I recently went through my collection of CDs, and rediscovered my favorite Celtic music albums. My parents got me interested in the genre when I was much younger, maybe even in elementary school. It’s the haunting vocals and the powerful instrumentation used in Celtic songs that originally reeled me in. The CDs that got me hooked on Celtic music are the “Celtic Circle” collection of CDs, which contain a variety of selected songs from multiple artists.
Celtic music can range from quiet, lullaby-type songs sung in traditional Gaelic to pumped up songs using drums and other instruments. These songs can be either traditional ballads or poems, while also being equally capable of serving as a unique type of modern music. For anybody interested, this is an article that gives a decent definition on what Celtic music covers in terms of inspiration and countries of origin.
Whether you have a preference for quieter or louder songs, Celtic music generally offers a wonderful variety. For this blog post, I’ve listed my personal favorite choices from Celtic Circle 1 and 2.
An Fharraige (The Sea)
This is sung by Maire/Moya Brennan, an outstanding singer also known as the lead singer for the band Clannad. “An Fharraige” is a quiet ballad about the beauty and serenity of the sea, sung in Gaelic. These are the lyrics of the song, containing both the Gaelic and translated English.
Ailein Duinn (Dark-haired Alan)
“Ailein Duinn” is a lamentation written around the year 1788 by a Scottish woman named Annag Chaimbeul (“Annie Campbell”), who lost her lover Ailean Moireasdan (“Alan Morrison”) on a tragic ship accident. Before she passed away due to losing her will to live, Annie Campbell composed this song in remembrance of her lover, whom she was bound to marry before the sea claimed his life. The lyrics can be found here on Wikipedia. This particular version is sung by Capercaillie, a Scottish folk band fronted by Karen Matheson, who sung this song in the movie “Rob Roy”.
Turn of the Century
Sung by Annie Haslam, the lead singer of progressive rock band Renaissance, “Turn of the Century” is a sad but romantic ballad about a man named Roan mourning the recent loss of his wife to his illness, and the beauty of remembering a love that never fades away. These are the lyrics.
This song is a hauntingly beautiful poem about Newgrange, an ancient tomb built around 5,200 years ago that archaeologists suspect was used for a number of purposes, such as religious use, and also astrological study, as the site is known to be perfectly aligned with the Winter Solstice so that its halls are brilliantly illuminated for a few precious minutes. The song is sung by Irish folk band Clannad, and these are the lyrics.
Sung by Alan Stivell and Nolwen Elroy in Gaelic, “Brian Boru” pays homage to the legendary Irish king Brian Boru, a High King who unified Ireland under his rule until the year 1014, when he fell at the Battle of Clontarf. The video provided above provides a decent translation from the Gaelic lyrics into English.
In London So Fair
This is a love ballad sung by Susan McKeown, an Irish folk singer. In this ballad, a young sailor considers abandoning his lover for the sea, and a tale is told of the lover disguising herself as a fellow sailor to prove her loyalty to him. The lyrics can be found here.
Against the Wind
Also sung by Maire/Moya Brennan, “Against the Wind” is a powerhouse song filled with thrumming drums and the vocalist’s echoing voice about refusing to back down, even in the face of a seemingly unconquerable enemy. As my sisters can attest, I was obsessed with this song when I was younger, and would listen to it almost every day on the CD player I had been given as a gift. These are the lyrics.
Mo Ghile Mear (“Our Hero”)
A powerful traditional hero praise song by The Chieftains, a traditional Irish band, and Sting, the English singer. Sung in alternating Gaelic and English, the song speaks of a strong warrior who is dearly missed by those he helped. These are the lyrics.