Sunday, March 16, 2014

Listening to Ireland: Patrick season

Ireland: it is a twenty first century country, to be sure, and yet... the music and the stories, the legends and the landscapes, reach back across time to connect, to share to create, to reassure, to inspire. The music and the stories reach across the world, too, to new landscapes where Ireland’s far flung sons and daughters have made their homes, and to places where the sound of the music is the only connection.

During the spring of the year, Patrick season, folk often turn thoughts and hearts especially to those connections and to the music of Ireland. Here along the Music Road Irish music and the people who make it are a subject of conversation and reflection often, as are those Irish landscapes; you’ll find upwards of three hundred stories on these ideas in our archives.

For your Patrick season enjoyment, here are several to explore

Tommy Sands is from Rostrevor in County Down, just along the border with the Republic. He knows both dark and light sides, both the political side of recent Irish history and how it plays out in day to day life. To hear ways these make part of his music, take a listen to his albums Let the Circle Be Wide and Arising from the Troubles.

Cathie Ryan is first generation Irish American, and has lived long in both countries. Landscape, legend, and story all play their parts in the music she writes herself and what she sources from traditional and contemporary song. Hear this in her recordings Through Wind and Rain and The Farthest Wave.

The four members of T With the Maggies each have careers as members of other ensembles and collaborations. When the four women, who knew each other growing up in Donegal before their music took them along differing paths, got together to create an album, they made a project through which you may hear the wind and water, rugged mountains and hidden glens and crashing waves and tales and history that form Ireland’s far northwest. Learn more about this recording from T With the Maggies.

One of the Maggies on that album is Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh, singer, fiddle player, and songwriter who is also founding member of the band Altan. They have traveled the world with their music and collaborated with symphony orchestras and American country superstars. Home in Donegal is where they made their album Poison Glen, which they chose to name after an especially lovely spot in their native county. Take a listen to fiery fiddling, graceful singing, and class act ensemble work on Poison Glen.

Mary Black does not always -- or even often -- choose music from Irish tradition. The native Dubliner is brilliant and hearing the stories and poetry, the threads that connect and pull through, in the work of contemporary songwriters, though. Many of her choices are songwriters from Ireland, but whatever she chooses, Black puts her own graceful and very Irish stamp upon it, and adds to the ongoing tradition of class act songs and singers in Ireland. Hear this in Twenty Five Years Twenty Five Songs.

There is more, of course, much more, to the music of Ireland, and I’ve more recordings and conversations with artists waiting in the wings to share with you -- and a book or two in the works as well. Keep in touch here along the Music Road to know more about all that.

Photograph of hillside in Louth, Republic of Ireland, is by Kerry Dexter and is copyrighted. Thank you for respecting this.

You may also wish to see
Women of Ireland: Music
Learning about Irish Music: a bouquet of albums
Julie Fowlis and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh: Dual

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posted by Kerry Dexter at

3 Comments:

Anonymous Living Large said...

I had no idea spring was called Patrick season in Ireland. Interesting, I love learning about Ireland and its music from your blog.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous merr said...

What Living Large said. Fascinating. Makes the name even more meaningful.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Jane Louise Boursaw said...

Always love learning more about Ireland through your writing, Kerry. Patrick Season - love it.

2:09 PM  

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