Ireland: four journeys in music

A rock star creates his own approach the work of an iconic Irish poet, a scholar and singer is inspired by writings from medieval Ireland, the six men of Celtic Thunder offer a recording of their dramatic stage show based on well loved songs of Ireland, and a gifted instrumentalist shares and carries on her family traditions. These four recent projects offer glimpses into the diversity of music Ireland inspires.

Mike Scott, founder of the group The Waterboys, has led the band through folk rock, pop, punk, hard rock, and several more styles in the band’s long lived career. All these styles and influences come into play on Appointment With Mr. Yeats, a group of songs more than two decades in the making. The words are those of William Butler Yeats, taken both from the early part of his career in the late nineteenth century, when he wrote of legends and myths of Ireland, and of his writings in the first parts of the twentieth century, when he spoke of Ireland’s politics and social justice. There’s a rock energy to most of the tracks, one that perhaps unexpectedly fits the words well. The regular Waterboys lineup up augmented by several guests offers the words of Yeats as you may never have thought of them, in a recording made live in the studio. Tracks include The Hosting of the Shee, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and Song od the Wandering Aengus.

The six men of Celtic Thunder give a nod to the poetry of WB Yeats as they travel history and present day of Ireland with music from folk to trad to ballads to rock on their project Mythology.
On the dvd of the show, recorded live in Dublin, there’s the full effect of a massive Celtic cross as backdrop to songs which include Summer in Dublin, Danny Boy, Perfect, Innisfree, and Carrickfergus. There is a second disc which includes an hour long program with the men of Celtic Thunder in informal mode, leading visits to iconic Dublin locations including Croke Park, Trinity College, and the Guinness Brewery, as well as giving a taste of each man’s home area in Ireland — and a bit of Scotland, as one of the men hails from Glasgow. There is a CD version of the music of Mythology available as well.

To create the music for her recording Songs of the Scribe,Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin looked to medieval Ireland for inspiration, in an uncommon way. She focused on the side notes, the personal poetry and vignettes written by those who made the illuminated manuscripts of early Christian Ireland. This is the earliest known personal poetry in Ireland, words written in the margins of those manuscripts. Singing in English, Ní Uallacháin evokes an open and mediative spirit which well serves her material. Many of the songs are of her own translation and she brings in translations by well known Irish poets Ciaran carson and Seamus Heaney also. There are love songs, song which evoke nature, and those which speak to faith, and to history as well, among them The Scribe in the Woods, Liadan’s Lament, and The Blackbird of Belfast Lough.

Kathleen Conneely speaks to both history and present day too in her album Coming of Spring,
but in her case she uses the notes of the whistle to make her case. Make she does, with fast moving jigs and reels, along with a hornpipe or two and slip jig set. You needn’t be a dancer to appreciate this music, but if you are you’ll love it, and if you’re not you’ll very likely be tapping your feet and clapping along anyway. Conneely has lived in London, Dublin, Boston, and Chicago over the years and found vibrant Irish music scenes in each city. “I can only hope to impart some of this joy to you in this CD,” she writes in the album notes, and that she does, through music including the set of jigs which begins with The Maid in Meadow, the reels of the Bonnie Ann set, and a dozen more lively and creatively played sets of tunes.

Enjoying Irish music? You might also wish to see
Ireland in Music: Four Voices
An Evening in Belfast
Learning about Irish Music: a bouquet of albums for spring

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