forget-me-nots among the snow.

She has a voice that can with proper discretion usher us towards the bloom of one bright Blue Rose.

One bright Blue Rose.

Two thousand years and still it grows.

One bright Blue Rose.

The Series continues on 19 and 21 December – Don’t Miss One!

Ry Cooder & The Chieftains : The Coast of Malabar (A Sailor’s Reverie)

Aye, I’m here every morning.

An Seancheann. The Old Head of Kinsale.

I start out early with the Hound.

I watch the timeless waves.

Watch them come dazzling round into the rocks.

Looking down I hear the tides flowing to and fro.

To and fro.

The Sea’s a swell that’s been there since the very beginning.

And, it will keep on heaving until time stops and God clangs The Bell.

Nowadays I don’t stir my stumps beyond this Headland.

Oh, but there was a time when I had an awful yen for things and places remote.

Nothing for it but to sail for forbidden Seas and sport on barbarous Coasts.

The wild call of the running tide.

Flung spray. Blown spume. Gulls crying and the white clouds flying.

White sails straining in a wind like a whetted knife.

I followed The Leviathan.

Sailed the length and breadth of The Whale Road.

A grand gypsy life.

Hermanus.  Plettenberg.  Luderitz.

Walvis Bay.  Cape Lopez.  Baia dos Tigres.

Ponta do Ouro.  Tristan Da Cunha.  Bahia.

Tierra del Fuego.  Deseado.  Wilson’s Promontory.  Macquarie Island.

The Cocos Islands. Diego Garcia. Kiribati.

The Coast of Malabar.

The Coast of Malabar.

That’s where I met her.

Far away across the Ocean anchored under an Indian Star.

Sometimes I take a walk along the strand.

And, I scribe her name right there on the sand.

Ah Sure I know the rolling Sea will wash it away but as long as my legs hold out I’ll write it there again and again and again.

Some things you never forget though the decades pass and you grow old.

You might look at me and see a rheumy eyed Rummy.

Aye and you’d be right.

But, Tornado blasted as I am there’ll always be a part of me deep down, despite all the woes, that’s bathed in joy.

Until I reach the final harbour I’ll always have the memory of my dusky dark eyed maiden.

Shy and sweet with the wild waves at her feet.

Oh my thoughts keep ever turning to that far off distant shore.

To that dark eyed girl who loved me.

Loved me.

I hear her calling across the ocean wild and far.

From The Coast of Malabar.

In my heart I live forever on The Coast of Malabar.

On The Coast of Malabar.

The Coast of Malabar.

 

 

Ry Cooder and The Chieftains are great musical collaborators.

And, here their partnership casts an oceanic musical spell.

Together Ry, Paddy Moloney, Sean Keane, Kevin Conneff, Matt Molloy and Derek Bell set our spirits and imaginations surging far beyond our hearts harbour.

The deep sway of the recording is very rarely achieved since only imusicians of great technical resource, emotional intelligence and artistic humility can play with such transfixing simplicity.

Take a voyage with them to The Coast of Malabar.

 

This Post for my Brother Ger on his Birthday.

Three score years we have shared and supported each others dreams.

Sail on Brother. Sail on.

Notes :

There are fine versions of the song by Liam Clancy & Tommy Makem and Sean Tyrell.

Van Morrison : And It Stoned Me (Everyday Mysticsm)

Van Morrison is a Dweller on The Threshold.

An Everyday Mystic.

So am I  – and so are you.

Except he holds theses titles in Capital Letters while ours are lower case.

That’s because through his enormous gifts as a songwriter, singer and performer he has been able to make present experiences we have all had but are generally unable to express.

Experiences we so often let pass by.

Pass by.

Experiences he makes present in all their Revelation.

In all their Revelation.

And, it’s everpresent everywhere.

Everpresent everywhere.

The alchemy of his genius is through incandescent song to evoke, make present, states of being that are, at least in this world, necessarily fleeting.

A song like, ‘And it Stoned Me’ is a miraculous transmission from beyond the threshold (one of several such works of wonder on the Moondance Album).

