A sing song with a difference


FOR lovers of the female voice in Irish traditional music, it was almost too much to bear. The three divas stood before us. It was impossible not to think of them and their voices in terms of colour Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill's dark and deep, sonorous and Controlled Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh's, light and reed like, bending elegantly in the breeze of the song, Maire Ni Bhraonain's, a heady mixture of light and dark with an eerie soulful Catch on it.

It was meant to be a singsong and they had brought their song sheets. Except for Ni Mhaonaigh's beautiful descant gilding of Ni Bhraonain's definitive Down By the Sally Gardens, there was an absolute lack of harmony. They just sang it out together most of the time, except when they divided the verses up between them.

There were times when you couldn't help longing for individual versions of the songs, such as A stor, a stor, a ghra, which both Ni Mhaonaigh and Ni Bhraonain have done so magnificently alone. But the comble de bonheurs effect was irresistible, for instance, when the three divided the verses of the Tory song, An Mhaisghdean Mhara, and then sang the whole thing through again together, because no, it just isn't long enough.

The sing song ethos prevailed, with Lunny singing his "party piece", Siobhan Ni Dhuibhir. Then two of the most beautiful male voices in traditional singing were summoned from the audience, and Liam O Maonlai took his place with Lillis O Laoire on the stage for the Gweedore feel good song, Gleanntan Glas Ghaoith Dobhair. Sharon Shannon appeared as if by magic and there was a singalong version of Buachaill on Elrne.

Much of the significance of the event lay simply in the fact that it happened that Donegal, so long scattering her musical riches, could bring them back again and knit them together.