Maigh Seola

MAIGH SEOLA - Beyond The Mearing Wall

Irish music buffs may know of the archive of songs from Galway and Mayo collected a century ago by Mrs Costelloe, an Englishwoman who came to live in Tuam and married a local doctor. Published in the Irish Folk Song Society Journal in 1918, they appeared in book form in 1923 as Amrháin Mhuighe Seola. Generations of singers and teachers have dipped into it since then, and now a young band with strong local ties has recorded an engaging selection.

This well-produced 41-minute album gives us 10 songs, with a tune or two thrown elegantly in. Eight are in Gaelic, one in English, and one is macaronic (a bit of both). The warmly expressive voice of Brid Dooley (also a member of At the Racket) is prominent in the mix. She is supported by skilful, delicate musical arrangements from Áine Sheridan (harp), Caomhin O Se (flute, whistles), Patricia Kelly (violin, viola), Liz Barry (cello) and Jacqueline McCarthy (concertina). The style and instrumentation is better suited to the drawing room than the kitchen. It's not for those who must have their music red raw, but it has a graceful charm which rewards repeated listening.

The Gaelic songs are not fully translated, but the notes give a good idea of the subjects. The love songs Bridin Bheasaigh and Go dtagfaidh an Nollaig, the lullaby Suantrai, and the work song Thugamar Fein an Samhraid Lhin (sung as a duet by Áine and Caoimhin) are particularly fine.

This is very much a project album, with strong backing from the local community. To get hold of it, find a full translation of the lyrics, and discover where this talented sextet might go from here, you might like to try their website at Fame and fortune are not their motivation, but they have done well in their aim of returning these songs to the people. And a mearing wall is a boundary marking the divide between two neighbouring lands. But you knew that already.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 61 of The Living Tradition magazine.