An everyday event – a Boyhood fishing trip in the country blessed by Rain and Sun – gives us glimpses of Eternity.

Glimpses that once seen can neve be unseen.

Oh the Water. Oh the Water. Oh the Water.

Rest and Grace.

Coming to you like a mountain stream.

Oh, Oh, and it will Stone you right to your very Soul.

And, out of the corner of  your inner eye you can see the steps of time dissolve.

And, see yourself and the world in a new light.

Hey! There You Are!

There You Are.

Just like going Home.

Going Home.

 

 

Van’s vocal here flows with the authority of a great River making its peaceful way to The Sea.

On Guitar John Platania, as always, plays with elegant passion.

Jeff Labes, on Piano, makes us feel the flow and dappled delight of that River.

The Horns of Jack Schröer and Colin Tilton bring us the warmth of the Sun.

John Klingberg and Gary Mallaber On Bass and Drums provide the motive current sweeping us along.

Together with their leader they bring us balm and blessing as they stone us to our very Souls.

Dive right In.

Right In.

Dont let it pass you by.

Into The Mystic : Michael Hartnett, The Gloaming – A Necklace of Wrens

 

Loyal readers of The Jukebox will know that as St Patrick’s Day approaches each March, honouring my heritage, I tip my hat to Irish Writers, Painters and Poets especially dear to my heart.

I had thought to include the Poet Michael Hartnett and Master Musicians The Gloaming in my St Patrick’s Parade 2019.

But, last week, I found the line, ‘Their talons left on me scars not healed yet.’ echoing through my night and daytime dreaming mind.

Scanning the Poetry section of my bookshelves I lighted upon Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems and soon found his revelatory, ‘A Necklace of Wrens’ in both the English and Irish Language versions.

As the poem tells us Hartnett accepted a Mystic invitation into the Poet’s life

Initiation would bring both wound and blessing and gathering understanding that the craft demanded lifelong fidelity.

A necklet of feathers is yet a collar.

It is the Poet who, through the craft, makes us see the wet meadow, the otherness of the realighting birds and the sharpness of their talons.

Michael Hartnett had the precious gift of revealing to us the sharp wonder of the world all around us.

Now, let’s hear him read the Poem and tell the story of its genesis including his poignant relationship with his Grandmother.

 

 

A Necklace of Wrens
For Mícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file

When I was very young
I found a nest
Its chirping young
were fully fledged.

They rose and re-alighted
around my neck,
Made in the wet meadow
a feather necklet.

To them I was not human
but a stone or tree:
I felt a sharp wonder
they could not feel.

That was when the craft came
which demands respect.
Their talons left on me
scars not healed yet.

Michael was a Poet in both Irish and English.

It seems to me that this Poem, deeply etches itself into the imagination with the simplicity and unsounded depths of an ancient fable.

This surely takes it’s inspiration from the Irish Bardic tradition.

There is a haunting yet spare music in his reading of the Poem in it’s native Irish form that will not leave you.

An Muince Dreoilíní
Do Mhícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file

I mo bhuachaill óg, fadó fadó,
d’aimsíos nead.
Bhí na gearrcaigh clúmhtha, fásta,
is iad ag scread.

D’éirigh siad – is thuirling
arís ar m’ucht
Ormsa bhí muince clúimh
sa mhóinéar fliuch.

Níor dhuine mé ach géag crainn
nó carn cloch
ach bhí iontas crua nár bhraith said
ag bualadh faoi m’ucht.

B’in an lá ar thuirling ceird
a éilíonn ómós:
is d’fhág a n-ingne forba orm
nár leigheasadh fós.

The Irish musicians of The Gloaming also specialise in bringing us home to our sense of wonder.

Martin Hayes from County Clare plays the Fiddle, Dennis Cahill Chicago born with Kerry lineage plays the Guitar, Iarla O Lionáird from West Cork provides the Vocals, Dubliner Caoimhin O Raghallaigh plays the Fiddle and Thomas Bartlett from Vermont plays the Piano.

