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Words & Music.

IRISH FIREBRANDS: A Novel ~ and Other Works by Christine Plouvier, Indie Author

As part of my cultural immersion research for IrishFirebrands, I began looking for Irish or “Celtic” Traditional music. I wasn’t too enthused about the popular brand of Irish “set dancing” that had been touring the world for several years, but fortunately, fairly early on, I discovered this performance – and I was hooked on “seán-nós” dancing. (click on image to watch)

comhaltas-logo

ComhaltasLive #272-5: Seán Nós Dancing by Brian CunninghamComhaltasLive #272-5: Seán Nós Dancing by Brian Cunningham

Later, I purchased a few albums of compatible listening (discography appears in blog footnotes).

celtic treasureceltic Harpestrydance of the celts

Eventually, my Trad favorites from these albums evolved into a “soundtrack” that was keyed to particular characters or episodes in the book (bold items have URL links, or they can be heard below; some different album covers are shown).

  1. Chapter 1: Overture (Planxty Burke, Planxty Drew) [Celtic Treasure]
  2. Chapter 1: That Bolshie Donkey (John O’Connor) [Celtic Treasure]
  3. Chapter 1: Saturday Night at Geary’s Pub (The £5 Flute, Donald…

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Words & Music.

As part of my cultural immersion research for Irish Firebrands, I began looking for Irish or “Celtic” Traditional music. I wasn’t too enthused about the popular brand of Irish “set dancing” that had been touring the world for several years, but fortunately, fairly early on, I discovered this performance – and I was hooked on “seán-nós” dancing. (click on image to watch)

comhaltas-logo

ComhaltasLive #272-5: Seán Nós Dancing by Brian Cunningham

ComhaltasLive #272-5: Seán Nós Dancing by Brian Cunningham

Later, I purchased a few albums of compatible listening (discography appears in blog footnotes).

celtic treasureceltic Harpestrydance of the celts

Eventually, my Trad favorites from these albums evolved into a “soundtrack” that was keyed to particular characters or episodes in the book (bold items have URL links, or they can be heard below; some different album covers are shown).

  1. Chapter 1: Overture (Planxty Burke, Planxty Drew) [Celtic Treasure]
  2. Chapter 1: That Bolshie Donkey (John O’Connor) [Celtic Treasure]
  3. Chapter 1: Saturday Night at Geary’s Pub (The £5 Flute, Donald McLennan’s Exercise, What Pain I Have Endured Since Last Year[Dance of the Celts]
  4. Chapter 2: Irish Spring (Colonel John Irwin[Celtic Treasure]
  5. Chapter 4: Monday Trad Session (Shetland Jumper; Message From Home; Wise Up, Grumpy[Dance of the Celts]
  6. Chapter 5: Moving Day at Drumcarroll (Robert Jordan[Celtic Harpestry]
  7. Chapter 5: Remembering Mo (A Walk on Belfast) [Celtic Harpestry]
  8. Chapter 6: Frank Halligan (Christy Barry’s Set[Dance of the Celts]
  9. Various chapters: Dillon Carroll (The Humours of Ballyloughlin[Celtic Harpestry]
  10. Chapter 9: On the Bog (Fanny Power[Celtic Treasure]
  11. Chapter 9: Temple Bar (Leis Lacha, An Ghaoth Aniar Aneas, Cailin an Ti Mhoir-Declan Masterson) [Dance of the Celts]
  12. Chapter 13: No End to Love (Star of the County Down[Celtic Harpestry]
  13. Chapter 18: In the Graveyard (Eleanor Plunkett) [Celtic Treasure]
  14. Chapter 21: Young Dillon Dances Sean-nos (Lord Inchiquin[Celtic Treasure]
  15. Chapter 25: Medb’s Ceilidhe: Talent Show (Carolan’s Concerto[Celtic Treasure]
  16. Chapter 25: Medb’s Ceilidhe: Sweeney’s Bones (Never Was Piping So Gay, Davey’s, Tomeen O’Dea’s Reel) [Dance of the Celts]
  17. Chapter 25: Medb’s Ceilidhe: Dancing for Lana (Andy DeJarlis, Ingonish, Mrs McGhee) [Dance of the Celts]
  18. Chapter 26: Mo anmchara (Bridget Cruise[Celtic Treasure]
  19. Chapter 31: So Close and Yet So Far (Captain O’Kane) [Celtic Treasure]
  20. Chapter 34: Now I am Forgiven (Bridget Cruise, reprise: from a different recording)

Planxty Burke/Planxty Drew – Shelly Phillips

Bridget Cruise/John O’Connor/George Brabazon – Domining Bouchaud and Cyrille Colas

The £5 Flute/Donald McLennan’s Exercise/What Pain I Have Endured Since Last Year – Old Blind Dogs

Colonel John Irwin – Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman

Shetland Jumper/Message From Home/Wise Up, Grumpy – John McGann

Robert Jordan – Máire Ní Chathasaigh

A Walk On Belfast – The Belfast Harp Orchestra

Christy Barry’s Set – Kevin Crawford

The Humours Of Ballyloughlin – Máire Ní Chathasaigh

Fanny Power – El McMeen

Star Of The County Down – Deborah Henson-Conant

Eleanor Plunkett – Deanta

Lord Inchiquin – Deiseal

Carolan’s Concerto – John Whelan

Andy De Jarlis/Ingonish/Mrs. McGhee – Altan

Captain O’Kane – Seamus McGuire

Some writers want quiet while they work, but many others find inspiration in music. The genres of music that work for writing are probably as varied as there are writers, but writers who listen seem to be divided into two camps: those who can write to vocalists, and those who can only write to instrumental pieces.

