Seamus Heaney
& Liam O'Flynn,
The Poet & The Piper
(Claddagh, 2003)

One is a probably Ireland's greatest living poet, the other a piper of the highest renown. Each is a master of his own genre. When they combine on this unique CD, they are far greater than the sum of their parts. The blend of emotional poetry and haunting playing is electric.

Seldom have I found a collaboration that works so well.

I will be the first to admit that I prefer my poetry in the form of song lyrics. Perhaps I am too lazy to read poems. My excuse is that no one can read a poem with the inflections required to bring the poet's thoughts to life.

Here Seamus Heaney takes the work out of it. He reads his poetry and we find new insights in his vocalisation. Liam O'Flynn adds a new dimension with pipes or whistle.

The only poems of Seamus Heaney that were familiar to me were "Requiem for the Croppy" and the stark, moving and very real "Midterm Break" that describes a young boy going home from boarding school to attend the funeral of his brother. The former is not included here but has been used to introduce the song "Boolavogue" by other artists.

On this CD he introduces us to a wide range of his work. The poem "At the Wellhead" is a revelation as he speaks of a blind neighbour.

Liam O'Flynn provides a beautiful haunting short tune on the whistle in "Ardai Chuain." "Tollund Man" recalls the body found in a peat bog in Denmark. (Hearing the poem, I realised that this is the body that I saw in a museum over a decade ago.)

Heaney's poetry has that nostalgic sense. He writes of things many ordinary people have experienced. Here he writes of digging potatoes, an elderly relative nearing death, romance and "The Troubles." But there are also myths as in "The Annals Say" as a ship appears over an altar in medieval Ireland.

The music, the voice and the words interweave and draw us into a mystical but at the same time real world. Here are events we can all experience. Here a master poet and player give the ordinary a new coat.

This is a must-have CD if you like good music and great literature.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 13 September 2003