Friday, October 30, 2009

Cathie Ryan: Songwriter

Of all the songs she has written one of Cathie Ryan’s own favorites is Carrick a Rede. The physical Carrick a Rede is a rope bridge, in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, a not lightly undertaken narrow walk that hangs eighty feet above the crashing waves of the North Sea. As that really deters casual visitors, it leads to a place where, in older times, couples often made their way for a bit of privacy. “I think the song works on a lot of levels, “ Ryan says, “How do you get across that bridge? You have to hold on and let go. And you do the same when you’re giving your heart -- how much to share, how much to hold back? and then some people just take it as a song about a couple going off to have a romp,” Ryan says, laughing, “and that’s fine too.”

Ryan is both Irish and American, born in the United States to parents who had emigrated from Ireland, and as an adult she has spent time living and performing in both countries. In the songs she chooses and those she writes, Ryan faces the hard and the joyous, the funny and the serious, in melody, image, and language drawn from both sides of her heritage and her own distinct ideas on all that . In The Farthest Wave, for example, she considers grief and the courage it takes to heal, creating a contemporary song which is yet framed in images of of sea and ancient story; In My Tribe finds her looking at connections of her heritage across time and space; in What’s Closest to the Heart she offers a swirling invitation to take a chance on the uncertainties of love set in vivid images suggested by nature and myth.

Ryan has been much praised and awarded for the quality of her singing and the way she connects with her listeners, and when she’s giving workshops, the way she encourages and uplifts her students. All of that is well deserved recognition. For me, though, Ryan’s musical intelligence as an interpreter of song, and her gifts as a writer remain most compelling. Below are links to help you learn more of her work.

Music Road: Cathie Ryan: Irish and American

The Farthest Wave

Cathie Ryan: An Evening in Belfast

Music Road: ceol chairlinn: sharing music in winter

2010 Songwriter's Market: Where & How to Market Your Songs in an article in this book, Ryan talks about her songwriting and gives a bit of the story behind creating several of her most loved songs

Irish music, Irish landscape

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the analogy of the bridge!

9:36 AM  
Blogger Sheryl Kraft said...

Me, too. The bridge analogy resonated with me - she is obviously very thoughtful and insightful songwriter!

11:03 AM  
Anonymous ReadyMom said...

Sounds like some great listening. Thanks for telling us more about Ryan.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Stephanie - said...

I love this! And aaaah, bridges.

12:02 AM  

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