Wednesday, November 07, 2012

holiday gift list: music of Ireland

It is a season of gathering, of sharing, of giving and receiving gifts. It also a season of music, listened to, shared, performed, given and received. Ireland is a source and home of music, so Irish music always makes a fine gift. Ideas for your holiday gift list, to give or receive:

Masters of the Irish Harp is a collection of music ranging from the classical to the traditional, newly composed and from time honored sources, played on all sorts of harps by many of the best of Irish harpers. Siobhan Armstrong offers Da Mihi Manum/Give Me Your Hand, Grainne Hambly adds Geese in the Box, Laoise Kelly plays Lon Dubh, and Maire Ni Chathasaigh brings Reel for a Water Diviner. There are a dozen more equally varied tracks.

On her album Through Wind & Rain, Cathie Ryan tells stores of resilience, hope, and courage in word and melody and arrangement. In the songs she writes and those she searches out, she brings ideas of making it through hard times and being transformed and encouraged through the passage. Ryan has often been honored for the beauty of her voice. Through her singing and song choices she brings intelligence, grace, insight, and a dash of humour when it’s called for to songs including Mo Nion O, Fare Thee Well, Liberty’s Sweet Shore, and In the Wishing Well.

The fire and energy of Ireland's far northwest form bedrock of the music of the Donegal based band Altan. Marked by the graceful singing and high energy fiddle playing of Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh and the clear and connected ensemble work of Ciaran Ciaran, Ciaran Tourish, Mark Kelly, Dermot Byrne, and Daithi Sproule, their album The Poison Glen sees this world traveling band return to a strong focus on the music of their home place. Songs and tunes include Seolta Geala, The Ardara Girls set, The New Rigged Ship set, and The Blackest Crow.

Padraigin Ni Uallachain takes in inspiration for Songs of the Scribe from the side notes, the personal poems and reflections of those who created the illuminated manuscripts and writings of Irish history. the musings they wrote when they were taking a step away from their focused work on those books. Ni Uallachain has taken those musings and made them into songs, from The Hermit’s Wish of praising God to the reflection on nature in The Blackbird of Belfast Lough to the laughter one may share with a cat in Pangur Ban.

Roisin Elsafty takes her work from an older source, too: On her recording Ma Bhionn Tu Liom Bi Liom she offers songs in the sean nos style, where emotion and story depend on the singer's dynamics. She updates sean nos though by adding instrumentation, at times from the likes of Siobhan Armstrong, Ronan Browne, and Donal Lunny on songs inlcuding the lullabye Seoithin Seo and the love song Roisin Dubh

Heidi Talbot has a fresh way with older song too, interweaving older lyrics with newly devised melodies often as well as infusing newer songs with a touch of Irish tradition on The Last Star Music includes The Shepherd Lad and Cherokee Rose.

You have no need to be a dancer to appreciate Kathleen Conneely’s work on Coming of Spring. You can almost hear and see the dancers move, though, as she plays sets including Bonnie Ann, The Maid in the Meadow, and Rosemary Lane on the clear notes of her whistle.

As the winter holidays unfold, have a fine time exploring these gifts of music for others and for yourself, and stay tuned here along the Music Road for more suggestions for the holidays, and a list of best music of the year, too. Hint: several of the albums discussed above will be on that best of list.

photographs are by Kerry Dexter and are copyrighted. thank you for respecting this.

you may also wish to see

Americana music: gift ideas and seasonal music

Song of Solstice: music for changing seasons

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Alexandra said...

Thanks for this list. It really helps me know what to buy for my nephew.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Brette said...

I am always looking for unique gift ideas for family - thank you for these.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous HeatherL said...

Some of these sound like they'd be good music to write to.

11:31 AM  
Blogger jcreaturetravel said...

As you know I adore Irish music. Your list looks amazing. I think I'm going to buy one or more of these CDs for myself as a Christmas gift.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous ruth pennebaker said...

This list and descriptions are so helpful. I'll use them liberally during this crazy holiday season.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous merr said...

iLovely idea. I just tweeted this one to share with others.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi said...

I love Altan and music for gifts is always a lovely gesture.

2:55 PM  
Blogger MyKidsEatSquid said...

I think the Irish harp music would be a perfect gift for a friend of mine. I've been trying to think of something unique and this might be just right. Thanks

10:20 PM  
Anonymous ChristineGL said...

I have been getting really interested in harp music - the Irish harp CD sounds like a great gift for someone!

6:43 PM  

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