A Hidden Ulster p. 30
There are 24 songs on videos here. Most of them are sung in acapella sean-nós; some are with instrumental accompaniment. At the bottom of each video are four TABS giving information, words, music and translations under the following headings:
The singers on film are mainly from Oriel with three others from the Gaeltacht of Donegal, where Irish is still the vernacular of the community, sharing a dialect that was once spoken in Oriel.
Following the publication of A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (Four Courts Press) 2003, the author, as singer, began the process of reassembling and assimilating the songs of her choice into her own repertoire and recording them. Once recorded, the songs took on a life of their own as they found their way back into the living oral tradition of other singers. This renewal and and transmission of the songs into the repertoire of singers, is further consolidated and celebrated here by ORIEL ARTS, by recording 24 Oriel songs on film.
The process of transmission is covered in detail. Story of song and its role in community life is at the heart of the publication, A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel, just as traditional song was once at the heart of community life. People sang out their grief in keening songs, used their voices to create vocables and rhythms for dancing, wooed lovers and patrons with mellifluous harp-songs, lamented the downfall of chieftains and the old Gaelic order with long mournful elegies of sorrow, mesmerised children with repetitive lulling songs, and satirised with invective and vigour anyone foolish enough to offend the community.
Song was powerful: it gave comfort, ease and release from the hardships and demands of daily living; it was a socially acceptable vehicle for releasing strong and intense emotion, not usually acceptable through the spoken word in everyday life. Song was at the heart of the expression of the traditional arts of Oriel.
A Hidden Ulster was the first major study of the song-tradition of Oriel, drawing on many traditions associated with the songs: markets, patterns, seasonal folk drama; keening and wakes; harpers, poets, patrons and chieftains, with vision poems, laments, courtly songs, dance songs and occupational songs.
Detailed accounts are given of the rituals associated with it, the people who sang the songs, the poets and harpers who wrote them, and the many collectors who thought it worthwhile to write down and record them.
Oriel is known for its many poets and harpers whose works survive to the present day. The Irish language song-tradition in Oriel absorbed and was enriched by many of these literary works of the poets and harpers. The people liked what they wrote and composed, and they sang their songs.
The disparate manuscripts and recordings of many early 20th-century collectors, were sourced and edited; texts and music manuscripts reassembled as song, to recreate what was once a vibrant and vital song tradition. Renewing a song is a long and slow process, unlike that of renewing an instrumental piece of music. It takes a lot more time. It involves the identification of lyrics and music from various sources; making sense of the music as a carrier for the metre of the song; matching lyrics to notation; learning the song if it suits the vocal range of the singer, or finding a singer whose vocal range it suits and teaching the song; assimilating and internalising the song, and then having an outlet for performance of the work and back into the tradition. For this reason, in many of the videos the singer is Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin who has been researching and renewing Oriel song over a long period.
There has been a longstanding linguistic and song connection between the Donegal Gaeltacht and Oriel, since the collector County Louth man, Lorcán Ó Muirí founded an Irish language summer college in Rann na Feirste in 1926. Indeed Oriel enriched the Donegal song tradition with many songs which had found their way into the Donegal repertoire such as Ceol a’ Phíobaire AHU p. 69 (T with the Maggies), Dúlamán AHU p. 59 (Clannad), Casadh Cam na Feadarnaí AHU p. 90 Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill), An Cailín Rua (Skara Brae), Jinny Dheas a Dhéigh Bhean (Hiudaí Phadaí Hiúdaí Ó Duibheannaigh), An Bonnán Buí AHU p. 44 (Hiúdaí Phadaí Hiúdaí Ó Duibheannaigh), Bruach Dhún Réimhe AHU p. 42 (Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh) , Séamus Mac Murfaí AHU p. 241 (Toraigh & Lillis Ó Laoire), Úr Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte AHU p. 228 (Aoife Ní Fhearraigh), Úirchill a’ Chreagáin AHU p. 250 (Hiúdaí Phadaí Hiúdaí Ó Duibheannaigh) etc.
This close connection with the Gaeltacht of Donegal continues to enrich the repertoire of both regions.
The singers who gave their songs willingly to the collectors at the turn of the 20th century were many. They were fully aware of the value of what they were transmitting. They gave their songs freely and enthusiastically, and the process of transmission and collection is both poignant and moving:
A Hidden Ulster p. 29-30
ORIEL ARTS is an ongoing project of research, recording, publication and performance, and as songs are renewed and recorded they will be uploaded in the SONG category on ORIEL ARTS.
© Oriel Arts 2017