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The Otherworld: Music & Song from Irish Tradition

The Otherworld: Music & Song from Irish Tradition

Rionach ui Ogain & Tom Sherlock

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The book itself boasts an endlessly informative text and many resonant photographs of singers, musicians, collectors and -- most of all -- landscape features.

The Otherworld contains some colorful examples. One is from the Donegal fiddler Neillidh Boyle (1889-1961), a friend of the celebrated piper and folksong collector Seamus Ennis. Boyle matter-of-factly asserted that he had learned fairy music one night after being taken to a fairy wedding. "They played such wonderful embellishments," he recalled. "They said it was the enchanted music of Ireland that was long ago buried ... since the days of the old bards, and the days of the old pipers. ... I've practiced since a lot of their styles." To every indication Boyle was entirely serious.

Larger questions about the cause of supernatural experience aside, the two discs, compiled from recordings made by the Irish Folklore Commission (with many of the singers and players still alive, underscoring the continuing vitality of the native music), transcend simple ethnomusicological interest.

These are sparkling performances that afford considerable pleasure and occasion delighted surprise. I know a fair amount about old ballads, but the opening cut on the first disc -- what amounts to a sequel to the more famous "Down by the Greenwood Side-ee-o" (aka "Cruel Mother") -- was entirely new to me. It's sung brilliantly by Mickey Connors, who was recorded at a Travelers' camp in County Carlow in 1972.

The last of these record Ireland's unsettling countryside, home to fairies, banshees and ghosts, and serve to set already evocative songs and tunes in places that are of, at once, this world and the otherworld. If there is another compilation like this one, I have never heard of it, and I doubt that it could be as stimulating as this one, a unique and (almost literally) haunting excursion into mystery and melody.

Additional Information

Author Rionach ui Ogain & Tom Sherlock
Publisher Folklore of Ireland
Publication date 12 Dec 2012
Format Paperback
ISBN/EAN 9780956562838

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