About ‘Songs of the Scribe’
This new album is set in a world of woods, water and birdsong, lamentation and the divine, mystical incantation and love songs, and is inspired by ancient lyrics from scribes and hermit poets of early Ireland set to music in the traditional style by Ní Uallacháin. Early wire strug harp, vocal drones and contemporary arrangements weave through word and melody recreating a world of simplicity and stillness, contemplation, and delight in nature. It brings together the vocal depth of Ní Uallacháin’s voice accompanied by the delicate warmth of Helen Davies harp playing. An exquisite production.
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin: vocals, drones, bells
Helen Davies: Harps, monochords, Tibetan bowl
Praise for ‘A Stór is a Stóirín’
‘Songs of the Scribe’ is a uniquely delightful work, because of the beauty of the singing and the accompanying bell tones and bowl tones; because of the sweetness and sureness and clarity of the voice and voicing; because of the way the integrity of the verse line is respected; because of the singer’s at-homeness with the poems, in the music and in the modes. Naturally I am proud and privileged to have my translations included and to be linked into the whole enterprise so significantly. The notes to the poems are unostentatiously authoritative and the variety of treatment – as in the different renderings of Ciaran Carson’s blackbird and mine, or the chant mode of the Amergin vision, or the kept accent of ‘Pangur Ban’ – makes listening a totally absorbing experience.
The world is with us yet, the primal unspoiled world of clear water, clear air and birdsong; it lives in our oldest and in our newest poems and songs, and if it lives it is because great souls have still the power to cut through and back to the original wells. Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin is one of those inner voyagers, an archaeologist of the spirit world, a keeper of tradition, a maker of what is new and will be enduring. There is something uncanny about her ability to sound beauty in her singing, to find the phrase, the art and sympathy that resounds in the attentive soul. These are songs to revive and cleanse the spirit, songs of pure joy.
These songs are out-of-this-world; they are of exceptional beauty: they are magical, ethereal, spiritual, celestial!
Their beauty resides in both the words and the music, and in the use of both Irish and English.
The contemplative side of our music has been overshadowed by its (unquestionably visceral) dance tunes and big songs, with their emphasis on the social. On Songs of the Scribe, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, traditional singer-in-residence at Queen’s University’s Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, delves deep into the history of our monastic tradition to dramatic effect.
Her bell-clear voice serves a rich repertoire of incantations, love songs and lamentations, and her choice of Tibetan bowl and harp (from Helen Davies), drones and bells for accompaniment is pitch perfect. Works by both Seamus Heaney and Ciaran Carson are lovingly honed by Ní Uallacháin’s voice: in particular, her treatment of the iconic poem The Blackbird of Belfast Lough is a minimalist treasure. Switzerland’s St Gallen’s monastery yields many riches, which singer and harpist pick with great delicacy, melding poetry and music across millennia with a sinuous grace and elegance.
Siobhan Long, The Irish Times
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin is an Irish singer from Oriel in southeast Ulster. Her focus is not the traditional music only, on her nine albums you can also find work of contemporary poets and own compositions. On this ninth album she sings and plays the drones and bells and is backed by Helen Davies on harp, monochord and Tibetan bowl.
The work on this album comes from the 9th and 11th century mostly and has a wonderful, almost sacral atmosphere. Ní Uallacháin has a beautiful, balanced voice and brings the atmosphere of the compositions impressively beautiful into the living room. I love the minimalistic arrangements with only the soft sounds of the bells, drones, monochord and harp. It has a pureness without being to dreamy or getting into the vague world of new age music. An album that needs to be heard and bewitches the listener somehow with its ancient feeling. It makes the world go quiet and rests a worried mind.
Eelco Schilder, FolkWorld Germany
Songs of the Scribe has been my constant companion these last few weeks. No matter how many times I listen to it, it sends me plunging straight into forever. Pádraigín is an Irish traditional singer with a voice as clear as a bell, whose grasp of the ancient Bardic tradition – informed by both intuition and great learning – is evidently profound. On this unique CD she has set to music ancient Irish poems dating from the 9th to the 12th centuries, which are rendered into the most beautiful modern translations by herself, and the poets Seamus Heaney and Ciarán Carson. The musical settings are simple, pure and breathtakingly lovely. The words of the poems are just perfect – simple seeming, but suggestive of so many deep and mystical meanings that you find yourself in a state of peace, stillness and heart-openness just from listening to them.
Ann Napier, Cygnus Books