Bards & Blarney - Irish Tunes & Tales

by Castlebay

Released 2010
Released 2010
Ancient Irish poems and story accompanied by Irish harp plus songs of wonder and transformation.

Julia - harp, choir
Fred - voice over, percussion
Barbara Burt - French horn

This is the most ancient of Irish literature. The first two readings are from the Song of Amhairghin (Av'-rin), the second two readings are from the Invocation. This poem, originally in old Irish, pertains to the invasion of the Milesians. There is some thought that this refers to Iron-age people invading the Bronze-age people who were living in Ireland at the time, circa 400 BC.

I am a wind on the sea,
I am a wave of the ocean,
I am the roar of the tides,
I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a hawk on the cliff,
I am a dewdrop let fall by the sun
I am the most beautiful among flowers
I am a boar enraged,
I am the salmon of wisdom,
I am a lake in a plain,
I am the vigour of man
I am the meaning of poetry,
I am the spirit who fires your mind.

I am both the tree and the lightning strikes it
I am the dark secret of the dolmen not yet hewn
I am the queen of every hive
I am the fire on every hill
I am the shield over every head
I am the spear of battle
I am the ninth wave of eternal return
I am the grave of every vain hope

I invoke the land of Ireland
Much coursed by the fertile sea.
Fertile be the fruit-strewn mountain
Fruit strewn be the showery wood
Showery be the river of waterfalls
Of waterfalls be the lake of deep pools
Deep pooled be the hill-top well
A well of tribes be the assembly
An assembly of the kings is Tara

Tara be the hill of the tribes
The tribes of the sons of Mil
Of Mil of the ships -
Like a lofty ship be Ireland
Lofty Ireland, darkly sung
Dark Eber's incantation
An incantation of great cunning
The great cunning of the wives of Bres
The wives of Bres of Buaigne
But the great lady, Ireland -
Eremon has conquered her.
I, Amairgen, have invoked for her.
I invoke the land of Eire.

The Harpers Song
Music © 1991 Bobby Wayne ASCAP/ Arrangement © 1993 Julia Lane

Julia - vocal, harp
Fred - low whistle

In ancient times harpers traveled between the aristocratic houses playing for patrons and relying on their hospitality for a living. This romantic lyric came from "Jack Downing's Song Book" circa 1832 probably inspired by the "Celtic Twilight" movement of the time.
Interestingly, the character Jack Downing originated in Maine. As it was published without music, American harper Bobby Wayne gave it new life with a beautiful tune.

Summer eve is gone and past, summer dew is fading fast
I have wandered all the day- do not bid me further stray
Gentle folk of gentle kin; let the wandering harper in

Bid me not in battlefield buckler lift or broad sword wield
All my strength and all my art is to touch the gentle heart
With the wizard notes that ring from the peaceful minstrel string

I have song of war for knight, lay of love for lady bright
Fairy tale to warm the ear, goblin grim the maids to scare
Dark the night and long till day- do not bid me further stray.

(Rory Dall O'Cathain) Arrangement © 1995 Julia Lane BMI

Julia - harp solo

Rory Dall O'Cathain (c.1615) was a blind Irish harper and a gentleman of considerable property. He took a fancy to visit Scotland, having heard the great reputation of the harpers there. While paying a visit to one Lady Eglintoun, she, apparently not aware of his rank rudely demanded a tune. He irritably left the house. After discovering her faux pas, the Lady anxiously apologized and begged for reconciliation. This tune was his response

Turlough O'Carolan & Jonathan Swift
Julia - harp
Fred - voice over, fiddle

This translation of an earlier poem in Irish by O'Carolan and Swift tells of a wonderful three-day feast. We do just a fragment of the whole poem. O'Carolan also wrote this tune, also called O'Rourke's Feast.

A Madder is a wooden cup with a capacity of one to three pints.

O'Rourke's noble feast will ne'er be forgot
By those who were there (or those who were not!)
His revels to keep we sup and we dine
On seven score sheep, fat bullocks, and swine.
Uisquebaugh to our feast in pails was brought up
A hundred at least - and a madder our cup.

