Irish Songbook
May 5, 2010 1:41 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to sing some good Irish songs with a bunch of kids (I play the guitar) to have them learn something about Irish culture. Could you point at some meaningful, beautiful, traditional Irish songs ? (Tabs, melody, lyrics and background resources welcomed).
posted by nicolin to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Curragh of Kildare is a personal favourite - the Curragh was one of Ireland's main military camps and I always took it to be that the singer is missing her lover, doubtless serving abroad in wars in the service of the foreign crown of Ireland's occupiers. Can't find a cite for that interpretation though - but could be a point of entry to talk about Ireland's colonial history and the number of young men who served the British Empire. A humorous take on refusing to do that can be found in the ballad Arthur McBride but might be seen as encouraging the children to violence.
Plenty more at the Cantaria site (not all songs are Irish though, be warned) - trying to think of age-appropriate material I would have thought some of the songs of exile and longing for home would also work as an introduction to talk about emigration and the famine - a favourite of the exile and parting genre is Lough Erne.
posted by Abiezer at 2:45 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I learned 'My Love Is An Arbutus' when I was about 8 years old at school.
posted by essexjan at 3:33 AM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: "I'll Tell My Ma" is an Irish kid's song (even though it snuck over to England for a little while). Actually, speaking of that -- don't be too spooked by songs that scholars say showed up in England in the 1800's here and there, because -- don't forget, at that time Ireland WAS part of England. It's also rather catchy (to the point where you may regret teaching the kids the song).

The Patriot Game and The Rising Of The Moon may be good rousing "war songs"; Patriot Game in particular may be good for the misgivings many had towards war later (it sometimes got used as a sort of "protest song" against the actions of the IRA later on).

Rocky Road To Dublin is about a guy who has to emigrate -- and the journey from his house to the boat to final landfall was somewhat adventurous. Plus, it's just fun.

The song Dulaman is another kids' song -- in Irish Gaelic, and singing in Gaelic could be a cultural experience in and of itself ("so, kids, there's another language in Ireland..."). It's about....seaweed. But seaweed did a lot to feed people during the Famine, and some people kept on eating it afterward because hey, free food! ....This song in question is a nonsense song telling the tale of a piece of seaweed who sees a hot girl and then walks into town to go flirt with her, though, so not sure how that fits in.

In general, this site seems to have a good collection of songs with chords and lyrics for more browsing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:09 AM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: Fields of Athenry

Its comparatively recent - but a very popular song amongst the Irish diaspora.

Another, though slightly controversal song, is Let the People Sing.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 4:41 AM on May 5, 2010

Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral
posted by zizzle at 5:48 AM on May 5, 2010

I have an album at home called "When I was Young", of Irish children's songs in both English and Irish, collected in Northern Ireland by Len Graham and his wife, Paidraigin Ni Uallachain. That would be my go-to.

Otherwise, mefimail me, and I can send you over some more songs that might be useful to you.
posted by LN at 6:07 AM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: Rattlin' Bog, you can curse me later.
Actually, I always thought it was the Rathlin Bog, as do apparently most of the Irishers on youtube.

You also, must, must, must take the wonderfully horrible song about stabbing babies in the head! Again spelling varies, Weile weile waile.

There's also two albums called "Irish songs we learned in school" and "More Irish songs we learned in school". Some that might be manageable at least in the choruses would be.

An Poc Ar Buile (Mad, allegorical, Puck goat!)
Óró 'sé do bheatha 'bhaile (Welcome home, summer's here!)
Bean Phaidin (Wish I was Paidins wife!)

If you want to put the heart crossways on them, threaten to teach them Fionnghuala (and the Anuna version cos it gives me goosebumps).

I just realised you said beautiful and meaningful.. but these are traditional as all get out.
posted by Iteki at 12:01 PM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: Busted the link for Bean Phaidin.
posted by Iteki at 12:08 PM on May 5, 2010

With all due respect, "Too ra loo ra loo ra" is not a traditional Irish song. It's "stage Irish," and a goodly number of Irish people hate "stage Irish" stuff.

Yeah, you'll hear it in Ireland -- in the shops the tourists go to because it's kind of expected. When I went to visit my friend's family in Cork, and was at some gift shop at some point, they had this hideous chirpy Muzak with choral arrangements of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" and this song, and at some point my friend's brother came up to me, grabbed my arm, and said, "I just want you to know - this is the sort of music that embarrasses us."

Perfectly fine song, mind you -- but not traditionally Irish. Although, it may be a fun mind-blowing exercise to play one of the traditional songs and then play this or "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" or what-not and then ask the kids to compare and contrast.

Actually, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" has an interesting history to it -- it's a similar stagey-song kind of thing, but there was a specific message to it. It was written here in the United States, at the turn of the century -- and was targeted at young unmarried Irish men who were moving over here to the U.S. The Irish-American community was getting a little discomfited that these young unmarried Irish men were settling down with non-Irish immigrant women, so this song was written to encourage immigrant Irishmen to basically "stick to your own kind".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 PM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: Rocky Road To Dublin is about a guy who has to emigrate -- and the journey from his house to the boat to final landfall was somewhat adventurous. Plus, it's just fun.

Seconding. Listen to this version by The Dubliners from the end of Sherlock Holmes.

(Look over to the right for another 39 awesome Irish tracks from The Dubliners.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:44 AM on May 6, 2010

Seconding the Dubliners cover. (Heh; I went to see SHERLOCK HOLMES with my parents the day after Christmas, and my father just didn't get why I was standing in the theater with a silly grin on my face listening to the closing credits. I was doing it because "music! So nifty! Whee!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 PM on May 6, 2010

« Older Write a history thesis or learn Chinese?   |   How to spend 10 hrs in tokyo Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.