Monday, March 15, 2010

Music for St. Patrick's Day

Here's what I'll be listening to for the next few days in honor of St. Patrick's Day:

My favorite Irish artist (actually, my favorite singer, period), Van Morrison, sings with Ireland's most famous traditional musicians, The Chieftains, on "Irish Heartbeat". Some wonderful recordings of traditional Irish songs, including "Star of the County Down" and "Raglan Road", plus some Van originals such as "Irish Heartbeat" (which can be heard in the movie The Matchmaker). I want the version of "Carrickfergus" on this recording played at my wake.

Far and away, Ireland's best traditional musicians are the Donegal-based Altan. They performed last night in Columbus, OH, but I was unable to go see them because my son Jamie had his 1st Reconciliation. However, I was fortunate enough to see the group perform live a little over 15 years ago, shortly before the death of co-founder Frankie Kennedy. Despite Kennedy's untimely passing, Altan continues to make outstanding music, driven by the outstanding vocals of Kennedy's widow and Altan co-founder Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh.

Every collection of traditional Irish music should have something by The Chieftains. These are my favorite Chieftains recordings (apart from the Christmas-themed "Bells of Dublin", which is the best Chieftains CD - and one of the best Christmas CDs - I own):

And I plan to add "San Patricio" to my Chieftains collection as soon as possible.

The first traditional Irish recording I ever owned was "Trad at Heart", a compilation of traditional music from various artists that I purchased on my first trip to Ireland in 1993:

A slight but entertaining change of pace from my other listings, Christy Moore's recording "Live at the Point" is well worth a listen or two. I purchased this CD on my first trip to Dublin in 1999.

An honorable mention of outstanding Irish traditional music, which, apparently, can no longer be found anywhere. I purchased this CD in a small music shop in Dingle, Co. Kerry, upon the recommendation of the store's clerk during my last trip to Ireland in 2000.

(It's been too long since my last visit ... I need to go back and buy some more music.)

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a unique and special recording that pays tribute to Ireland's missionary saints and the spread of Christianity by the work of these pilgrim apostles. The work of which I write is Shaun Davey's "The Pilgrim - A Celtic Suite for Orchestra, Soloists, Pipe Band and Choir" (available at - somewhat pricey, though):

THE PILGRIM is a musical journey through the Celtic countries of Western Europe, bound together by a narrator who reveals the journey through the eyes of the 6th century Irish saint, Colm Cille. In stunning progression, players and instruments representative of the seven Celtic regions are highlighted against the backdrop of a symphony orchestra


HISTORICALLY, THE PILGRIM's journey, starting in Ireland and ending in Galicia, follows the routes of the Celtic saints, who braved the hardship and unknown perils of travel by sea and land, in the spreading of Christianity in early medieval times. Spiritually however, THE PILGRIM, focuses on individual faith and daring, and at its conclusion in Galicia mirrors the traditional pilgrimage route to Santiago da Compostella.


A pilgrim prepares to embark in a frail currach; Colm Cille confronts the Druids of Scotland; the mortally wounded King Arthur is carried off the battlefield of Camlan; St. Samson rides in his chariot across Cornwall towards far-off Dol; a storm off the rock-strewn coast of Brittany; St. Manchan's monastery; Breton Dances; a solo gaitia salutes the sunrise in Galicia; conclusion with the travellers prayer for protection (St. Patrick's Breastplate) and a pilgrim's thanks as the sun sets at journey's end...

The highlight of the recording is "The Deer's Cry", based on the Lorica of St. Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate), which is sung by Davey's wife, Rita Connolly.

I'll have a separate post on "The Deer's Cry" in 2 days on the Feast of St. Patrick.

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