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FRANKE HARTE & DONAL LUNNY "The Hungry Voice" Hummingbird records HBCD0034

This extract from a speech given by President Mary Robinson at the opening of a Famine Museum in Co. Roscommon in 1994 sets the conceptual framework very well indeed: "We celebrate those people in our past not for their power not for their victory.but for the profound dignity of human survival. We honour our people by taking our folk memory of this catastrophe into the present world with us and allowing it to strengthen and deepen our identity with those who are still suffering"

It was surely a daunting task to address The Song Legacy of The Great Hunger (1845-50). Frank Harte has risen to the challenge producing a memorable, and most moving, work, where his integrity of purpose and total immersion in the emotional cores of the songs are transparent. This is a diamond collection of 17 songs and has many facets: Horror, Stoicism, Humour, Irony, Defiance and Hope. Woven through this garland of, predominantly, unaccompanied song is the presence of master-musician Donal Lunny whose accompaniments are models of subtlety and support. Frank is in top form and such is the quality of expression he has conveyed a sense of hearing the narratives at first hand.

Eloquent voice is given to the harrowing Skibbereen on the first track followed by the remarkable forced emigration piece Edward Connors where the family were so discouraged by the `promised land` of Canada they, atypically, return to Ireland. The cavalcade continues with such gems as The Green Fields of America, brought to a wider audience from the singing of Paddy Tunney. Then there is Poor Pat Must Emigrate from the fine singing of Mick Ryan. I`m glad that By The Hush is included, from the singing of O.J. Abbot of the Ottawa Valley - a fine example of a song better preserved in North America than in its original home where our hero lands in the U.S.A. only to be conscripted to fight on the Yankee side in the Civil War! It`s just one great song, superbly interpreted, after another like the pointed No Irish Need Apply. Frank observes that many good songs are written long after the event(s) this is well illustrated in the final song from the pen of Luka Bloom the short and poignant exile song City of Chicago.

The production comes with a substantial booklet containing full texts and meticulous notes prefaced by well-researched historical/contextual background. This C.D. is a treasure.

Geordie McIntyre

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.