Tag: song

Seoladh na nGéanna agus na nGamhna

Monday, 5 November, 2018

The Irish Gaelic for goose is and the plural is géanna, so a flock of geese translates as scata géanna. The activity of collecting, herding or driving the geese is seoladh na ngéanna. As regards gamhna (calves), they’re below the photo of this fine scata géanna.

Seoladh na nGéanna

A calf is gamhain and calves are gamhna, and all that’s by way of saying that the English for the traditional song, Seoladh na nGamhna, is “driving the calves”.

Tá crainnín cumhra i lúib na coille
Is ragham araon go lá ann,
Mar a mbíonn ceol na n-éan dár síorchur a chodladh
Is geobhaimid na gamhna amárach.
Gabhaim cead saor ó mhaor na coille
Féar a thabhairt go lá dóibh.
Le fáinne an lae béam araon ‘nár seasamh
Is ag seoladh na ngamhan fén bhfásach.

There’s a fragrant bush back in the wood
And we’ll both go there until day comes,
Where there is birdsong to bring on sleep,
And we’ll find the calves tomorrow.
The woodman will readily permit us
To give them grass until day.
With the dawn of day we’ll both be afoot
Driving the calves on the common.


The Shamrock Shore before the backstop

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

How the Irish border backstop became Brexit’s defining issue” was the title on yesterday’s Financial Times Brexit feature by Alex Barker and Arthur Beesley. It’s a vexed matter, the backstop, and it has the potential to do significant harm to all the actors in this drama. Brussels is playing with fire here as it ignores the fact that the UK has long supported open borders with the Republic of Ireland and it continued to allow travel to and from Ireland without a passport, even when IRA terrorists were bombing British cities and murdering shoppers and commuters, police and politicians.

Whether a new border, patrolled on land by French gendarmes or by the German navy in the sea, will be set up in or around the “Shamrock Shore” in case of a “no deal” Brexit remains to be seen, but the issue highlights the never-ending debate about the rights and wrongs in the historic relationship between the islands. The Acts of Union 1800 are a case in point. The loss of the Irish Parliament was greeted with dismay in Dublin and most subsequent disasters were blamed on that pivotal legislation.

All of this was aired in April 1976 when Paul Brady sang a wonderful, unaccompanied version of The Shamrock Shore ballad in the village of Clondra in Longford. The verses are filled with poignancy and what’s especially poignant is that the person seated to Paul Brady’s right in this clip is the magisterial piper Liam O’Flynn who died of cancer on 14 March this year. Our grief at his loss remains unabated.

“John Bull, he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish discord from our land
And in harmony like brothers stand
To demand the rights of Ireland, let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all round the Shamrock Shore”


The old made modern

Saturday, 29 October, 2016 0 Comments

In his 2012 award-winning album, Ground Of Its Own, the English singer Sam Lee created something unique by giving traditional song the theatrical treatment. A typical example is his interpretation of the transported convict’s lament, Goodbye My Darling. The vocal and the video are pure drama as an 18th-century ballad is turned into 21st-century storytelling. Lee’s native London, with its immigrants and its elites, plays a leading role in the production.


Here’s a health to Bunclody

Sunday, 23 October, 2016 0 Comments

Before he became a wandering minstrel, Sam Lee was a wilderness survival expert. Now, he spends time among marginal communities and uses his iPhone to save the remnants of their ballad culture, with its rich trove of stories about love, hate, wealth, poverty, parting, exile and sorrow. He collected the The Moss House in Wexford from an Irish singer called Sally Connors and it concludes his album The Fade In Time. My mother sang a version titled The Streams of Bunclody that included this verse:

“That’s why my love slights me, as you may understand
For she has a freehold and I have no land
She has a great store of riches and a fine sum of gold
And everything fitting a house to uphold.”


Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out

Thursday, 13 October, 2016 0 Comments

The Scottish bike artist Danny MacAskill from Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye leaves no trick unturned when he takes a two-wheeler trip around Edinburgh.

The background song is National Express by Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy from their 1998 album Fin de Siècle. National Express is based on Hannon’s observations of life as seen from the window of a British National Express bus. Critics have accused him of sneering at the English working classes in the song:

“On the National Express there’s a jolly hostess
Selling crisps and tea
She’ll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks
For a sky-high fee
Mini-skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle
Back in ’63 (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
But it’s hard to get by when your arse is the size
Of a small country
And everybody sings ‘ba ba ba da’
We’re going where the air is free
Tomorrow belongs to me.”


