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Music Review: Seán Tyrrell - The Voice of a Dreamer
by William Ramoutar
I often find it hard to figure out how the price of some cds, have skyrocketed and how others have plummeted to nearly nothing - this man’s music is no exception. Sure, you can find great bargains now and then, and sometimes on the Internet, but will you ever find a better deal than Seán? NO!
His songs range from the poetry of W.B. Yeats, Host of the Air, on Davy Spillane’s cd, “Shadow Hunter”, to songs of the beauty of Ireland, people, places, war, peace and curses. Yes, curses! His song “Skin the Goat”, will have you delirious with its scathing attack on an enemy who is quite simply, not going to make it after this!
But the treasure you find here is not just the songs. It is the richness of his voice, his delivery and the emotion not found I would say, anywhere else. His sound, is to put it succinctly, unique. He is like a pint of Guinness. Once experienced, never forgotten. I am not saying everyone will like him, just like the pint of the black stuff, but if you do, what a world you will find.
His cd with friends and collaborators, of Francis “Frank” Ledwidge’s poems, “Songs of Peace”, is a slice of history that is fading, but through the emergence of works like this will only attain the immortality it deserves. Ledwidge entered this world in Slane, Co. Meath in 1887 and left it fighting in the Great War, as it became known, in the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. His legacy nearly forgotten, of poems and diaries written in the trenches and while he struggled to be a great poet, he never attained that accolade, until his life became the focus of why 185,000 Irishmen decided to join the British Army against the threat of Germany. The men who joined for whatever reason, helped win the war, but also lost their lives, for a war, that while not an Irish war, was by Ledwidge’s account, a war he, “would not be accused of standing by, while the English defended us and we just passed resolutions.”
The rewording of a Nationalist song, “The Rising of the Moon”, which we were encouraged to learn as little boys in elementary school at home in Ireland, is remarkable in its own right, but Tyrrell’s rendition puts it in an altogether different class. These lyrics were written by the superb ex Saw Doctor's wordsmith Padraig Stevens and are quite a reversal of the way the song was supposed to incite the Irish to battle the English. Instead, this perfect song while keeping to the original tune, urges us to start the new year as “friends together, at the Rising of the Moon”. So beautiful with Seán’s emotive vocals and accompanying himself with his beloved Mandocello, which is an oddity in itself, but quite the right instrument with him in any of his songs.
This song is on “The Best of Seán Tyrrell” from Arc Music of Clearwater Florida’s label. And that might be the one to start you off on your quest for him.
There are other tunes on other cds that are the best also, but this will give you a head start. Liam Weldon’s stature as a singer with other artists of his day and to this, is noteworthy, but Seán takes his song, One Starry Night, and will give you goose bumps with not only the evocative instrumentation but his gravelly presentation.
One of my most vivid memories of my childhood growing up in Ireland is the Christmas lights draped over the snowy streets of the towns and cities, brought back to me here in the words of “The Lights of Little Christmas”, “never in a lifetime could I be made to forget, in a journey of a thousand miles, I remember every step”. The McPeake family of Northern Ireland gave us one of the greatest and most recognizable songs of all time, “Wild Mountain Thyme” and here it is, in its most true and finest fashioned arrangement.
Yeats makes a reappearance, well at least one his tunes; Caps and Bells is a love song of the gentility of another age with a little jig tagged on at the end. Seán does this a few times and the instrumental seems like it should always have been there.
Tyrell’s list of cds is quite hard to find* (unless of course you try through amazon, that colossal beast of the Internet) but they are purchases you will value and insights not readily forgotten in this fast paced maze of confusion we have come to look on as our lives.
Seán Tyrrell still lives in Ireland yet his music is otherworldly in that you will be transported by the whole atmosphere of the songs. I am not sure I have described him adequately as I so want you to search him out. This is the work of a true master musician and while Irish music does not pander to so called superstars, Seán Tyrrell and his music should be upheld as one of the true treasures of our Irish heritage.
He grew up in Galway, has a song called a Man for Galway and he surely is a Man for Galway. No, for all Ireland and all of us.
The CDs are:
Cry of a Dreamer
Songs of Peace
The Best of Seán Tyrrell
*ED. NOTE: All of the CDs can also be purchased on Seán’s web site: http://www.seantyrrell.com which is where we also found the main photo for this review.
BIO William Ramoutar
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Review written by William Ramoutar Presenter of Irish Ways Radio Programme, St Augustine Florida
Thu, Dec 7, 2017
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.
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