Oh how I was tricked - my pipe it was broke
My pocket was picked - I lost my new coat!
"I'm rifled", quoth Nell, "of mantle and kertcher!"
Well then, fare them well - and the de'il take the searcher!
Come, harper, strike up! But first, by your favour,
Boy, bring us a cup -- ahh, that has some savor!


Julia - vocal, harp
Fred - vocal, 12-string guitar, bass, strings

Trees were held in great regard by the ancient Celts, and when a venerable oak met it's demise in Antrim in the 1600's, it was eulogized in this song. The tree grew on Lord Conway's demesne, near a mansion he built on the shore of Lough Neagh. Some believe the song uses the tree to symbolize the wane of the Irish Gaelic Lords and their largess.

Oh Bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand,
And the more I think on you the more I think long
If I had you now as I had you once before
All the Lords in Old England could not purchase Portmore.

Oh Bonny Portmore I am sorry to have seen
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree
It stood on your banks for many's the long day
Till the long boats of Antrim came and floated it away.

All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep
Saying, "Where will we shelter and where will we sleep?"
For the oak and the ash they are all cutten down
And the green walls of Bonnie Port more
Are all down to the ground

Oh Bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand,
And the more I think on you the more I think long
If I had you now as I had you once before
All the Lords in Old England could not purchase Portmore.

Interestingly, the lyrics are similar to another song, illustrating the strength of the oral tradition. The Strong Walls of Derry verse 3

O, bonny Portmore, thou shines where thou stands,
The more I look on thee, the more my heart warms,
But when I look from thee, my heart is full sore,
When I think on the lily I lost at Portmore.


Julia - harp
Fred - cello

This lovely tune is also know as "The Last Rose of Summer".

based on a story collected by Lady Gregory in the 19th century

Did you ever wonder where all these traditional tunes come from?

Julia - harp
Fred - voice, whistle


Julia - harp
Fred - drums, bells, bull roarer, choir voices
Brett Burnham - bones

This tune is usually played as a hornpipe. Julia's arrangements shape-shifts - as you imagine the king of the faeries might do. She starts as an air, shifts to the hornpipe and finishes up with a 6/4 waltz. The tune is also known as "William of Orange" or "Bonnie Prince Charlie"

GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN (The Song of Wandering Aengus)
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Julia - vocal, harp
Fred - Bb Irish flute

"Fire in the head" was a euphemism for creative inspiration. Though Julia has interpreted the poem via the oral tradition, we include this version taken from the Varorium Edition of the Poems of W. B. Yeats, as the final corrected definitive edition published in 1949. Julia has set this poem to a traditional tune also used for the Wexford Carol

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

The story of the song is the love sickness of the Celtic God of Love, Aengus Mac Og, for the fairy Caer Ibermoth(sp?) and Aengus wish to spend eternity in Avalon with her. Avalon the Island of the Dead, sort of an Elysium, where grew the silver and gold apples, from the Celtic word for apple - (Avalon in Welsh is - avallach).

Poem first published by William Butler Yeats in 'The Sketch' August 4, 1897; first collected in 'The Wind Among the Reeds', 1899; appears in McClure's Magazine, March 1905; alternately titled by Yeats as 'A Mad Song' in 'Stories of Red Hanrahan', 1904; appears untitled in the story 'Hanrahan's Vision'; The first stanza appears in Yeat's Essay 'Speaking to the Psaltery' originally published in final form in 1907, with musical notation taken down from the chanting of Yeats himself by Arnold Dolmetsch. This air is the basis for all of the airs given as 'Traditional', though some variations have occurred over time. The earliest recording of the song is by Burl Ives, 1958, learned as he says on the sleeve notes from the actress Sara Allgood, a contemporary of Yeats, from whom she learned it.

The mention of the Speaking to the Psaltery essay should include that it was eventually reprinted in a collection entitled 'Essays and Introductions' first printed in 1961 by Macmillan. As I have related in previous threads, the source for Judy Collins and others versions is considered to be Will Holt, who may have learned the song from Richard-Dyer Bennett, neither of whom have left a commercial recording, but Judy Collins claims to have a cassette of Will Holt teaching her the song. However, Travis Edmonson, of Bud & Travis, who recorded a very similar version to Judy's claims in a website interview - blue clicky thing - to have written the music and geiven the song to Judy himself. The Truth may be some combinatin of the above. The only parties who would know have both spoken and have differning stories. The discography breaks down the versions that follow Yeats' model, and those writing other tunes for the poem, of whose the most well known is by Donovan, and most recently by Sean Tyrell.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Julia - harp
Fred - vocal, fiddle

From "The Wind Among the Reeds", published in 1899, this poem vividly portrays the role of the fiddler in a traditional Irish community and has been set to music by Jo Ellen Bosson. We follow it with a lively traditional jig.
This live concert recording was made at Flagler College Auditorium, St Augustine, FL, in 2008.

