Literary Affairs

Some Irish Things

I’m playing recorded music this afternoon as the Neverending Session took advantage of this warm May day to decamp to the Courtyard to play among the gathering of punters who are enjoying the weather too. Yes, that’s Drive the Cold Winter Away by The Horslips, a group which most folks don’t realize did some rather superb trad music. And yes, I know an Englishman by the name of John Playford composed that piece but it’s been adopted by Irish musos as if one of their own was responsible for it!

The Mountain of the Women: Memoirs of an Irish Troubadour is the autobiography of Liam Clancy, the youngest member of the Irish folk music group, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. If you’ve any interest in Irish music, you need to read this.

A crack Irish album from a Breton native? Alan Stivell‘s Brian Boru proves you don’t have to be Irish to make a great Irish album! Of course, Irish music flows from Irish culture and history so reading R.F. Foster’s The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland is an excellent work for you to read.

Next up is the Bothy Band, a most outstanding Irish band, and I will lead off with ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ from their appearance at the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival in the summer of 1976, as I think it’s one of their best tunes. I’ll follow that up with ‘Music in the Glen’ from their appearance at 1977 Sidmouth Folk Festival.

Speaking of old hag tunes, here’s a quote about them:

She looks like the wizened old crone in that painting Jilly did for Geordie when he got into this kick of learning fiddle tunes with the word ‘hag’ in the title: ‘the Hag in the Kiln,’ ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me,’ ‘The Hag With the Money,’ and god knows how many more. Just like in the painting, she’s wizened and small and bent over and … dry. Like kindling, like the pages of an old book. Like she’s almost all used up. Hair thin, body thinner. but then you look into her eyes and they’re so alive it makes you feel a little dizzy.

It’s excerpted from Charles de Lint‘s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ story which is collected in Dreams Underfoot.

Likewise I suggest knowing William Butler Yeats better is a good idea as well. Start off with John Unterecker’s A Reader’s Guide to William Butler Yeats which gives you a well-rounded look at his verse; after that, Eily Kilgannon’s Myths and Magic of the Yeats Country which she says is about ‘The beautiful region of Ireland that includes Sligo and northwest Leitrim is rightly called the Yeats Country because it was the source of some of W. B. Yeats’ finest verse. He may have brought fame to it, but it gave poetry to him.’

Bring this conversation full circle is my last reading recommendation, to wit Breandan Breathnach‘s Folk Music and Dances of Ireland which is a slim volume you can read over several pints in the evening and gain a full knowledge of this subject.

Now some music to finish off. Hmmm, what to play? Ahhh, how about A Jig of Sorts by Nightnoise? Yes, that’ll do nicely!

Another stout for you?

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