St Francis was correct in saying that s/he who sings prays twice. Music makes sense of the resurrection. It is its best expression. We are a resurrection people. St Paul has a lovely line in his letter to the Romans (8.35): ‘Nothing therefore can come between us and the love of God.’ Those words of comfort are needed in a church that is aching for renewal. We need hope. Resurrection is the greatest proof of that hope. We flourish when surrounded by resurrection people and resurrection music. It swims us back to our roots where we dive into our heritage.
One man who brings resurrection with him wherever he goes is a Midwest Radio colleague and friend, Joe Byrne. It is always a joy to be in the company of this infectious little bi-lingual creature! He is one of a kind and kindness is his mainstay.
Over the years, apart from presenting Ceol agus Ealaíon on Midwest, Joe has also made hundred of ‘field’ recordings, ensuring that the spirit and grace of the people of Mayo is indelibly preserved. His ‘soundscapes’ are like works of art.
His character is such that, in his presence, one is inspired and invigorated. He has the gentleness of a child and the wisdom of the ancients. He keeps nothing for himself, all is given freely and readily. He is a gentle authority on music and history.
His love of the language is uncompromising yet unthreatening.
He lilts in and out of Irish and English as easily as he breathes. He is an accomplished musician and a powerful inspiration to fellow exponents and singers, who soak up his enthusiasm. His sense of fun is palpable.
Joe Byrne has a new collection of music, song, poetry, history and lore from Mayo.
Titled in honour of his Midwest programme, Ceol agus Ealaíon, it is a 6 CD set and forms the 12th project in the Dreoilín Community Arts Series. The artwork (beautiful drawings on the CD covers) is by Bernie Prendergast who has a gallery on the Mall, Castlebar. Proceeds from the CD venture will benefit the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation.
He says himself: “This production is intended to celebrate the exceptionally rich cultural heritage of this region. It also helps to make available some examples of the creativity of the older and of the newer generations within this area. The collection is also intended as a small part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of Midwest Radio.”
There is the music of the fiddle, flute, choir, uileann pipes, pipe bands, banjo, whistle, guitar, harp, keyboard, piano, bodharán, viola, mandocello, accordion, melodeon, concertina, mouth organ, drums and whistling alongside the voice in poetry, song, lore and conversation, not forgetting a little dancing. Yes Joe Bryne can record dancers!
We hear about Máire Bhéal Átha hAmhnais and travel from Killeaden to Killenaun with Terry McDonagh, bouncing into Knock Airport while reciting ‘Politicians’ in a haze of reels. We pray Marthain Phádraig and the Sanctus as we are comforted in The Cradling Arms of Cruachan.
Solam Booshi is a Japanese folk song sung in Achadh Mór while Pádraig S Ó’Murchú treats us to Inis Gluaire before Vincent Mayock is Queueing at Dunnes Stores. Mary Baker on Mike Hoban’s Jig precedes Séamus Ó Maoilearca’s poems, Gráinne Hambly’s harp, Colmán Ó Raghallaigh’s Christmas 1964, the Zulu Christmas Hymn and An Irish Christmas.
Tin Whistle music is followed by an excerpt from the Rotunda Letter and Maria McGarry. Bernie Prendergast leads us into Reels and Emer Mayock is Making Music next to The Landlady’s Fish, The Church Mice and Tony Reidy’s Too Many Diddles in the Dye. All of that is just on CD 1 – 19 tracks!
There is so much more, including Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Winner, Geraldine Mitchell, Michelle O’Sullivan, John Hoban, Louie Byrne, Michael Keaveney, Joan King, The O’Loughlins, Iarla Mongey, Mayo Concert Orchestra, Tony Martin, John McEvilly, Ger Reidy, Anne Conboy, Gerry Murray and John Joe McDonnell, to name another sixteen or so!
Westport is well-represented with Johnny Fadgin and his Sticks for the Reek, Maria Lynn McHugh and her daughter Síofra, Mick Lavelle, Pat Friel, Liam Grealis, Laoise Kelly, John Hoban, An tAthair Micheál Mac Gréil, Eoghan Hughes, Charlie Keating, Síle Molloy, John Mayock, Jarlath Duffy (how lovely to hear his voice. God rest his gentle soul), Tony Reidy and Ger Reidy.
Joe Byrne has created a masterpiece in Ceol agus Éalaíon. Credit also to David and Stephen Dwane in Ballina for the engineering, editing and mastering.
This collection will keep you company in the kitchen, in the bed and in the car.
The voices and sounds of music are a soothing comfort, especially when you realise that they all come from within our own county. There is a God and He is risen.