A Wonderful Irish Music Experience

Bruce Von Stiers

As I am sitting here writing this, it is the early dawn of a brand new St. Patrick’s Day. And as I am waking up and getting ready for the day, I am listening to a wonderful new album. This album features Irish vocalists and musicians. The title of the album is Music of Ireland – Welcome Home.

The album was released by Elevation Records and produced by John Reynolds. He has worked with U2 and Peter Gabriel. The Executive Producers for the project were Danny Young and Moya Brennan. Moya was the lead performer for the Celtic Women vocal group.

The album is a companion piece for a documentary of the same name that is being broadcast on Public Television this month.

But there isn’t just music in Music of Ireland -Welcome Home. There is a second disc that is included. That disc is a DVD of the documentary.

There are several artists who performed on the album. Some of them are Grammy winners, others have grabbed a Golden Globe and a few others have name recognition. Among the artists are Liam Clancy, Damian Rice Andrea Corr and The Chieftains.

Although there are a couple of traditional Irish songs on the album, it mostly contains original compositions celebrating Ireland and its rich heritage.

The first song is a beautiful piece called Oro Se do Bheatha Bhaile. It is an ensemble piece with vocals by Moya Brennan, Sinead O’Conner, Oral Fallon, Lumiere, Seamus Begley, Andy Irvine and others. The listing for the vocalists and the musicians is The Welcome Home Party.

Sinead O’Conner became a controversial artist with an appearance on Saturday Night Live. But she is a true daughter of Ireland. She sings a haunting, yet heartfelt song on the album called Song To The Siren.

Bagpipes, fiddles, the Irish Harp and cello provide wonderful backing music for The Chieftains and Moya Brennan in Lullaby for the Dead.

Sensitive, mellow vocals are provided by Damien Rice in Under The Tongue. Moya Brennan does duet vocals and plays the harp on the song.

Another mellow song with great pipes and great vocals is The Parting Glass. It features the vocals of Liam Clancy with additional vocals by John Sheahan.

Forgotten is an otherworldly sounding song with vocals by Ora Fallon and Moya Brennan.

High Hope is a mellow folksy song sung by Glen Hansard.

With a touch of Middle Eastern flair, mixed with some tough rock influenced music, Damien Dempsey sings out in Masai Returns.

Andrea Corr is a member of the great Irish group, the Corrs. She provides sultry, folksy vocals in the song Oh Brother.

Toe tapping music can be found in Blacksmith. It definitely emulates a traditional Irish tune. The artists on the song are Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny.

Dreams Will Come has a light U2, alt folk sound. Paul Brady does the main vocals with Moya Brennan on backing vocals.

You’re The One starts out slow, almost otherworldly. Then it transcends into a moderate pop folk mode with vocals by Shane MacGowan and Moya Brennan.

A beautiful choral effect can be heard in the closing song on the album, Is Mise ‘n Ghoath / The Lass of Aughrim. Moya Brennan and Larla O’ Lionaird provide the vocals. Lucy Champion has a wonderful soprano solo on the song.

For the DVD portion of this set, there are nine different segments. The total time for the DVD is just under an hour.

The first segment is Planet Ireland. People interviewed include Sinead O’Conner, Bono, Bob Geldolf and Moya Brennan. Moya is the host of this program, as I mentioned earlier, is being aired on PBS.

It was emphasized in this segment about the pact between the Catholic church and the government about the upkeep of the Catholic faith. Moya tells of priests coming round to homes the night before mass to make sure people weren’t drinking and carousing. But as soon as the priest would leave, the party would start up again. There is a scene from a tavern where a patriarch of the Brennan clan begins a song and then the entire pub chimes in. What is comes down to is that the music of the people was oppressed by both the church and the government.

The second segment is titled The Promise Land. Liam Clancy is one of the many musicians and vocalists interviewed here. Pete Seeger, the great American folk singer, talks about the amazing talent the Clancy Brothers had. Clancy tells about having conformity in the music in order to be successful.

Then the program moves on to Pete’s Discovery. Seeger once again talks about unique music that he found on a trip to Ireland. In an interview from 1965, Judy Collins talks about one particular song that she became familiar with.

In the segment Conservative America, we learn that this traditional Irish music wasn’t widely accepted. A song that The Dubliners were going to sing on the Ed Sullivan show was shunned by him, even though it had been a hit in England. So the group did a more sedate, less controversial song for the show.

The next segment deals with the Irish people rediscovering their musical history. A new style of music evolved in the ‘60’s that mixed traditional Irish tunes with a European orchestral effect. This led to a whole new listening audience world wide. Some of the original musicians using this mode became the internationally renowned group The Chieftains. And Michael Flatley from Riverdance is interviewed in this segment as well. And there is a clip of a show that Van Morrison did with the Chieftains, emphasizing the collaboration between rock & roll and Irish music.

Other segments include showing how modern music was influenced by the Irish sound. We learn about the Caroline, a ship that hosted a pirate radio station. They exposed the world to a bunch of Irish music.

The DVD also has a nice video tour of Ireland.

The program does a great job of showing how Irish music was oppressed and then eventually found a world audience. The influence of this music can still be heard in songs from artist all over the world. And especially in America, where audiences clamor to shows by the Celtic Woman and dancing and music extravaganzas like Riverdance.

Music of Ireland: Welcome Home is a terrific combination of audio music and video history about Irish music.

This CD/ DVD set can be purchased from Barnes & Noble.

For more information about Music of Ireland: Welcome Home, visit www.musicofireland.com.


© 2010 Bruce E. Von Stiers