Éamon Ó Donnchadha, Pádraig Ó Cearbhaill, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Antaine Ó Faracháin
Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 135
On this CD we have what must surely be amongst some of the best sean-nós singers to be found in Ireland today. Four highly accomplished performers bringing us fifteen songs mainly from Connemara, Donegal and Waterford - three gaeltacht regions well known for their amhránaí 'gus amhráin (singers and songs). The singers take four songs apiece, except for Antaine Ó Faracháin who performs three - one of those though being over eleven minutes in length. That song An Casideach Bán is for me one of the highlights of this CD (sound clip). I had met Antaine singing at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in England a few years ago, when he was over with a group of singers from An Góilín, a singers' club that meets regularly in Christchurch, Dublin. He was in great voice on that occasion and he certainly is here too. Beautiful phrasing, melodic variation and a wonderfully unhurried delivery that takes us back to a time when people would relish each and every word and phrase of a performance, and could live the song and story along with the singer and take real pity on the plight of this fallen priest, the Fair-haired Cassidy (An Casideach Bán).
There are echoes of Joe Heaney's performance in the singing of Éamon Ó Donnchadha, hardly surprising when you consider that, although raised in Dublin, he has spent a fair bit of time over in Connemara listening to and soaking up the ornamented style that the area is rightly famous for. His mastery of the art is evident in his rendition of the well known Eileanóir na Rún, a virtual benchmark of Connacht sean-nós. Éamon proves here that he has listened well and learned from all those that have gone before him.
The sean-nós singing of An Rinn, Co Waterford, is mostly associated with the late Nicolás Tóibín from Rinn na gCuanach, and thankfully that style is very much alive and represented here for us by Pádraig Ó Cearbhaill. An Binsin Luachra is given a good outing here, as is a song I've not heard before, Nóra an Chúill Úmair. This is an unusual song concerning a prince from London declaring his love for the amber-locked Nóra in fluent Irish. I've heard a London prince trying his hand at the Welsh language before, but never as Gaeilge. 'Twould be interesting, mind.
Finally, Brian Ó Domhnaill - a singer from Anagaire, Co Donegal. Donegal is very much on the map as a singers' county now, what with Maighréad Ní Mhaonaigh, Máire Ní Bhraonáin and her sister Enya, and the siblings Tríona, Micheál and Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill, amongst others, bringing the traditional and contemporary songs of Tír Chonaill to a world-wide audience. Níl Sé 'na Lá is a song well known throughout the whole of Ireland, with differing versions from top to bottom of the country. The version that Brian has comes from the singing of Neilí Ní Dhomhnaill (an aunt of the aforementioned Ó Dhomhnaills, and a source of a great many Donegal songs in both Irish and English), sung with great rhythm, pace and energy. But wait 'til you hear Brian sing Cití Ní Eadhra, also from Neilí Ní Dhomhnaill. It is an incredibly emotive and impressive performance (sound clip), and a fitting end to an altogether marvellous CD.
Cló Iar-Connachta must be congratulated on not only this release but for all the great work they have done and are continuing to do, making the Irish language accessible to speakers and non-speakers alike. The sleeve notes are always very informative in giving backgrounds to the songs and the performers, and you can always rely on their song and text transcriptions completely. The only gripe I have about 'Seachran Si' is the cover. I don't like the colour mauve, but if that's my only complaint then I've no complaints.
If you don't have a great knowledge of the sean-nós tradition then this is a fine place to start, given the differing styles represented here on this CD - and if you are a connoisseur, then this recording won't disappoint in any way, given the mastery and dedication of these four singers and their immaculate choice of songs.
Croch suas é a bhuachaillí.
Alan de Búrca - 23.11.99
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