Thousands are Sailing
This is an emigration song from the point of view of the ones who are staying at home, watching those around them leave for better opportunities in a faraway land.
"So good luck to those people, and safe may they land
They are leaving their country for a far distant land
They're leaving old Ireland, no longer can stay
And thousands are sailing to Amerikay"
I am Stretched on Your Grave
A strange and tragic love song: a young man refuses to accept his beloved's death, going so far as to spend his days and nights stretched out at her tomb. While the melody is different, the English words were probably inspired by the Irish story in the sean-nos song: Taim sinte ar do thuama.
Fair and Tender Ladies
This American love song first showed up about 110 years ago, in the Appalachian Mountains. Yet it has an unusual theme for an American folk song. While American folk songs are often more positive than their Irish counterparts, this one takes the view that love is full of sorrow, full of danger. Maybe that’s why it became so popular in Ireland.
This is a song from Nick Drake's 1969 debut album, "Five Leaves Left". The last verse reads:
"So forget this cruel world
Where I belong
I'll just sit and wait
And sing my song
And if one day you should see me in the crowd
Lend a hand and lift me
To your place in the cloud"
In this emigration song, a young man has left Ireland for America, presumably to find work. When he arrives, however, he realizes that his greatest grief is not the long journey, missing his country, or even the American taxes. It’s being far from Saro, the woman he loves.
The Banks of Sweet Primroses
Perhaps an unusual choice for a winter concert, but who would object to a bit of summer in the middle of winter? In this song, we have a midsummer morning, meadows, fresh air, and a young roving man who spies a maiden. Said rover approaches the maiden, saying “why do you grieve, beautiful one? I am here, and I can make all your cares disappear”. But this maiden is wiser than she appears! She tells him to bugger off, because he played the same trick on her last year. A romantic story, as you can see, popular now for about 200 years.
The Cherry Tree Carol
Both a carol and a folk song, the Cherry Tree Carol refers to a legend that appears in the 7th century apocryphal book, “the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew”, a story also mentioned in the Quran. In this legend, Mary and Joseph are walking through the desert. Mary, tired and pregnant, asks Joseph to pick her a date from a tall tree. Joseph responds “Why don’t you let the one who got you pregnant pick it for you?” To Joseph’s shock, God himself bends down the date tree, and Mary picks her fill.
But of course, since this is a Celtic folk song, the desert has become an orchard, and the date, a cherry!
Fair and tender ladies
Alan Lomax wrote about this song, “This classic Appalachian love song takes the view, which is unusual in American love songs, that love is both sorrowful and dangerous”. Perhaps that's why it has become so popular in Ireland as of late!
This song is one of our favorites to perform.