David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)

Monday, 11 January, 2016 0 Comments

“And I’m floating / in a most peculiar way / And the stars look very different today.” — David Bowie, Space Oddity. With his command to “Silence the pianos and with muffled drum,” and his request to “Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come,” W H Auden is appropriate for this dark day on which a great star has gone out. Rest In Peace.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W H Auden


In The Midnight Hour

Tuesday, 21 July, 2015 0 Comments

The third song in our series of the classics of 1965, that pivotal year in the history of modern music, is In the Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett. It was composed by Pickett and Steve Cropper at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King, Jr. would later be shot in April 1968. Released on the eponymous album, the song has become a soul standard and is regarded as one of the great songs of all-time.


Dylan goes noir

Wednesday, 4 March, 2015 0 Comments

Bob Dylan’s latest album, Shadows in the Night, is a collection of standards from the 1930’s through the 1950’s, including The Night We Called It a Day, which was written in 1941 by Matt Dennis and Tony Adair and recorded by Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. This being Dylan, comment is superfluous. The haters will hate it, and the believers will rationalize it. In the end, Bob gets away with it.


A Thousand Matches

Saturday, 31 January, 2015 0 Comments

Mike Rosenberg wrote Let Her Go two years ago. Here’s What Happened Next. In true Upworthy manner, the song clip has clocked up more than 519 million YouTube views. Let Her Go signaled the breakthrough for Rosenberg, aka Passenger. His voice has been likened to a mix of Cat Stevens and David Gray, while his writing has been compared with that of Ed Sheeran. In fact, the two have collaborated and played played concerts together in Europe, the US and Australia. Speaking of the Antipodes, Passenger is down there at the moment. On Tuesday, he played in Cairns; tonight he’s in the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington and then it’s the turn of Darwin, Perth and Durban.

Here’s Rosenberg with Isobel Anderson and Stu Larsen on the beach in Brighton.


If I had a hammer (and sickle)

Friday, 31 January, 2014 1 Comment

The late Pete Seeger was a Marxist and, in his own words, a “communist with a small c”, all his life. Some, however, would differ with the singer’s use of the lower-case there. David Boaz, writing in The Guardian in 2006, went so far as to call him “Stalin’s songbird” and bolstered his case by quoting the ex-communist scholar Ronald Radosh: “Seeger was anti-war during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact; pro-war after the Soviet Union was the ally of the United States; and anti-war during the years of the Cold War and Vietnam.”

Adam Garfinkle does not ignore Seeger’s politics in “So Long, It’s Been a Bit Strange to Know You“, but he makes a case for putting the singer’s misguided beliefs in context:

“When you come right down to it, what Seeger did, probably without knowing it, was to devise a kind of new-age folk religion out of musical protest rituals. What he did made people feel good, made them feel like a part of something larger than themselves at a time when traditional means of religious communal expression weren’t working so well. The merging of environmental consciousness into the older leftist portfolio was almost too good to be true for this purpose: Lenin plus Gaia equaled countercultural nirvana. It was fine for most never to get beyond the lyrical slogans to the second paragraph of any thought about a political topic — that just wasn’t the point. Communal singing is a very powerful form of human celebration that creates and sustains spiritual connectedness; if you don’t realize that, it means you’ve never been involved in it. For all I know it probably has health benefits as well.”

Lenin plus Gaia is apt.


The Ballad of Lidl and Aldi

Monday, 13 January, 2014 1 Comment

Lidl and Aldi are German discount supermarket chains that, between them, operate more than 20,000 stores across Europe. They are (in)famous for their fearsome competitiveness, their ruthless pricing and their wholesale destruction of traditional shopping outlets that once were the hub of small communities. Oh, and they offer consumers lots of stuff. This latter aspect is the focus of The Ballad of Lidl and Aldi, which is sung here by Mick MacConnell in John B. Keane’s Pub in Listowel, County Kerry.

“Now there’s welding rods and prime organic beef to make a hearty stew
A hiking staff and spiky boots for climbing Kathmandu
Big heads of curly cabbage to make you eat your fill
Sledgehammers and bananas and a lovely cordless drill
And there’s hatchets and hamburgers and there’s tins of beans and peas
And a petrol driven chainsaw for cutting bits off trees
Strimmers, sabres, saws and sausages, computers and TVs
At LidldiAldi, LidldiAldi LidldiAldi Lidldidee.”

Tip of the Tam o’Shanter to Mary and Niamh for the link.