New Album from Cór Cúil Aodha
Cór Cúil Aodha plays an important role nationally, for instance performing an t-Aifreann Tradisiúnta at certain festivals around the country, as per a tradition that its founder Seán Ó Riada began back in 1960s. But it is most centrally a local institution, parochial in a Patrick Kavanagh sense: ‘The parochial mentality … is never in any doubt about the social and artistic validity of his parish. All great civilizations are based on parochialism.’
Cór Cúil Aodha’s first recording in twenty-five years is an album of mostly new music for a ‘mystical mass’ composed by Peadar Ó Riada in honour of Saint John of the Cross, though also including hymns in praise of various saints and spiritual poems by the likes of Dónal Ó Liatháin, Siobhán Bean Uí Cheallaigh and Séamus Mór Ó Muimhnecháin.
Ó Riada writes in the notes: ‘I did not conceive I would ever find myself writing a Mass as I thought my father had already admirably fulfilled that role with his two Masses. But this was different. It was a mystical Mass. I found myself developing a great empathy for the work and life of John of the Cross. … I find a deep resonance in John of the Cross’s work and its reflection in the well of spirituality that we draw from here in Cúil Aodha…. We started the Mass with no music but a bell, and the sound of feet walking on the timber floor, whether monks or choir, as we set about coming to inner silence in readiness to hear God’s wisdom. The Marnabh is a very old prayer from our area and I set it as a very low chant to settle the intellectual mind. The percussive sounds are to disrupt and reset this process in various ways. Into this stream I dropped five local traditional prayers with themes suitable to inform and shape the subconscious for this coming silence.’
The bilingual sleeve notes of the CD include a brief history of the choir, including an account of their famous version of ‘Mo Ghile Mear’, and another note on how the text for Ó Liatháin’s funeral mass communion hymn [listen below] was completed just in time for the poet’s own funeral:
‘For many years I was asking Dónal for a text that we could use for communion time at funerals. I had him tormented. Over the years he would bring in trial bits and pieces and I was shooting them down unkindly. But in the Spring of 2008, he arrived at a choir practice with this piece. It was perfect and expressed everything we could desire but was not finished. It needed another two lines. Alas, shortly after that Dónal fell victim to a stroke and suffered until his death in early November. We had talked about finishing the poem but we never got around to it. We were all full grief and woe that Sunday evening as we left the hospital and his deathbed. He was waked at home, and the following morning I found myself sitting down at my computer to arrange the funeral music that the choir would sing for one of their fellow brothers. Imagine my surprise when there, carefully placed in front of the screen was the text of the poem and two lines added in Dónal’s own hand. It seemed he was faithful to his muse and fellows, even from beyond the grave. I set it to music that morning, the choir learnt it in the evening, and we sang it for the first time at our Dónal’s funeral the following day. Today Dónal’s sons and their own sons are part of our band, and life’s wheel turns another bit.’
The choir has a plan hatching at the moment to do a performance in each county in 2013/14. Venues can apply to the choir via email and a democratic vote among its members will decide which venue in each county wins.
Published on 7 December 2012