FOr today I chose the title track from Scottish singer and harpist Rachel Newton’s great album, Here’s My Heart, Come Take it, which showcases very well how changeable we can be as humans. It is a North American song which was collected by Edith Fowke from John Leahy in Douro, Ontario in 1958. The music is by Rachel herself.
Today, I have for you a very interesting Irish song, which I hadn’t heard before I discovered Séamus and Caoimhe óí Fhlatharta. They are a sibling duo from Connemara in County Galway, and have released their debut EP just in February of this year. But they have already performed in a lot of different places in their home country and abroad, and are really great at what they do, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about them in the future. They are both Sean-nós singers (Sean-nós is a very characteristic Irish singing style), as well as multi-instrumentalists and they sing in harmony, breathing a new life into Irish, traditional music.
This song was composed by Cearbhall ó Dálaigh in the 16th century , and there is a legend associated with it. One time, Cearbhall ó Dálaigh was working as a farmhand at a farm where he watched cows, and there was one cow about which it was said that when she gives birth to a calf, the one who drinks her milk first would be gifted all knowledge in the world, and if a woman will look at him, she will immediately fall in love with him. That bit kind of reminds me of the Welsh myth of Taliesin. After some time, the cow did become pregnant, and Cearbhall’s task was to keep an eye on her until the calf would be born, to make sure that it wouldn’t suck its mother’s milk first. However, when she finally gave birth, he forgot about what the farmer told him, and only remembered it when the calf was already about to suck, so he took the milk from the calf’s mouth and rubbed it on his lips, obtaining those gifts as a result. Of course he couldn’t go back to the farmer and tell him about it, so he travelled until he came to a shoemaker’s house. The shoemaker was making shoes for a noble lady called Eileanór Chaomhánach (Eleanor Kavanagh”, who was going to a dance. Cearbhall offered to help, but the shoemaker insisted that they have to be perfect so he had to make them himself. Soon he fell asleep though, and as he was sleeping Cearbhall made the other shoe that he didn’t finish. Later the shoemaker told him to go and give those shoes to Eileanór and as soon as he saw her, he sang this song to her, and later on she eloped with him. Apparently another version of this story says that she actually eloped with him on the day she was supposed to marry another man, and Cearbhall played and sang during her wedding feast and that was when he sang this song to her. Or maybe these two actually work together, because maybe these shoes were supposed to be for her wedding. 😀
The word “rún” actually means “secret” in Irish, but it is used as a term of affection (think in Siúil a Rún for example), so it’s better translated as “my love” or “my darling”, or perhaps “my secret love” if you really want to retain something of the original meaning. I found a translation of it on the website dedicated to Joe Heaney, also a Sean-nós singer from Galway, where there also is a recording of Joe telling this story and singing the song. Séamus also shares it in a video on the singer Malinda’s channel, where they sing it together with her, but that one is a whole long video so it’s not that version that I’m sharing.
You’re my love at first-sight, Eleanor my secret.
It’s of you that I am thinking while I lie asleep
My love and my first treasure
You are the best of the women of Ireland
Lovely young maiden, you have the nicest, sweetest kiss
As long as I live I will desire you
For I would love to drive the calves with you, Eleanor my secret.
She had the gift that she could entice the birds from the trees
And the taste of her kiss was sweeter than the cuckoo before day
She had another gift that I will not tell
She is the love of my heart and my first treasure
Lovely young maiden, you have the nicest, sweetest kiss
As long as I live I will desire you
For I would love to drive the calves with you, Eleanor my secret.
Earlier this week, I shared with you Ranagri’s version of Follow Me up to Carlow,, and today I decided to share another nationalist/battle song, except not Irish but Scottish, sung by the American Celtic folk group Golden Bough. It commemorates the victory of Scottish forces led by Charles Edward Stuart during the Battle of Trestonpans on 21 September, during the Jacobite rising of 1745, when they defeated a government army led by Sir John Cope in less than fifteen minutes. The melody is traditional and the words were written by Adam Skirving shortly after the battle, though the song isn’t a very accurate portrayal of the event. Golden Bough finish it with a reel by American fiddler Jerry Holland, composed for another fiddler – Brenda Stubbert from Cape Breton.
