Farewell To Music - 15th June 1946


Farewell To Music: Text Version

15th June 1946


It is strange how people sometimes forget their sense of values, and exchange what is real and beautiful for what is artificial and cheap. The most glaring example of this is in the neglect of the splendid songs of the countryside, and the hankering after the latest "catchy" tunes, that are without reason, rhyme, melody, feeling or sense. You hear them in concert halls, over the wireless, and along the roads. It is hard to believe that we have the largest and loveliest collection of folk songs in the world, or that we ever produced a Thomas Moore, when you hear some of the things that pass for songs now-a-days. And yet nobody wishes that these lovely songs should be neglected. You need only see the reaction of the audience anywhere to an Irish melody, to realise how much a part of the people are such songs. The people have no enthusiasm for the tinny "culture" that produces the so-called songs that are being forced on them to-day.


Experts have called "The Derry Air" the loveliest folk air in the world. It was taken down from a man near Derry, who was whistling it on his way home from a fair. The words Danny Boy were written to it but they are utterly unsuited to convey the feelings the air gives use to. We all know "Eibhlin a Run," that tender and beautiful song that so impressed Handel when he came to Dublin, that he is stated to have said, that he'd rather he had been the composer of it than of any of his other works. The Scots so liked it that they stole the air from us and called it "Robin Dair." Another universal favourite is "Una Bhan," the old heartbreaking love song of Thomas Laidir Mac Coisdealbha for fair Una Nic Diarmada. And what of the "Coolin" that goes so hauntingly on the violin, and the sweet sadness of "Sean O Duibhir a' Ghleanna"?


Where is the man who has sat unmoved listening to "Boolavogue," and who has heard Sydney Mac Ewan sing "The Lark In The Clear Air," or "She Moved Through The Fair," without feeling a strange sense of rapture and joy? And what of "The Gentle Maiden," sung in the glorious voice of our own John Mac Cormack? Such melodies as we have!-"Savourneen Deelish," "The Dawning Of The Day," "Eamonn a' Chnuic," "My Mary Of The Curling Hair," "Oft In The Stilly Night," "Paistin Fionn," "Deirin De," – heavenly melodies that all that is best in us yearns for and cries out to save. No wonder they earned for Ireland the title of "Land of Song." We have hundreds of those tender and delicate airs, and yet, listening to many young people to-day, you'd think Irelands's only contribution to song was "Mac Namara's Band" and "Patsy Fagan."


As well as the songs mentioned above we have many rollicking humorous pieces, with the sparkle of real genuine laughter breaking through them, pieces like "Kitty Of Coleraine," and "The Low Backed Car." Percy French, though a little bit tainted with stage Irishism, wrote many a favourite of this type.

Then we have our dance tunes, all so alike and yet all so different, as intricate and as many patterned as a piece of Celtic interlacery. Oh the abandon of an Irish dance tune made for light hearts and light feet, that is so different from the weary tedium of drum beating and saxophone blaring that passes now under the sacred name of music! And what of our Irish marching airs:- "Brian Boru's March," "Mountains Of Pomeroy," "Signal Fires," "The Irish Emigrant," "Parnell's March," "Clare's Dragoons," "The Minstrel Boy," "God Save Ireland," etc...


The Empire of Song knows no boundaries. Scotland has produced some lovely folk songs which are familiar wherever people love true melody. Best known of them all is "Annie Laurie." Almost as popular are:- "Ye Banks And Braes," "Beir Me O," "Loch Lomond," "The Road To The Isles," "Over The Seas To Skye," "Will Ye Nae Come Back Again," "Westering Home" and "The Flowers Of The Forest." Then there are the marching songs like "The Cambells Are Coming" and "Blue Bonnetts Over The Border," England's heritage is not so rich, but still she has some beautiful country songs of which "Come To The Fair" is a good example. Wales, in common with the othe Celtic countries, has a vast store of folk songs, in Welsh and English. One that we often hear is "All Through The Night." And so in the Continent, we find immortal songs in Germany, Austria, Poland, France and Spain. From Russia has come the "Song Of The Volga Boatman." From Italy, the home of song, come some of the world's best known melodies – "Santa Lucia," "La Paloma," etc. The Latin States of America have given us songs like "Cielito Lindo" and "La Cucaracha." In the U.S.A. itself Stephen Collins Foster created a repertoire of evergreen favourites such as "Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair," "Beautiful Dreamer," "My Old Kentucky Home," etc.


So round the world goes the Empire of Song, that was built up out of all that was choicest and best in civilisation. Those songs and melodies that sprang from the people had some indefinable quality in them that made them immortal. Sincerity and naturalness, feeling and beauty, music and rhythm, and a strange appeal to the human heart, all these qualities combined to make the songs that will never die, the songs like "She Moved Through The Fair," "Jeannie," "The Gentle Maiden" and "Santa Lucia." How, one asks, with all that store of glorious melody to draw from, can people be found to go on a concert platform, or to stand before a microphone, to sing the inane thrash tat, alas! Is heard so often to-day?


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