Together they open up the music of the heart’s core.

Sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night when dawn is not yet even promised I like to climb to the top of the ridge and shed the distractions of the electronic buzz and the timetable of planned activities.

At first it is hard to simply stand still and still the whirling mind.

Persevere and breathe.

Persevere and breathe.

At first the senses search for what’s not there – the bright light, the sounds of cars and conversation before adjusting to what is there – the hoot owl singing, the glimmer of the constellations, the beating of your own heart.

And then, only then, a vacancy waiting to be filled, can you hear the music of the night.

That’s what the music of The Gloaming sounds like to me.

 

Notes :

Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems published by Gallery is one of the greatest achievements of modern Irish literature.

The Gloaming have released three CDs, ‘The Gloaming’, ‘Gloaming 2’ and ‘Live at the NCH (National Concert Hall’. I can not recommend them highly enough.

Van Morrison : Coney Island (Epiphany)

My son and I – The Two Toms – are about to set out on a trip, actually a Pilgrimage to the Far North.

To God haunted Northumbria.

The land of Celtic saints and the Roman Wall.

The land of St Cuthbert, St Aidan, St Oswald and Bede.

Oak Groves, high moorland, the Cheviot Hills.

Bluebells, Campion, Hawthorn.

The rushing sibilant waters of  the Tyne, the Tweed, the Coquet and the Rede.

Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands – thin places where eternity whispers in the wind.

Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Turnstones and Oystercatchers.

It’s a Pilgrimage I’ve made many times now drawn by History and deep friendship.

I’m by nature a Pilgrim.

I need to be physically present in those places, landscapes, which have challenged and nurtured the Souls of Pigrims for thousands of years.

There are two other Pilgrimages I’m planning.

First, The Way of St James.

The Camino, from my front gate to Santiago de Compostella.

More than a thousand miles.

That one requires a lot of research before I’m ready to go (though you’re never really ready – one morning you just have to tie your cloak, take up your Staff and go!).

The other Pilgrimage will be far easier to organise.

Across the Irish Sea to Ulster.

With Van Morrison, a Pigrim Soul if there ever was one, sign posting the Way.

The Way to Coney Island.

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Coming down from Downpatrick to visit St Patrick’s grave and maybe a few scoops in Mullan’s Bar.

On and On and On.

Stopping off at St John’s Point.

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Birdwatching – scanning the Sky for Arctic Terns, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Curlew and Purple Sandpipers.

Stop off at Strangford Lough early in the morning.

On and On and On.

Drive through Shrigley enjoying the craic and taking pictures as we go.

On to Killyleagh.

At Lecale District we’ll take a breath and read the papers.

On and On and On as Pilgrims must.

Over the hill to Ardglass.

Glorying in the sunshine carrying the light that has shone for thousands and thousands of years on Pilgrims – lighting their Way.

In case we get famished before dinner let’s stop of here for a couple of jars of mussels and some potted herrings.

On and On and On we go heading on over the hill, lit up inside, heading towards Coney Island.

Living, Being, in the moment, sunlight streaming, all the time journeying towards Coney Island.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?

Wouldn’t it!

Take it away Van.

 

A moment of eternity captured.

That’s what Van can do.

Epiphanies.

Time present.

Time past.

Time Future.

Captured in 120 seconds or so.

Cymbals, Strings, G and F.

Harp and Guitar.

Summoning up the previous time – the 1950s – before the career, before the fame.

A day trip with his Mother.

Images that enter the Soul – if you will allow them to.

Intimations of Immortality.

With Mussels and Potted Herrings.

Breathing life into reverie and reminiscence – Van Morrison.

Here’s Van demonstrating that there is a sense of humour animating the Visions.

 

 

And here’s another Son of Ulster, Liam Neeson, with a sonorous version.

On and On and On.

Things won’t ever be great all the time – this side of Paradise.

Be grateful for the Epiphanies.

Have Faith Pilgrim.

Have Faith.

On and On and On.

On and On and On.