For yesterday’s song, I chose this calm, long piece from one of Lisa Lynne & George Tortorelli’s collaborative albums. I have shared a lot of music by the harpist Lisa lynne before, but nothing of what she made together with George Tortorelli. He is an American bamboo flute player. This piece comes from their 1997 album Love & Peace.
And for today, I’d like to share with you a very popular Irish folk song, which celebrates the defeat of an army of English soldiers by the Irish, led by Fiach MacHugh O’byrne, at the battle of Glenmalure in 1580. The music is said to have been played as a marching tune by MacHugh O’Byrne’s pipers, while the words were written some three centuries later by songwriter and poet Patrick Joseph McCall.
This is the second song by the Anglo-Irish group Ranagri on my blog, the first one that I shared last year was High Germany. It’s worth noting here that Ranagri actually take their name from a place in county Carlow, not far from Glenmalure where the battle took place.
For today, I chose this folksy children’s song from the AMerican Celtic group Golden Bough. I’ve already shared a couple instrumental pieces by them, and some music by one of their members Margie Butler, for whose music I have a strong sentiment because my Mum bought me a tape of her music back when my Celtic interests were just starting to grow. This song was written by Golden Bough’s Paul Espinoza. I really like how this whole garden thing is a metaphor for your own garden of dreams, being a daydreamer with a fairly fecund Brainlife it really appeals to me.
Today I’d like to share with you a song by a singer whom I first heard only last Friday, despite she seems to have been a thing for a long time. Maybe it’s because I guess I’m generally less familiar with American Celtic music scene vs Irish or British. Amelia Hogan is an Irish American from San Francisco, though she also has Scottish and British ancestry, and she has been drawn to Sean-Nos singing and to Celtic music in general since a very young age. This song comes from her debut solo album Transplants. I’ve already shared two versions of this song one by Órla Fallon and the other by Eilis Kennedy. I really like it because it reminds me of our Sofi, who liked the funny lilting chorus when she was a toddler. 😀
Today I want to share with you the opening track from Scottish harpist Rachel Hair’s album THe Lucky Smile. It is a traditional tune, but in Rachel’s arrangement and with the help of her accompanying musicians it has an interesting jazzy feel to it. She is accompanied by guitarist Paul Tracey, keyboardist Angus Lyons, bassist Andy Sharkey and drummer Scott MacKay.
For today I have a song by Clannad for you, which you may know even if you’re not a big Clannad fan because it is the theme song of the movie Braveheart. Below is the translation of the Irish lyrics that I found here.
For today, I’d like to share with you a song from a Scottish group that I discovered only last month and have been really enjoying their music since. They are an all-female band singing in Scottish Gaelic, whose goal is to popularise the work of female Gàidhlig bards and composers. Sian means “storm” or “the elements” in Scottish Gaelic, and the group consists of Eilidh Cormack, Ellen MacDonald and Ceitlin Lilidh Russell Smith. They are accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Innes White who has also collaborated with a lot of other Scottish folk musicians. All three women clearly care a lot about their native language, its music and its presence in the media. Eilidh hails from the Isle of Skye. She was Gaelic Singer of the year in 2018, has sung at Celtic Connections, and alongside many other Scottish musicians she contributed to the soundtrack to an Xbox game called The Bard’s Tale IV. Ellen, who is originally from Inverness, and besides Sian she also performs with another Scottish folk group – Dàimh. – She has also collaborated with Niteworks – a band which combines Scottish Gaelic lyrics and traditional instruments with more electronic vibes. – SHe has also voiced various characters in Gaelic cartoons, such as Alvin of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Ceitlin Lilidh has performed all over the world as an ambassador to Gaelic song, and has taken part in numerous festivals.
This is the opening track from their self-titled album released in 2020.
Let’s listen to the song that I have picked for yesterday, but didn’t manage to share in time. I decided on this very soothing lullaby from Órla Fallon’s album of the same title, which she released in 2012. I generally love a good lullaby, and this album is full of them. This isn’t the first lullaby Fromm that album that I’m sharing on here.