Writers whose objection to any music is that it’s too distracting, may actually belong to the second group. If the only music they’ve tried (and failed) to write to is that of their favorite vocalists, perhaps they should get rid of the words. After all, words are what we work with, so it’s no wonder if some of us can’t hear The Little Voice Inside Our Heads if somebody else is yodeling in our ear buds.

I’m firmly in the instrumental camp. When I wrote Irish Firebrands, I listened to a variety of recordings, and I ended up with a great many playlists to accompany my writing moods, including selections from movie soundtracks, movie trailer pieces, and classical music.

I listen while I write, and I also play music when I go to bed at night. I play it very quietly, and I don’t set it to repeat (although if pain wakes me in the night, sometimes I play it again). My brain apparently uses the interludes of silence to consolidate the artificial “memories” that will later become creative writing, because I usually have more ideas, the next day. If I play continuous music all night, I don’t get those ideas.

Do you listen to music when you write? What kind? 

If you enjoyed these selections, why not add the albums to your writer’s collection? You may get some interesting story ideas!

Celtic treasure: The legacy of Turlough O’Carolan. (1996). [Music recording]. Milwaukee, WI: Narada Media.

Celtic harpestry: A contemporary Celtic collection. (1998). [Music recording]. New York: Imaginary Road Records.

Dance of the Celts. (1997). [Music recording]. Milwaukee, WI: Narada Media.

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One More Irish Lesson: Séarlas Óg.

For our final Gaeilge lesson, we’ll put together a bunch of Irish words (most of which we haven’t heard before), into a poem. This is a traditional song with a long history, but I haven’t found a recording of the Jacobite version that appears in Chapter 25 of Irish Firebrands.

The dancers exited the improvised stage to approving applause. The musicians followed them, except for John Sweeney, who slid his ‘bones’ into a pocket and adjusted his microphone for singing. Then Medb announced, “Everybody get out their programmes and get ready to sing, Séarlas Óg.”

Lana looked at the paper. The song was printed in Gaeilge, with an English interpretation by Medb. “I can’t sing that! I’ll have to sing the translation.”

Frank said, “We just sing the chorus. It’s really only two lines.” He winked. “Good practice for your pronunciation.”

The rustle of papers subsided, and then John sang, sean-nós:

A Shéarlais Oig, a mhic Rí Shéamais
’Sé mo mhór-chreach do thriall as Éirinn
Gan tuinnte bróig’ ort, stoca nó leinidh
Ach do chascairt leis na Gallaibh.

Lana read the English translation:

(O young Charles, King James’s son
Alas your distress upon leaving Ireland
You’ve left the country naked and barefoot…
Routed by the strangers.)

The audience joined the chorus in Gaeilge:

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

(Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home…
Now that summer’s coming.)

John resumed singing, unaccompanied:

Tá Séarlas Óg a’ traill ar sáile
Béidh siad leisean, Franncaigh ’s Spáinnigh
Oglaigh armtha leis mar gharda…
’S bainfidh siad rinnce as éiricigh!

(Bonnie Prince Charlie will come over the sea
The French and the Spanish will be with him.
Armed warriors as a guard about him…
They’ll make the heretics dance!)

Frank pointed to the chorus and raised his eyebrows in challenge, so this time Lana sang along:

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

John’s strong bass took over the tale, once again:

Sé mo léan géar nach bhfeicim
Mur mbéinn beo ina dhiaidh ach seachtain
Séarlas Óg agus míle gaiscidheach…
Ag fógairt fáin ar Ghallaibh.

(What a pity if I don’t see it,
Although living for a week only, after
Young Prince Charles and a thousand heroes…
Scatter all the strangers.)

Now clapping and stamping to accompany their singing, the audience finished triumphantly:

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

©2012-2014, Christine Plouvier. All Rights Reserved.

The version that was rewritten by Patrick Pearse in the early 1900s referred to Gráinne Mhaol (Grace O’Malley, queen of the Clew Bay pirates). It became a popular revolutionary song, and that’s the version you hear in these videos:

To hear the spoken verses of the Jacobite version, go to Séarlas Óg, on the Irish Vocabulary page sub-menu, above. I’ve also included music, so you can get in some singing practice – like Lana did!

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