 

Notes :

The Musicians on Van’s original recording are :

  • Van Morrison – vocal, guitar
  • Clive Culbertson – Bass Guitar
  • Neil Drinkwater – Synthesiser
  • Roy Jones, Dave Early – drums, percussion
  • Arty McGlynn – guitar

There is an excellent short Film set on Coney Island. ‘The Shore’ directed by Terry George and starring the brilliant Ciaran Hinds.

This Post for my boon companions of The Way – Tom & Ian.

John Spillane : The Dance of The Cherry Trees (Homage to Spring)

To everything there is a Season.

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring.

A time to be born.

A time of juice and Joy.

A strain of Earth’s sweet being in the beginning.

A time to laugh and dance.

A time to embrace and love.

A time to rejoice and do good.

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To everything there is a Season.

Spring is a conflagration of green fires – a blaze of growing.

The bull-frogs are sounding!

The Swifts are back!

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All things flash and flare!

Scimitar upsweep.

Fireflies ascending.

Time is the fire in which we burn.

Time to throw open the doors and windows.

Go wherever your boot heels are ready to wander.

The Earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.

Hearts run over.

Run over with dateless expectancy, tongueless promise, indefinable desire.

Something gathers.

Gathers in the throat.

In the chest.

Something blinds the eyes.

The air is so clear and transparent you feel you might actually see the whole universe from end to end.

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There is a spirit of Youth in everything.

Everything.

May Violets.

Rough winds shaking the darling buds.

Buttercups unfold – glittering stars.

Something is being said.

Being said.

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

TIme to sing on wanton wing.

Believe in perpetual Spring.

Have faith there is a leaf to cure every hurt.

One good thing about this world – there are always sure to be more Springs.

More Springs.

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Cherry Blossom in the air.

Cherry Blossom on the street.

Cherry Blossom in your hair.

And a Blossom at your feet.

Let me tell you about the Cherry Trees.

They put on the most outrageous clothes.

They sing and dance around.

They seem to be saying :

You know we’ve travelled all around the Sun.

You know it’s taken us one whole year.

Well done everyone, Well Done.

Well Done!

Well Done!

 

 

This Post for Lilian Smith.

Lilian hosts the 6am to 8am Irish RTE Radio Show, ‘Weekend on One’ on Saturdays and Sundays.

Whether you listen in real time or later on line you will be rewarded by music chosen with intelligence and insight which will offer surprises, introductions and cherished memories.

Notes :

John Spillane who wrote, ‘Dance of The Cherry Trees’ is a songwriter who has mastered the very difficult art of saying truthful, complex things, with simplicity.

His songs both sensitive and steel strong arrest and hold the imagination.

John sings his songs with open hearted candour and fearlessness.

There is beauty, awe, humour and wonder in John’s songs.

He is Irish, a Cork native, who has the song of the River Lee in his soul.

Do yourself a favour and seek out his work.

Recommended Records :

The obvious starting point to explore John’s wonderful song catalogue is the compilation, ‘So Far So Good, Like’.

As for individual albums my favourites are:

‘All the Ways you Wander’ – a luminous acoustic collection.

‘Life In An Irish Town’ – Illuminating insights into life beyond the urban bubble.

‘My Dark Rosalien and the Island Of Dreams’ – heartfelt meditations on Ireland.

The more adventurous will also relish John’s Irish language records including the wonderful, ‘Irish Songs We Learned At School’

Before launching his solo career John was in a very fine group, ‘Nomos’. Their second CD, ‘Set You Free’ Features several excellent Spillane songs as well as superb instrumental playing.

You can learn more about John’s history and catalogue at

http://www.johnspillane.com

Thanks to :

Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendy Cope, L M Montgomery, Elizabeth Bishop, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ecclesiastes, D H Lawrence, Delmore Schwartz, Anne Stevenson, Thomas Wolfe, Anton Chekhov, Billy Collins, Philip Larkin, Amy Gerstler, Robert Burns, John Clare and Wild Bill Shakespeare for the open hearts, the poetry and the inspiration.