For today, I have for you a set of three Scottish tunes from harpist Rachel Hair’s and guitarist Ron Jappy’s collaborative album Sparks. All of these tunes are reels, and the first two are traditional, whereas Jamie Shearer’s was composed by Scottish fiddler and dancing master James Scott Fiddler.
For today, I’d like to share with you an extremely poignant and heartbreaking song. It’s really beautiful, despite its very dark theme, and there are a lot of amazing renditions of it, therefore I decided to share two of them in one post, and it’s possible that I’ll share some other versions of it in the future too, who knows. The first of these two versions is by Gwilym Bowen Rhys, from the first album of his Detholiad o Hen Faledi (Selection of Old Ballads) album series. This is the very first version of this song that I heard, and I love Gwilym’s expressive a capella interpretation of it very much. THe other is by Siwsan George, from her album Traditional Songs of Wales – Caneuon Traddodiadol Cymru. – I was introduced to Siwsan’s music earlier this year. She was from Rhondda and sang both as a soloist as well as part of a folk group called Mabsant. Siwsan was also a harpist. Sadly, she passed away in her forties due to cancer.
As we can read on Gwilym’s Bandcamp page,, this song tells the story of a poor girl called Jane Williams, from a village in Denbighshire called Cynwyd, who was raped at 23 and fell pregnant in 1868. Predictably, she was shamed and disdained by her community as a result, and eventually committed suicide by drowning herself in the river Dee. The lyrics were written by John Jones, also known under his bardic name of Llew o’r Wern, and set to a traditional tune called There’s Love Among the Roses.
I’ve taken the translation below from Gwilym’s website, where you can also find the original words in Cymraeg.
On the banks of the old river Dee A pure maiden sits Whispering quietly to herself “I’ve been left lonely Without a love or a friend in the world Nor a home to go to, the door of my father’s house is locked, tonight I am rejected. The finger of shame is after me Highlighting my weakneses And the tide of my life has turned And is buried under the waves. On the alter of lust I was sacrificed, Yes, I lost my virginity, And that’s the reason why I’m rejected tonight. You little trout that plays joyfully In the pure waters of the river, You have many friends And shelter from enemies You may live and die under the water With no one having to know you, Oh if I could only be like you I could die, and that would be the end. But my sorrowfull mind flies away To a world that’s yet to come, And you, my harsh traitor, remember, You must meet me there! I need only think of your name And living is too much for me. Oh, deep river, accept me, Your bed shall be my bed.” And the next morning she was found In the cold water of the river, With a piece of paper in her hand And on it, these words: “Dig me a grave in a lonely place, Don’t raise a stone or write an ephigy, To denote the place where lies the dust Of the rejected maiden.”
And for today, I chose another song from a Welsh artist whose music I’ve known for years, but somehow only came across this particular song recently. I’ve already shared one song by Casi Wyn, which she released under her other stage name Casi & The Blind Harpist, also both in Welsh and English, called Dyffryn/Rooted..
I Regular people on here know that when I go to sleep, I like to have some music or a radio station in one of my favourite languages playing quietly throughout the night so it keeps the things that I collectively call sensory anxiety, for lack of better terms, at bay. One night last month, I had some Welsh playlist playing on Spotify and then when the playlist finished other stuff was playing on autoplay as is typical with streaming services. I woke up for a little while in the middle of the night, or very early morning if you will, and heard this breathtakingly beautiful song. The perception of music in half-sleep mode, at least in my experience, is often kind of different and sort of heightened in a way I’d say, so given that this song is already stunning and otherworldly when listening to it fully awake, in that half-sleep state, I was seriously wondering if I woke up in some parallel universe for Cymrophiles or something happened to me in my sleep and I was having a near-death experience or something. So the title of this song is very accurate imho, although I’m not sure if “celestial beings” is the best English translation I could come up with, I mean “nefol” means “heavenly/celestial” and “nefolion” is plural so I had no better ideas. I really like Casi’s music in general, so just like with yesterday’s song, I was surprised to find out that she released it three years ago and I’d never heard it previously. I am sharing both language versions:
For yesterday’s overdue song of the day, I decided to share this beautiful rendition of Welsh folk tune Cob Malltraeth. It was very popular during the previous century in Anglesey where it originates from, but this is the first version of it that I heard and not very long at all. I’ve known about Beth Celyn ever since she released her debut EP in 2017, and have been rather vaguely familiar with Vrï thanks to Blas Folk Radio Cymru, but I’d never heard this song until like a week ago. I immediately found it very striking, and was very surprised to find out that it’s from an album that Vrï released in 2018 already – Tŷ Ein Tadau (House of Our Fathers) – , yet it was complete novelty to me.
