Mary McLaughlin,
Singing in Irish Gaelic
(Mel Bay, 2002)

In 48 pages plus a CD, this book shows the reader not only how to sing in Irish Gaelic, it also shows how to produce a book on doing it.

Sean-nos (old style) singing is an art form that many people aspire to, and the Gaelic language is ideally suited for it. Unfortunately, not many people in the world can speak Irish -- there are not even many people in Ireland who can speak it fluently.

Now Mary McLaughlin is here to help any aspiring singer with a book that combines all that is best in such a manual.

In concise, very readable and user-friendly sections, she provides a note on her life, pronunciation guidelines, background to Irish singing, the art of sean-nos, bibliography, discography, notes on the background to the songs and 14 songs with music, translation and phonetic pronunciation. In addition she even remarks on ornamentation and provides a few photographs. By the way, there is also the CD with each song first spoken and then sung. How's that for value?

The songs chosen are mostly quite well known. Because they are best known by their Irish name, some readers may think they will not recognize them, but a quick listen will change that. Among the tracks are "Fir a Bhata" (did the sea-borne suitor die or desert his lady?), "Baidin Fhelimidh" (a song about the perils of living off the sea) and "Eileen a Roon" (a tale of elopement).

This book will not turn a tone deaf person into a Joe Heaney or Mary McLaughlin, but if you want to enjoy the rapidly reviving art of sean-nos singing it will get you on the right track -- and remember sean-nos is less expensive, no guitar needed. Even if you do not aspire to being a singer, this book and CD are an excellent value as you get the tracks sung by McLaughlin on the CD and a short note on each in the book to enhance your listening pleasure.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 6 July 2002

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