Celtic Music for Mother’s Day

In Ireland, Mothers’ Day is traditionally celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent, which means it falls in March or April. In the Irish diaspora, though, in places such as the United States, Canada, and points beyond, it is often marked in the second Sunday in May. If you’d like a bit of music to go along, give a listen.

Susan McKeown, Robin Spielberg, and Cathie Ryan each brought different experiences as mothers, daughters, and musicians to the project they ended up calling Mother: Songs Celebrating Mothers & Motherhood. From these varied lives they selected and created music and combined voices and instruments in ways that honor Celtic tradition and reach beyond it as well.

Inspired by Mothers and Motherhood

McKeown wrote Mother of Mine to honor her own mother, who was also a musician, and she sings lead on it. Pianist and composer Robin Spielberg wrote the instrumental Mothers’ Celebration inspired by a joyous dream she’d had of a festival in which a whole village was welcoming mothers and new babies. Seothin Seo h-O is a lullaby which McKeown learned as a child in school growing up in Dublin. Rock Me to Sleep Mother is a poem by Elizabeth Akers Allen for which Ryan composed music. She was looking for something to comfort her mother when she returned from Ireland after burying her own mother, and came upon the poem.

Ancient Mother finds McKeown bringing ancient Celtic and Native American musical elmentws togehter. Real Pretty Mama is a gently funny song about growing up from Spielberg. Ryan’s happy Grandma’s Song celebrates the joys of being a grandchild, and a grandparent, in a snapshot of her own grandmother’s life in Tipperary. When Ryan offers it in concert, she sometimes tells the story of visiting her grandmother, who did not recognize her as she had become far gone in Alzheimer’s disease. Ryan was sitting at her grandmother’s feet, and her aunt asked her to sing a song “more to make me feel better than anyhitng else,” Ryan says.. So Ryan started to sing one they’d known together when she was small. She saw her grandmother’s foot begin to tap, and looking up, as Ryan tells the story, “there she was, with all the love and laughter I’d known, all right there for the space of the song.” On the bus back to Dublin, Ryan wrote the song.

It’s a varied collection of song and tune, with the women adding harmonies and back up playing to each other’s leads in graceful and lively ways. Each of them has an active solo career — here’s a bit about two songs Ryan has recorded elsewhere that work well for Mothers’ Day — so it is rare for them to get together. It has been a few years since they recorded this album, but this gathering of talents is well worth seeking out.

Kerry Dexter writes about music and Ireland at Music Road, Wandering Educators, and other places.

Author: Kerry

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