Reviews of VT162CD 'Tabhair mo ghrá go Conamara' - 'Bring my love to Connemara'
This is truly a record to be treasured by anyone
with any interest in traditional singing in Irish or English from Connemara.
Terry Yarnell’s recordings, made in the early 1970s and never published, have
now seen the light of day thanks to Veteran Records, with an immense input from
Éamonn Ó Bróithe and John Howson enabling the CD to be accompanied by a most
informative 35-page booklet.
The singers themselves are some of the finest to come out of the West of Ireland and deserve individual mention: Sean ‘ac Dhonncha, Pádraic Ó Conghaile, Rita and Sarah Keane, Colm Ó Caoidheáin, Tom Pháidín Tom and Cáit Bean Uí Chonluain left a legacy that is still influencing singing in both languages – just listen to this and you’ll see what I mean. The singing here’s fit to be ranked alongside the better-known likes of Joe Heaney or Dara Bán, among others. The Keane sisters’ pivotal role in the development of the family singing is well known, but there’s plenty of high-quality singing here.
The field recordings themselves have been sympathetically optimised and cleaned up and the 22 tracks (13 in Irish, eight in English and one macaronic) should be of interest to a broader cross section of the folk world than the Irish title might lead you to believe (it translates as Bring My Love To Connemara). It certainly had me enthralled, and will be close to my CD player for quite a while
The Living Tradition
treasure-trove of sean nós singing from the 1970s
I doubt there will be a more evocative, or valuable, Irish traditional music disc released this year than this spellbinding collection of archive recordings of sean nós singing, in Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) and English, from County Galway. ‘Tabhair Mo Ghrá Go Conamara’ showcases six of the county’s finest exponents of the ancient art in previously unreleased recordings from the early 1970s. It’s a moment caught in aspic.
The treasure-trove from a lost age has been vividly captured by Terry Yarnell, alumnus of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s London’s Singers Club in the 1960s. Especially poignant is the sense of solidly rooted tradition, lack of artifice and intimacy (a dog is heard barking in the background of one track). If Seán ‘ac Dhonncha’s ‘The Bogs of Shanakeever’ conjures John McCormack’s signature rich burr, elsewhere is evidence of a less refined, more authentically bittersweet experience. The aged voices of Colm Ó Caoidheáin, Tom Pháidín Tom and Pádraic Ó Conghaile offer a touching, time-stopped fragility all their own.
Cáit Bean Ui Chonluain and the Keane sisters Sarah and Rita (aunts of De Dannan’s Dolores Keane) inject necessary and eloquent female voices. Éamonn Ó Bróithe and John Howson’s extensive notes are exemplary.
If you have any interest in Irish song this album
should be in your collection. Why? No ifs no buts, it is an outstanding work of
musical scholarship that is chronicled in its detailed liner notes with musical
riches galore on the album’s 22 tracks. This oozes with passionate, engaged,
empathetic fieldwork, and an authenticity, which is almost impossible to
contrive in a studio.
Released by English based Veteran Records; this is a remarkable and important CD of sean nós singing. The original recordings date back to 1970 when English folk singer and member of Ewan MacColl’s Critics Group, Terry Yarnell, set off to Galway for a two-week recording trip. The landscape was scouted first by the Headford flute player Gabe O’Sullivan, so that they would gain the maximum benefit from their fortnight in the west.
What a corral of singers they met and recorded: Seán ‘ac Dhonncha, Rita & Sarah Keane, Pádraic Ó Conghaile, Tom Pháidín Tom, Cáit Bean Uí Chonluain and Colm Ó Caoidheáin, quality tradition bearers each one. We hear two distinct traditions that were happily co-existing side by side in Connemara fifty years ago; the predominantly English language material of Sarah and Rita Keane (May Morning Dew, The Month of January, There was a Maid in Her Father’s Garden) and the Gaelic tradition exemplified by Tom Pháidín Tom’s Brídín Bhéasaigh. Perhaps the most rewarding selection on the album is the final track. Seán ‘ac Dhonncha’s An Abhainn Mhór (The Owenmore), his voice is superbly recorded and it has a most melodious quality.
This CD is a must have resource, especially if you are ever thinking about taking part in Corn Uí Riada or a Fleadh singing competition.
Irish Music Magazine
Seven Co. Galway singers are featured on this CD of
field recordings made by Terry Yarnell in the early 1970s. The singers are Seán
‘ac Dhonncha, Pádraic Ó Conghaile, Rita and Sarah Keane, Colm Ó Caoidheáin, Cáit
Bean Uí Chonluain, and Tom Pháidín Tom (Tomás Ó Coisdealbha). While
stylistically all are clearly recognizable as “Connemara” singers, they each
approach the songs in their own way, providing contrast and variety for the
listener. All were noted singers in their own communities, with large
repertoires of songs. Most of them (Rita Keane and Colm Ó Caoidheáin are the
exceptions) are represented with songs in both Irish and English on this CD. The
singing is mesmeric throughout, pulling the listener in, the ‘raw bar’
communicating the emotion of the song while telling the story and eliciting from
the listener an emotional response in return. The ornamentation that is such a
feature of this style of sean nó s is here added with sureness and lightness of
‘Mná Bán’ Deasa’ Bhaile Locha Riach’, the opening track, which also provides the title of the CD, immediately draws the listener into its story and into the feast provided by this CD. Similarly, the final track, ‘An Abhainn Mhó r’, with its air of regretful farewell, provides a fitting close. Nine of the tracks are in English and thirteen in Irish. The songs span a range of song types, including love songs,songs of place, a Napoleonic song, a lament, and a murder ballad. The sound quality is far better than expected, given that these are field recordings made in the 1970s. The sound is clean without being over-sanitized. On certain tracks, very faint background or tape noises can be heard. However, this in no way detracts from the beauty of the songs. The honesty and immediacy of the delivery,characteristic of sean nó s singing, is faithfully preserved here. This, combined with the quality of the singing throughout, allows for repeated listening without any distractions coming between the listener and the song.
The CD is presented in a tri-fold cardboard cover with thirty-six pages of excellent notes in both Irish and English on the recordings, singers, and songs. The recordings, the singers, and the songs are dealt with separately. First, some context is given in the form of information about the collector and how the recordings came to be made. A short biography is then given for each singer, including information on further recordings of the same person, where available. Finally, a synopsis of the subject matter of each song is provided, along with background information and references to other recordings of the song. As all of this information is provided in two languages all the notes are necessarily brief, but they still provide enough information to find other versions of a particular song or other recordings of a particular singer, where they are available. The only thing missing is a transcription of the words of the songs on the recording. This was an understandable decision given the limitations of space in the booklet and the fact that words for many of the songs are easily sourced on the internet. At the very least, a link to a website with transcriptions of these specific recordings would have been welcome.
The booklet of notes is attached to the cardboard cover. While this arrangement makes reading the notes a little cumbersome it at least means the notes will not be easily parted from the CD cover. The producers of the CD have shown great sensitivity in their treatment of these field recordings. It is to be hoped it will bring the featured singers and their songs to the attention of a wider audience and a new generation of singers. It will be a welcome and useful addition to the collection of anyone who has an interest in traditional singing.
Máire Ní Chróinín - The Folk Music Journal
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