Árstíðir ft. Anneke van Giersbergen “Heyr Himna Smiður” (Hear, Smith of the Heavens) & Ellen Kristjánsdóttir – “Heyr Himna Smiður”.

Hey people! 🙂

For today, I have a medieval hymn for you. It was written by the Icelandic poet and chieftain

Kolbeinn Tumason, and the music to this poem was written in modern times, by

Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson. I found that very interesting when I learned about it because, while I’m no expert at such things, to me, this melody sounds so very authentically medieval! :O And it’s this hymn’s melody and harmony that I love it for. I’ve heard many versions of it at this point, and it seems like it’s quite difficult to make it sound bad, because I ended up liking most of the interpretations I’ve come across. So much that even for this post I wasn’t able to pick just one, but these are the first two that I heard and I have more of a connection to them. It seems to be sung especially during funerals, which makes it a second funeral hymn that I really love (the other one is in Finnish), which perhaps says something about me 😀 although I don’t really see what in it makes it more suitable for funerals than any other occasion.

Apparently this hymn went viral on YouTube a couple years ago thanks to Árstíðir, but I myself first heard it (also in Árstíðir’s interpretation together with Anneke van Giersbergen singing the main melodic line, thanks to Last.fm and instantly fell in love. And then later on Spotify introduced me to

Ellen Kristjánsdóttir’s version and I just can’t pick which one I like more. And so, despite there are many great, choral arrangements that perhaps are more suitable for a hymn in a way, I’m sharing these two with you that I’d say are more on the folky side, because I love them most.

Árstíðir are an indie folk trio with classical influences, and their name means seasons. Together with them we can hear Anneke van Giersbergen from the Netherlands, whom I am familiar with back from my Gothic phase and who is generally most recogniseable as a former member of The Gathering. As for Ellen Kristjánsdóttir, this is the only song by her that I know and I don’t really know much about her either, but I do know that she was actually born in America and only moved to Iceland a few years later.

Below is an English poetic translation by an anonymous author:

 

Hear, smith of the heavens,

what the poet asks.

May softly come unto me

thy mercy.

So I call on thee,

for thou hast created me.

I am thy slave,

thou art my Lord.

God, I call on thee

to heal me.

Remember me, mild one,

most we need thee.

Drive out, O king of suns,

generous and great,

human every sorrow

from the city of the heart.

Watch over me, mild one,

most we need thee,

truly every moment

in the world of men.

Send us, son of the virgin,

good causes,

all aid is from thee,

in my heart.

Árstíðir ft. Anneke van Giersbergen:

 

Ellen Kristjánsdóttir:

Radka Toneff – “Winter Poem”.

Hi people! 🙂

It’s been really sunny here lately, and Easter is coming, so you may think sharing a “Winter Poem” is now very timely, but I think it’s all very relative and I just felt like sharing it now, so that’s what I’m doing.

Radka Toneff lived a very short life (she was 30 at the time of her death sometime in the early 80’s if I remember correctly) but seems to be quite a jazz icon in her native Norway. She was born to Bulgarian folk musician and radio personality Tony Toneff, and, I guess because of that, she was also very much influenced by folk in her music. She also set music to some poems of people like Sylvia Plath or Robert Creeley. She most likely died from suicide by overdosing sleeping pills, and her body was found in the woods, however apparently some people say it was accidental.

I am not very big on jazz, but I like a lot of her music, it just speaks to me. And this particular piece isn’t really jazzy at all, I love it. The lyrics are a poem written by Nikki Giovanni and I think it’s so beautiful.

Song of the day (14th August) – Loreena MCKennitt – “The Lady Of Shalott”.

This song from Loreena MCKennit, as you can probably guess, tells the story of Elaine of Astolat, from the Arthurian legend. Well, moreover, it’s the musical adaptation of the whole poem “The Lady Of Shalott” by Alfred Tennyson. That’s how I’ve first heard this poem – sung by Loreena MCKennitt. – And thanks to this song, I’ve become interested in Arthurian legends, as part of my fascination with everything Celtic. Until then, I didn’t really know much about Arthurian legends. But now I find them very interesting. And this one is my favourite. So here is this long song. I really love the way she adapted this poem and made a lovely piece of music out of it.