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Mocharabuiee.

I passed my brother and cousin:
As they read in their books of prayer;
But I, I read in my book of songs
That I bought at the Sligo fair.
When we come to the end of our time
To Saint Peter all sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate.

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance.

And when all the folk up there spy me,
They will all come unto me,
Saying 'Here is the fiddler of Dooney!'
And dance like a wave of the sea.

© Michael Peter Smith.

Julia - harp
Fred - vocal, 12-string guitar

This is a song about a frog formerly known as Prince.

Please go to Michael's web site for the lyrics.


Julia - harp
Fred - vocal, 12-string guitar, flute, bass

A traditional song, this beautiful pastoral scene centers around the traveling musician, an exchange of music, and the effect of the encounter on all involved.

At Orenmore in the County Galway,
One pleasant evening in the month of May,
I spied a damsel, she was young and handsome
Her beauty fairly took my breath away.

She wore no jewels, nor costly diamonds,
No paint or powder, no, none at all.
But she wore a bonnet with a ribbon on it
And round her shoulder was a Galway Shawl.

We kept on walking, we kept on talking,
'Till her father's cottage came into view.
Says she: 'Come in, sir, and meet my father,
And play to please him " The Foggy Dew."

She sat me down there beside the fire
I could see her father, he was six feet tall.
And soon her mother had the kettle singing
All I could think on was the Galway shawl.

I played "The Blackbird" and "The Stack of Barley",
" Rodney's Glory" and "The Foggy Dew",
She sang each note like an Irish linnet.
And the tears stood in her sweet eyes of blue.

'Twas early, early, all in the morning,
When I hit the road for old Donegal.
She said 'Goodby, sir,'she cried and kissed me,
And my heart remained with the Galway shawl

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

Julia - harp, vocal
Fred - whistle

Moore was greatly concerned about the demise of Celtic culture. He frequently uses the harp image as a symbol for Ireland herself. This version is adapted by Julia Lane. The tune is the familiar Derry Aire collected in the late 1700's.

My gentle Harp, once more I waken
The sweetness of thy slumbering strain;
In tears our last farewell was taken,
And we in tears now meet again.
Yet even then, while Peace was singing
Her halcyon song o'er land and sea,
Though joy and hope to others bringing,
She only brought new tears to thee.

Then, who can ask for notes of pleasure,
My drooping Harp, from chords like thine?
Alas, the lark's gay morning measure
As ill would suit the swan's decline!
But come -- if yet thy frame can borrow
One breath of joy, oh, breathe for me,
And show the world, in chains and sorrow,
How sweet thy music still can be;

Arthur O'Shaughnessy (1844-1881)

Julia - harp
Fred - voice

An excerpt from his poem is accompanied by the traditional tune THE MINSTREL BOY which also has lyrics by Thomas Moore

We are the music makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by the lone sea breakers
And sitting by desolate streams
World losers and world forsakers
On whom the pale moon gleams
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever it seems

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities
And out of a fabulous story,
We fashion an empire's glory
One man with a dream at pleasure
Shall go forth and conquer a crown
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down

We, in the ages lying,
In the buried past of the earth
Built Ninevah with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth
For each age is a dream that is dying
Or one that is coming to birth...

Traditional Irish
Julia - harp
Fred - whistle

Listen closely and you might hear the lark!

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Concerts in Brief

  • Mar 12
    The Ridge,  Exeter
  • Mar 15
    Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church,  Baltimore
  • Mar 16
    Lakewood Manor,  Richmond
  • Mar 18
    Well-Spring Retirement Community,  Greensboro
  • Mar 19
    Country Club of Salisbury,  Salisbury