Field recordings performed and recorded by Ross Crean at Glenstal Abbey, Murroe, County Limerick, Ireland.
SongsA Chuisle Mo Chroi
Ó sí rún mo chléibh bhí ann
Fear a' Bháta
Having come from an Irish family, and being raised in the UK, I have had the immense pleasure of having the Celtic sean-nos (old-style) way of singing as part of my musical training and development. It was a way for me to express myself as a painfully shy child, and the first tool to understanding how to make an audience at a noisy pub come to a complete halt to pay attention to what you are expressing. The tales of love, heartbreak, war, victory, and other realms made me realize that magic existed in ways besides what existed on the written page; it lived within the realm of sound and voice.
Sean-nos singing also taught me to be brave. The vulnerability in the exposed naked voice hides nothing from the human ear, but it also held a magnetism that kept those ears glued to the sounds that were made. Hence, that state of vulnerability became a sense of power, not over others, but of self-realization. I love that I was able to discover myself as a young singer through this tradition, and thank you for sharing in that with me through this work.
Some things to keep in mind:
– What you see on the page is suggestion. There are many notes on the pages
herein, but that is how I have preferred to perform these songs. When it comes to
ornamentation, tempo, and breath, do what feels right for YOU. This is not a
tradition that revels in fixed notation, so do not feel obligated to perform these
pieces as written. Follow your musical instincts, and make changes if you feel it fits
you and your voice appropriately. Experiment, and have fun!
– An important key to the style of sean-nos performance is the idea of “long wind
and loose voice.” Think of the body as a bellow, similar to a pump organ; air moves
the line, and must never be interrupted. Ornamentation is not to be approached
as coloratura in bel canto tradition, with emphasis on distinguishing each note or
grouping of notes. Rather, it is to flow right along through the forward flow of air,
as quick flashes of color to the vocal line.
– The “n” consonant (particularly ending “n” or “nn”) is completely permissible to
be sung on, as it is considered an “open mouth” consonant (also an “open
voiced consonant”), and thought of as a variance of vocal color, as well as a smooth
phrase-ending hum with the tongue.
– Grace notes vs. cue notes: grace notes (with the slash) are to be performed very
quickly, while cue notes (without the slash) are to be treated with more duration,
usually taking half of the note that precedes or follows it.
– Accent marks are used to reemphasize a repeated note. They should not be approached
aggressively, but with only a slight increase in volume.
Lastly, there are several dialects that remain of the Irish and Scottish Gaelic language, that only a recently comparable system of IPA has been produced. Should you need a reference to IPA at any point, the following links should be relatively helpful:
Irish Gaelic Phonetics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Irish
Scottish Gaelic Phonetics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Scottish_Gaelic