Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 9

Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 9
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Irish Folk Song Society
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Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society
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S9Now, as the Petrie Collection alone contains over a thousand airs without words,we must for the present be content to find English partners for them; and for thebenefit of aspirants to do this national work, I venture to make a few practicalsuggestions from the experience of thirty years or more during which I have beenengaged in similar work.The English language undoubtedly presents great difficulties to a writer ofwords to Irish music. These are the multiplication of its consonants, and a certainwant of fulness and variety about its vowel sounds in the standard speech. In thedialects, and more especially the Yorkshire, the vocal effects are better, and the Welshand Irish intonation of English, which is a reflection of their native speech, producesa more melodious vowel effect than is possible in the case of a cultivated Englishsinger. The loss 0 the letter r in English is another serious defect in the Englishmansvocal repertory; and all these weaknesses the writer of lyrics in English has to reckonwith. Hence he must be most careful to avoid a conglomeration of consonants, whichhave a painful habit of accumulating at the juncture of words; he must secure har.monius variety of vowel sounds; he can rarely use a word of more then threesyllables. Then again, certain vowel sounds are quite unsuited to top notes; others,again, are too thin for the low ones. As it is professionally put, you cannot open yourmouth upon some, or get your chest notes into others.But this is not all. There must not only be the right stress, but the rightpause in a lyrists verse; and the refrain must always be convincing in sound. I maybe excused for here quoting what I have said in my preface to The Irish Song Book.Moore was before his time in recognising the artistic value of brevity in themodern song and ballad. His best melodies are his shortest, and few of them run towhat would now be considered undue length. Moreover, his knowledge of lyricalperspective is unrivalled. Hi thought is pellucid, never obscured by condensation, ordimmed by diffusiveness. But he most asserts his mastery in song-craft by the apparentease with which he matches the most intricate musical measures, and mates thestriking notes of each tune to the words ruost adapted to them, both in sound aridsense; to say nothing of the art with which he almost Italianises our essentiallyunmusical English speech by a melodious sequence of varying vowels and alliterativeconsonants, which almost sing themselves. Yet, whilst Moore has, in addition to thisvocal quality, the very perfection of playful wit and graceful fancy, and now and agaihreal pathos and irresistible martial spirit, many of his melodies are not standing thetest of time. This is either because our fine airs have been altered in time andcharacter, and assorted by Moore with the sentimental, metaphorical, and pseudo-philosophical fancies that took the taste of the English upper classes half a centuryago, or because the tunes to which some of his finer lyrics are set are not of first-ratequality. It is our plain duty to divorce these ill-matched lyrics from their presentpartners, and to unite them to worthy airs in the Petrie and Joyce collections, and inBuntings last volume that came after Moores latest melodies.It is as plain an obligation for us to slip out of their golden settings Mooresoccasional bits of green gless, and to slip into them the occasional emeralds of hiscontemporaries and successors.In this patriotic work we shall be assisted by the shade of Thomas Davis himself,who left behind him an essay on Song-craft which serves as a preface to Barrys bookof Irish Songs, and which I hope our Folk Song Society will reprint for the sake of thevaluable help it gives to our young writers of words to national music. In this essay hepays a glowing tribute to Moore for what he has done for Irish national song. Hehowever, laments his failure to reach the popular heart of Ireland as Burns reached thatof Scotland, and makes this passionate appeal to his fellow-countrymen to fill thewide gaps that still exist in our national minstrelsyIf they be poets they can do so. If they be men of bounding animal spirits,who love the rise because of its toil, and the descent because of its speed; who havegrown up amid the common talk and pictures of naturethe lake bosomed amid rockslike a woman in a warriors arms, the endless sea with its roaring or whispering fringes,the mantled or glittering or thundering night, the bleak moor, the many-voiced trees, thebounding riverif they be men who have passionately loved, and em philosophy raisedthem above it, ard&ntly hated; if they be men generous in friendship, hearty at thehearth, tranced by sweet or maddened by sbrong sounds, sobbing with unuied strengthand fiery for freedom and glorythen they can write lyrics for every class in Ireland.Anrnei PERCrVAL GJiAVES,V
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Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Volume 1, Issue 1

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