Songs, stories, and tunes from the Celtic world have a way of holding both joy and melancholy together in the same piece of music. It might be through a contract of words and melody, through a turn of phrase that may be taken more ways than one, or through a haunting pattern of notes. Whatever way this happens, it’s music that encourages and invites a listener to come in and explore the story.
That sort of thing works especially well when it comes to love songs, an idea which is taken well into account in both song choices and song sequence in the two disc set A Stor Mo Chroi, a recording which comprises thirty tracks from a range of artists from Ireland, Scotland, and Canada.
If your acquaintance with Celtic music is a passing one, you’ll still have heard of several of the artists involved. Sinead O’Connor, for example: she offers a passionate rendition of Anachie Gordon, a traditional tale of lovers whose lives and love were star crossed in so many ways. On a happier note, Sharon Shannon provides ever lively and creative instrumental partnership to Steve Earle’s vocals on The Galway Girl. Eddi Reader joins up with Alan Kelly for a haunting contemporary song of friendship and change, I Hung My Harp Upon the Willow. If you’ve seen Riverdance, you may well have seen Niamh Ni Charra play her fiddle and concertina– she’s here too, with Cailleach an Airgid.
There are all sorts of resonances through the songs, too, both in melody and lyric. John Doyle and Karan Casey’s False Lover John speaks to a different tale of love gone wrong told by the band Grada in Pretty Polly. Lumiere’s graceful harmonies illuminate the familiar admonition to take care in love in Fair and Tender Ladies, which stands well along side the grit and resignation of what happens when things don’t work out as planned in John Spillane’s When You and I Were True, and with the different sort of parting and reunion Loreena McKennitt talks of in She Moved Through the Fair. There’s quite a bit more, with music from Luke Kelly, T With the Maggies, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, and Solas among others.
About that title: mo chroí (that’s said kree) means my heart, in Irish. A Stor Mo Chroí may mean thing, treasure, value, part, of my heart, and is sometimes used as a bit of flowery shortcut for dear or darling. Romantic enough, and what with Valentine’s Day on the horizon. it might be the right the soundtrack for your listening just now.