SÍLE NÍ FHLAITHEARTA - Is Duitse a Bheirim Grá

SÍLE NÍ FHLAITHEARTA - Is Duitse a Bheirim Grá
Clo Iar-Chonnachta CICD181

Now and again you hear a voice that stops you in your tracks and makes you grateful for the gift of hearing. Síle Ní Fhlaithearta has such a voice and I’m truly glad I heard her singing on this album. She’s a well-known and well-regarded singer of traditional songs in Irish, so I just don’t understand why this is only her first recording. That said, this is a great album from a mature voice that’s as clear as mountain water. As to be expected from a Conamara native, her ornamentation is delightful; there’s never the feeling that it’s there just for effect but as an essential part of the song.

She sings on thirteen of the seventeen tracks. And what songs they are; most are ‘big’ songs of the sean nós tradition like Dónall Óg, Brídín Bhéasigh and Sé Fáth mo Bhuartha. All are love songs except for the sly rejection of an unwanted suitor on Casadh an tSúgáin, and that’s from the suitor so I guess that counts too. I suppose it’s a human thing that we seem more to listen to songs of unrequited love. Maybe because it’s a more emotional thing to sing about than love fulfilled?

While I prefer the unadorned voice on such songs, I have to give credit for the accompaniment of Síle Denvir on clairseach on some tracks, and various members of her own family including husband Charlie Lennon on others. There’s a wonderfully restrained use of bass on the opening title track and a couple of others. Indeed, this title track is Lennon’s own composition; a love song for his wife that was later translated into Irish. I can’t think of any other love token as lasting as that.

Ní Fhlaithearta does sing several tracks, notably Liam Ó Raghaillaigh, unaccompanied. This is a heart-rending lament from a young woman widowed on her wedding day. You don’t need a word of Irish to hear the grief in the words of this song. It’s a good thing for a slow-air player to try to sing the Irish words of the song when playing. Next time I play Liam Ó Raghaillaigh, it’s Síle Ní Fhlaithearta’s voice I’ll be hearing instead of my own.

At first I wondered why the album didn’t end with her singing the great love song, An Draighneán Donn, the lament of a young woman rejected because of her lack of dowry. But it could have been hard on the emotions to finish on such a sad note, so Charlie Lennon’s playing of Pléaraca Chathair na Mart eases you down sweetly.

Don’t be worrying if you’ve no Irish; good singing takes no mind of language. Cervantes said that a translation is like the wrong side of an embroidery. There are short summaries of the theme of each song as well as the Irish lyrics, so you’ll have the sense of the song even if you haven’t the full meaning. This is an album to cherish; full marks again to CIC.

Mick Furey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.