Cover Story: (23) Mná na H-éireann (Women of Ireland). Kate Bush or Nolwenn Leroy

So many people have recorded the beautiful song, Mná na H-éireann, better known by its English title Women of Ireland, that it may seem a little shallow to discuss only two. But I have said previously that I believe the Cover Story series - now up to 23 and they can all be seen at this link - works best with no more than three (and I shall briefly but admiringly mention a third).

The song began life as a poem, written in the 18th century by an Ulsterman, Peadar Ó Doirnín, and was put to music, seriously beautiful music, by Seán Ó Riada, who died in 1970.

Several translations from Gaelic can be located but none is kind towards the English. The song is therefore unlikely to please anyone who believes the Crown always acted with decency, benevolence and justice towards the island of Ireland and resents any suggestion to the contrary.

The rest of us may sit back and enjoy a gripping melody and accept that the lyrics, from the tradition of depicting Ireland as a beautiful woman imploring patriots to resist the wicked English, represent a respectable point of view.

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Desert Island Folk: (1) did you hear the one about Christy Moore and Tony Capstick?

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Buy this and/or other Christy Moore albums at the Salut! Live Amazon link by clicking anywhere on this caption


Salut! Live likes its series. Some take off, and I cannot begin to explain how gratifying it is to see Cover Story receiving so many hits; others attract little interest and quickly peter out.

Looking back over the archive - a quick scroll down the column on your right opens up Salut! Live's 10-year-old history - I came across a couple of early articles about Christy Moore's appearance on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

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French music doesn't travel? Try Jain, Imany, Cats on Trees and even Indochine

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It's a perceived wisdom and I have been known to swallow it. French music, and especially pop/rock, may suit a domestic audience but does not easily appeal to the ears of Anglo-Saxons (as the French like to call us). Indeed, there are plenty of French people who would sooner listen to American or British pop and rock.

But recent developments have prompted me to rethink the theory. It may have a little to do with my neighbour Jean-Louis, who plays guitar in a way I'd love to emulate but never will; I could gaze at his lead guitar runs all night. Come to think of it, I already have gazed at them for much of the night. It has more to do with a relatively new phenomenon, French artists making a point of singing in English.

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Cover Story: (22) A Proper Sort of Gardener. Maggie Holland or June Tabor

ALL ITEMS IN THE COVER STORY SERIES CAN BE SEEN BY CLICKING ALONG THIS LINE


It is not a case of brutal honesty, just honesty, to suggest that June Tabor is technically a more accomplished singer than Maggie Holland.

Normally, when confronted by a song Tabor and almost anyone else has sung, I will plump for her. She has a voice that belongs up there with the best; few others, in any genre, can match it. There is soul, depth, exquisite phrasing and all the joys of one of the finest examples of humanity's only wholly natural musical instrument.

Why, therefore, do I prefer Maggie Holland's singing of A Proper Sort of Gardener?

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Leon Rosselson: me, Brassens and the Last Chance, touching on Brel, Sylvestre and (always last) Ferré

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My elder daughter and a friend stayed with us at the weekend in France. Noticing the print (above) that adorns the living room wall, the famous one showing Jacques Brel, Leo Ferré (for once not last) and Georges Brassens, she mentioned that as part of her modern languages degree, she wrote a thesis on Chanson française. Brel, I have been told, had a flat in the little French seaside town, Le Lavandou, where we spend part of the year. The conversation reminded me of an engaging article sent to me by Leon Rosselson, perhaps as close as most get to purveying Chanson anglaise (and with a sharp political edge). It has appeared elswehere (https://medium.com/@rosselson/me-georges-brassens-the-last-chance-a-shaggy-dog-story-cf4b11fc348d and see Rosselson's own footnote about Rock’n’Reel. But I have his encouragement to reproduce it for Salut! Live readers. For more of what has been published here about or by Leon Rosselson, this link should bring up a few items ...

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Cover Story: (21) The Bells of Rymney. Pete Seeger, the Byrds or Oysterband

For the latest edition of Cover Story, I invited Dave Chamberlain, who presents a folk show Acoustic Routes on Dapper FM in South Wales, to suggest a candidate. His instant response was to ask whether the series had already looked at The Bells of Rhymney. It had not.

We start, again at Dave's suggestion, with the original words by Idris Davies, a Welsh miner who turned to poetry and teaching.

His verses were adapted by Pete Seeger but later covers have included those by the Byrds, Cher, John Denver, Judy Collins and Oysterband. While simultaneously listening to the Collins version, I watched a remarkable "virtual movie" of Davies reciting his poem; this was produced by Jim Clark, who posted it at YouTube with poetryreincarnations as his username, and I hope Jim will regard its reproduction here, properly credited to him, as "fair use".

A lot has been made of the mispronunciation in most versions - maybe all - of Rhymney. It should be spoken or sung as Rumni. Davies probably helped to inspire Seeger and others in this respect by coupling "what will you give me" with "the Bells of Rhymney", though Jim's film unsurprisingly shows him correctly pronouncing the name of what was his own home town.

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