Song of the day (13th August) – Loreena MCKennitt – “Down By The Sally Gardens”.

Here is another song by Loreena MCKennitt that I love and want to share with you. Originally, it was a peoem written by William Butler Yeats – Irish 20th century poet and Nobel Prize winner (it was “Down By The Salley Gardens” in the original I believe). – Apparently, Yeats based some of it on a folk ballad “The Rambling Boys Of Pleasure”. It’s been recorded as a song by many artists though, and especially those making Celtic music. I think Loreena’s version is one of the best I know. b

The purring symphony.

Curled up together, we silently lie

me, and him – Misha, the sweet child of mine

I can hear the beating of his feline heart

knowing that no one could tear us apart.

I breathe in  his smell, listen to his sounds

his delicate paws, his head, small and round.

My hand on his chest, I feel how he breathes

What do you dream of, in your peaceful sleep?

his purring – a comforting

symphony

Puts me to sleep, with its sweet harmonies.

When the day comes, I wake up calm and free

And that’s how we live, my Misha and me.

Gwilym Bowen Rhys ft. Gwyneth Glyn – Galargan (Lament).

Hi! 🙂

Time for something else from my current crush Gwilym Bowen Rhys. I was very interested what’s it about for a long time until I discovered the English lyrics on Gwilym’s website. As I’ve found out somewhere else, the lyrics are very old, originally it was a poem written by Edward Richard in 18th century and it had thirty something verses. Gwilym made a song of it combining it with the melody of an old Welsh Christmas carol, and no, it’s not 30 something verses long on his album, just six. 😀 Although it could be interesting to hear it in the original length.

It is a dialogue between two people, one person is grieving after the death of his loved one, and the other is consoling him. On Gwil’s album this other person’s part  is sung by incredibly expressive Gwyneth Glyn, who is a well-known Welsh language singer. To be honest, I didn’t always liked Glyn’s music, dunno, just couldn’t convince myself to her for a long long time, although can’t say why exactly, she has a nice vocal and everything, but just didn’t resonate with me, but recently I did convince myself to her and I think this song has helped a lot with it too.

What else I like about this piece is how it’s written, as I read it in Welsh there were so many intriguing words and the English in the translation sounds so archaic and slightly pathetic, can’t say much about the original text because my Welsh is too poor so I am not able to fully apreciate poetry yet, just can try to get out the words or phrases I do understand or look for some intriguing ones. I also like that the dead woman’s name is Gwenllian, it is one of my most favourite Welsh feminine names.

It is so stunning and expressive in Gwilym’s and Gwyneth’s interpretation.

Here are the English lyrics:

All my days will be without jollity from now on
For Gwenllian’s been placed in the grit and gravel.
The longing I have is like daggers under my ribs
And my brow has become grey
Though she fell into the cold black earth
She will arise like sunshine, joyously from her ashes
For those who turn to him, life doesn’t wither
In their father’s blissful arms
Oh how human nature presses, despite my knowledge
I weep for grief and longing for her
My bruised heart, so painful,
Breaks and splinters despite these words.
In old age and in youth, in health and in sickness
people often move from this life to the grave,
No amount of devices, of wealth or watchfulness
Can keep us, or even the gentry, from this fate.
My days are spinning upwards
While the night draws near to hang my head
There is one I don’t have, I weep in a cold bed
And I’m falling ill, hear my sigh.
It’s raining in Berwyn valley and the shadows are lengthening May my cottage be the end to your journey tonight.
I’ll give you some hearty turnip soup, some cheese
And buttermilk immediately.

As for the music video, the titles of Gwilym’s songs on Youtube seem to be a little messed up, so the title of this one is wrong and confused with a different Gwilym’s song, but the song itself is right, just in case you’d be confused what it is.