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review archive live Irish music cd review with bill margeson

July 08

We were going to review several albums this month in one of those, "clean up the attic and catch up" moments. That plan is out the window. There is only one album to discuss this month.
Beal Tuinne, out on Tara Records. It is the most beautiful Irish album we have heard in our 25 years of writing about Irish music. The most beautiful. It is to the deepest core of what it is to be Irish. Perhaps we should explain?

About a month or slightly more ago, we were sitting in front of the computer in our normal half-conscious, somnambulant state. The phone rang. Alan O'Leary from London and the fab Copperplate Distribution calling. "Have you heard Beal Tuinne yet?" Whaaa?? "Beal Tuinne. It is the most amazing album I've heard in my years in the business. Have you heard it?" We had not. But----suddenly---excitement was in the air. Says Alan, "I'll mp3 you one of the songs immediately." True to his word, he sent me the cut of Ciúmhais Charraig Aonair. To say we were bolted to our office chair through all 20 immediately repeated playings would be an understatement. Stunned. Immobile. Shattered.

Shaun Davey is Ireland's greatest composer. How many years ago did we first hear the iconic Brendan Voyage?
The Pilgrim—Granuaile—The Relief of Derry Symphony? A symphonic composer employing Irish instruments, themes and melodies of such exquisite taste and genius, we have been among his biggest fans for years. Decades, really. And, his wife! Rita Connolly first transfixed us with her voice in Granuaile . A voice from heaven. Shaun Davey has been emulated, copied and idolized for years. Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame and fortune, as well as others knows well what they owe to the likes of Sean O'Riada and Shaun Davey. Yes. We include Shaun Davey in the same sentence as Sean O'Riada. The number of films, television shows, documentaries and other projects for which he has written the music can only begin to be grasped by a visit to his website. Perhaps best of all, he also wrote the anthem for the worldwide Special Olympics hosted by Ireland a few years ago.

On with the story. He and wife Rita bought a summer home on the Dingle Peninsula a few years ago. Shaun and Rita, like everyone of us who has ever been there, had fallen in love with the The Dingle. They bought a summer home. Upon moving in for the summer, the inspiration took hold, and Shaun started writing music. But, to really, truly and deeply reveal the spirit of the place, ordinary lyrics would not do the trick---and so the search began.

The regular reader knows well the name of Eilis Kennedy. She is one of the great singers of Ireland and her two solo albums have both won her Awards here, as well as through other venues in Ireland. One of the immortals!! Eilis, of course, lives on The Dingle, as the regular reader also knows. She and her husband, John, own and operate one of the great pubs in the west, John Benny Moriarity's. It also turns out that Eilis' father was
Caoimhín Ó Cinneide (Kennedy). Her family was of the Blasket Islands. He was, in a way of thinking about it, perhaps, the poet laureate of The Dingle. Is that too grand? Eilis blushes at it, but it is not far off the mark.

After he passed away, his poems were collected in a small volume that had been out of print for some time by the date that Shaun and Rita arrived on the Peninsula. Fortunately for Irish music, someone brought the volume to Shaun, and it began. Caoimhín's wife and Eilis' mother, Eithne, encouraged and helped in the entire production. We can only imagine Shaun's thrill at the involvement of Eilis herself, as the voice of her father surely speaks through her (he was also a noted singer, as well as poet). Add to that another iconic Irish musician and singer from the Dingle, Seamus Begley and the forge was cast for something amazing.

Rehearsals. Meetings. Notes. More rehearsal—reworkings, changes—and then, more rehearsal. And, then, it all came together on a magic evening in September of 2007 at the small St. James Church in the town of Dingle itself. The RTE was, by this time, involved, and the concert and lead up time are all part of a documentary. There are surely more concerts scheduled for the future for this wonderful octet of musicians and singers. This must become a major part of the biggies like Irish Fest in Milwaukee and others. Check out the LiveIreland Store here, and do not lollygag. Just get it.

If we could own only one Irish album, this would be it. Don't screw this up. Get it. It will touch your ears with a gentleness equaled only by its caress of your heart and memory. It is a masterpiece—and all the poems (lyrics) can be found in the English translations online at the Beal Tuinne website—just Google it.

It has never, and will never, be done better than this.

Rating : Perfection

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