Posted by: mdmusingsie | July 6, 2011

Every Song has a Story

When you come right down to it, every song is a story.  Whether that piece of music has lyrics or not, it’s still a journey. Yet, sometimes there’s another part – the story behind the song. It could be about the tune itself or someone’s interpretation. Either way, it’s an interesting and integral part a good performance.

I’ve been attending a number of concerts at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway as part of the Tunes in the Church series.  Hopefully word will start to spread about these wonderful events. They bring in very high caliber talent, yet they are sparsely attended.  I was talking with the Rector’s wife last week, and she said they were advertising more this year, but getting less people.  It’s a terrible shame, since the musicians are some of the best in Ireland.  I’ll admit that I find it more comfortable attending these gatherings than going to a pub, yet that’s not the only reason I continue to return.

The acoustics are great, the talent is amazing, and it really showcases traditional Irish music.  One of the great things about these types of intimate gatherings is that you get to hear the stories behind the songs. There’s usually at least one tune that no one knows the name of; it’s been lost along the way, including the bard who penned it.

I can almost understand why the names go missing.  I suspect it has to do with the way these tunes are handed down from generation to generation.  It’s not just taught in the traditional, schoolhouse-type setting with sheet music and a metronome; it’s more like show and tell.  The story behind the story, so to speak, as each song is a story in and of itself.  Sometimes they tell you the composer, if known (many of the bards of old didn’t write down their music, just passed it on verbally down through the years); other times it’s who the performer learned the tune from, in the true bardic tradition. Then there’s ones where you get that back story, usually an amusing (or even sad) anecdote about the author, the performer, what event precipitated the writing, or even a tale about the one time they played this tune and…well, you get the picture.

It’s not just the music that draws people back again and again.  It’s the stories.  If people just want to listen to music, there’s radio, CDs, the internet, etc.  What makes it “entertainment” is that story behind the story – something you can only get in a live performance.  It doesn’t matter if it’s traditional Irish music or rock and roll – people are interested in those special glimpses into the magical world of music.

(Side note:  this back story is similar to the liner notes that come with records/CDs.  I’m always disappointed when a new purchase yields no insert, lyrics, or other interesting tidbits of information.)

Below:  Mary Bergin, Cormac O’Beaglaoich, Gary Hastings (Rector)

Tunes in the Church 

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When you come right down to it, every song is a story.  Whether that piece of music has lyrics or not, it’s still a journey. Yet, sometimes there’s another part – the story behind the song. It could be about the tune itself or someone’s interpretation. Either way, it’s an interesting and integral part a good performance.

I’ve been attending a number of concerts at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway as part of the Tunes in the Church series.  Hopefully word will start to spread about these wonderful events. They bring in very high caliber talent, yet they are sparsely attended.  I was talking with the Rector’s wife last week, and she said they were advertising more this year, but getting less people.  It’s a terrible shame, since the musicians are some of the best in Ireland.  I’ll admit that I find it more comfortable attending these gatherings than going to a pub, yet that’s not the only reason I continue to return.

The acoustics are great, the talent is amazing, and it really showcases traditional Irish music.  One of the great things about these types of intimate gatherings is that you get to hear the stories behind the songs. There’s usually at least one tune that no one knows the name of; it’s been lost along the way, including the bard who penned it.

I can almost understand why the names go missing.  I suspect it has to do with the way these tunes are handed down from generation to generation.  It’s not just taught in the traditional, schoolhouse-type setting with sheet music and a metronome; it’s more like show and tell.  The story behind the story, so to speak, as each song is a story in and of itself.  Sometimes they tell you the composer, if known (many of the bards of old didn’t write down their music, just passed it on verbally down through the years); other times it’s who the performer learned the tune from, in the true bardic tradition. Then there’s ones where you get that back story, usually an amusing (or even sad) anecdote about the author, the performer, what event precipitated the writing, or even a tale about the one time they played this tune and…well, you get the picture.

It’s not just the music that draws people back again and again.  It’s the stories.  If people just want to listen to music, there’s radio, CDs, the internet, etc.  What makes it “entertainment” is that story behind the story – something you can only get in a live performance.  It doesn’t matter if it’s traditional Irish music or rock and roll – people are interested in those special glimpses into the magical world of music.

(Side note:  this back story is similar to the liner notes that come with records/CDs.  I’m always disappointed when a new purchase yields no insert, lyrics, or other interesting tidbits of information.)

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