In anticipation for the season of St. Patrick’s Day I am listening to some amazing music from Ireland tonight. I have a broad musical taste, but my favorite is certainly Celtic music. I love the lyrics, the stories about the plight of the people of Ireland. I think before I go on I need to point out that I am not condoning all that happened during the “Troubles” in Ireland but I will say that it had a great effect on its people, past and present, who keep alive the traditions and way of life of the people of “Erin”
Some of the greatest performers and songwriters who keep the tradition, luckily enough are still alive including: Finbar Furey, Phil Coulter, Ollie Kennedy, and Johnny McEvoy to name a few. Take the time to seek out their songs, as you will be surprised as to the songs these gentlemen penned. I wrote one of my first blogs about the music of my youth, the music of Ireland was alluring, the harmonies kept me interested. The music of Tommy Makem , The Clancy’s and The Furey’s had the greatest impact on me. I was saddened to hear of Tommy Makem’s death in September. He was a amazing song writer, one of his greatest songs is Four Green Fields, it has been recorded by so many over the years but in my opinion his version remains the best. I am adding a previous posted segment of my first blog that talks of Tommy.
I remember driving home from Sunday morning mass listing to the “potluck show’ on our local radio station during the early eighties. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were a main stay in rural Newfoundland, certainly captivating to a young boy who got lost in the lyrics of the songs of Ireland.During the late nineties my brother and I teamed up with a talented base player – Ian Chipman of Spaniard’s Bay NL, who was a founding member of our group Erin’s Call and long time musician and song writer Paul Martin (brother of Larry Martin, founding member of the Juno Award winning Irish Descendants) of Winterton NL. During our musical career Tommy’s influence was prevalent in many shanties and ballads we sang. In 1998, we had our first opportunity to actually meet Tommy during a show in Bay Roberts , it was a humbling experience for us, as he was our idol , a mentor, and soon to be our friend. There were many groups on the roster that evening , including friends from Ireland, Evans and Doherty, who now reside in Nova Scotia. Another person person present that day, who I respected and who passed on during 2007, was Dermot O’Reilly, member of Ryan’s Fancy , Dermot called Newfoundland and Labrador home for years along with Fergus O’Byrne who still continues the legacy of Irish Folk music. Last, but certainly not least, was Gregory Donaghey, former lead singer of the world renowned Carlton Show Band. The evening was amazing; as it was an opportunity for us the merge artistically with some of the greatest Celtic groups of our generation.Tommy was a gentle soul, one who certainly shared his passion for song and story, he empowered us to continue to write and in time produce our recording Erin’s Call.My brother Barry and I stopped by the local coffee shop after the show, and to our surprise Tommy was there relaxing before his trip back to his hotel. Long time friend, Leo Puddister, asked us to sit and talk. We were so taken back by his sense of calmness and willingness to share his ideals of folk music, we will never forget it, and certainly we will never forget him.
Grace – A love story
Tommy Makems’ Four Green Fields is one of my favorite songs, but I have to admit that there are many songs that stir my feelings towards my ancestors and their music. The most romantic but sad story is of Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford. Joseph Plunkett (1887-1916) was a scolar and poet, but he was also involved in the Easter Rising of 1916, he was the youngest of signatories of the proclamation of the Repubic of Ireland. Joseph Plunkett suffered from ill health and he had an operation for glandular tuberculosis only days before the Rebellion, he left his sick bed to partake in the failed attempt to overthrow the occupying English. He was to be married to his sweetheart Grace Gifford on Easter Sunday but was called to the uprising. They were married in Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) just hours before his execution. The song that tells of this story is called “Grace”, please take a listen to Jim Mc Canns’ version, it is my favorite. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZzEy5zBeEw
One more interesting piece to this historical event is that Joseph’s Aide de Camp was a young man called Michael Collins. Johnny McEvoy wrote a stirring ballad about the “Big Fellow” (It is a great movie staring Liam Neason)