Vrî is a Welsh folk trio consisting of Jordan Price Williams (cello and vocals), Aneirin Jones (fiddle and vocals) and Patrick Rimes (viola, fiddle and vocals). All three members of this group are very active musicians well-known on the Welsh folk music scene and have been part of other groups or projects as well.
I love everything about this song: the melody, Beth’s expressive vocals, the instrumental arrangements, and the lyrics kind of resonate with me too, as the lyrical subject appears to be a neurotic pro ruminator just like me and keeps fretting over something they have no real control over. And it’s definitely not like their fears are completely unfounded. The song is about the Malltraeth cob (Malltraeth is a little village in the southwest of Anglesey and I’ve already shared one other piece on here related to this place, played by Llio Rhydderch). The lyrical subject’s fears about it are definitely not unfounded. From what I’ve read, the original cob was built in the early 1800’s, but after a few years there was a storm which breached it in a few places and it was rebuilt in 1812. You can find out more about this song, along with the original lyrics and translation, on the website of Amgueddfa Cymru (Museum Wales).
If Malltraeth cob breaks, my mother will drown; I fear it in my heart ti–rai, twli wli I fear in my heart that I shall be the one to suffer. I can neither patch nor wash my shirt; I fear it in my heart, ti–rai, twli wli wli ei, I fear in my heart that I shall soon perish. But, thank heaven, the old lady was seen Safely taking refuge, ti–rai, twli wli wli ei, Safely taking refuge in the shelter of the rock.
Today, I’d like to share with you this very popular Irish song, which is actually originally a poem written by William Butler Yeats. It was through this poem that I actually first learned about Yeats when I started taking an interest in the Celtic cultures. I have already shared one version of this song on here in the past, sung by Loreena McKennitt.
Today, I want to share with you an interesting song in an ancient language. It comes from the Welsh folk group Ffynnon, from their album Adar Gwylltion (Wild Birds). This is a medieval poem written by Llywarch Hen, which Ffynnon have set to music. Llywarch was cousin to Urien, the chieftain of a Brittonic kingdom called Rheged in the 6th century. Urien led the British tribes during the vikings’ attack on Lindisfarne, and was initially successful at driving the invaders back, but was then betrayed by his nephew, which resulted in the entire Old North region being lost to the vikings eventually. This poem laments Urien’s summer court, which fell into ruin after those events. This isn’t the first song by Ffynnon that I’m sharing on here that laments the state of a court, earlier this year I shared their musical rendition of Llys Ifor Hael from the same album which deals with a similar topic.
The poem was written in Common Brittonic, which is the direct ancestor of Welsh, Cornish and Breton, i.e. the currently spoken languages of the Brythonic branch in the Celtic languages family. The translation of this song (as well as the original Brittonic verses) can be found on Ffynnon’s websitewhich is also where I learned about the background of this poem.
I was listening to this song yesterday, and I was sure I must have shared it on here before, but turns out not. So I’m sharing it now. It comes from her 2006 album Signature and it is my most favourite track from this album.
For yesterday’s overdue song of the day, I chose this tune composed by Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan, and played by two American folk musicians – Margie Butler and Florie Brown. – Both Margie and Florie are also members of a Celtic folk group called Golden Bough, a few of whose tunes I have also shared recently. I believe this tune was originally a reel, but they play it a bit slower here.