Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

The Gloaming agus Saoirse

A stunning performance at the National Concert Hall will resonate for some time.

Mon, Jan 27, 2014, 10:59


I thought my goosebumps would scar.

The Gloaming at the National Concert Hall last night was life-afirming stuff. You wouldn’t want to sully your ears with anything else for a long time. Jim Carroll has a perfect review of the concert. As well as a link to Frank McNally’s piece on Iarla Ó Lionáird and wabi-sabi. When I saw that term in the newspaper headline my heart skipped a little because it’s one of the foundation blocks of my own personal philosophies when it comes to art and life. The Gloaming is art and life. They’re not just another band. Perhaps in your lifetime, you’ll see a few musical acts that truly transcend technical prowess, entertainment and emotional connection to become something else, some independent entity that brings you and them and the music together into some brief internal musical cosmos. These guys do that every time.

The Gloaming levitate above the bar. Of course the fact that this is traditional music brings into question whether the very atoms Irish people are made up of are built to respond to it more. When I hear ‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’ or ‘Opening Set’, in conjures a Ron Fricke montage of Ireland’s landscape through the ages. When I hear a deconstructed version of ‘Samhradh Samhradh’, the memories of singing that as a child flow torrentially through my brain, like the food critic in Ratatouille remembering his mother’s simple farmhouse cooking. There were several moments last night where I nearly burst into tears. The intensity, the vigour, the sheer joy that emanates from strings and vocal chords is impossible not to respond to both in appreciation for its primal nature and elevated sophistication.

On occasions I wondered whether the non-Irish speakers in the room were able to tap into Ó Lionáird’s vocals sufficiently besides from hearing nice sounds. And I also thought isn’t it strange that traditional music has been in the wilderness for a generation really, and yet The Gloaming are practically rock stars now? There were people in the hall last night who I would never expect to see at a trad gig. As a life long fan of traditional music and sean nós, it’s amazing to see an increasing crowd gravitating to this great glow emanating from this band, towards our music.

And I love The Gloaming’s use of poetry.

It’s a long time since I read Sean O Riordain’s ‘Saoirse’, but I went looking for it this morning. O Riordain experienced that commonality that an awful lot of great philosophical writers have – sickness. He was ill from a young age with TB and spent long periods of his life in hospital or on the flat of his back. I find with writers and thinkers who are sick from the get go, that there’s along with a darkness in their work, there’s also a poignancy that weaves itself around a greater understanding of the world and its transience. And when it comes to ‘home’, there’s an added gravity to a poem of this nature, sitting in Dublin right now, in 2014. The beauty of O Riordain’s words combined with the beauty of The Gloaming’s music is going to stay with me for a long time. Perhaps forever.

Raghaidh mé síos i measc na ndaoine
De shiúl mo chos
Is raghaidh mé. síos anocht.

Raghaidh mé síos ag lorg daoirse
Ón mbinibshaoirse
Tá ag liú anseo:

Is ceanglód an chonairt smaointe
Tá ag, drannadh im thimpeall
San uaigneas:

Is loirgeod an teampall rialta
Bhionn lán de dhaoine
Ag am fé leith:

Is loirgeod comhluadar daoine
Nár chleacht riamh saoirse,
Ná uaigneas:
Is éistfead leis na scillingsmaointe,
A malartaítear
Mar airgead:

Is bhféarfad gean mo chroí do dhaoine
Nár samhlaidh riamh leo
Ach macsmaointe.

Ó fanfad libh de ló is d’oiche,
Is beidh mé íseal,
Is beidh mé dílis,
D’bhur snabsmaointe.

Mar do chuala iad ag fás im intinn,
Ag fás gan chuimse,
Gan mheasarthacht.

Is do thugas gean mo chroí go fíochmhar
Don rud tá srianta,
Don gach macrud:

Don smacht, don reacht, don teampall daoineach,
Don bhfocal bocht coitianta
Don am fé leith:

Don ab, don chlog, don seirbhiseach
Don chomparáid fhaitíosach,
Don bheaguchtach:

Don luch, don tomhas, don dreancaid bhideach,
Don chaibidil, don líne
Don aibítir:

Don mhórgacht imeachta is tíochta,
Don chearrbhachas istoíche,
Don bheannachtain:

Don bhfeirmeoir ag tomhas na gaoithe
Sa bhfómhar is é ag cuirnhneamh
Ar pháirc eornan:

Don chomhthuiscint, don chomh-sheanchuimhne,
Do chomhiompar comhdhaoine,
Don chomh-mhacrud

Is bheirim fuath anois is choíche
Do imeachtaí na saoirse,
Don neamhspleáchas.

Is atuirseach an intinn
A thit in iomar doimhin na saoirse,
Ní mhaireann cnoc dar chruthaigh Dia ann,
Ach cnoic theibi, sainchnoic shamhlaíochta.
Is bíonn gach cnoc díobh lán de mhianta
Ag dreapadóireacht gan chomhlíonadh,
Nil teora leis an saoirse
Ná le cnoca na samhlaíochta,
Ná níl teora leis na mianta,
Ná faoiseamh
Le fail.

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