On the morning I worshipped at “The Church of the Holy Pajamas,” I’d written most of really long post entitled “Celtic Soul.” I decided to release it in parts. This is the first.
To my knowledge, I don’t have a Irish bone in my body, but it’s high time I declared my Celtic soul. Some things have arisen from my recent experiences that remind me to declare this Celtic soul. (When these musings are complete, however, I will have undone this body–soul dualism.)
As Larry Mullen of the band U2 says, quite ironically in that Irish poetic way as captured in the “rockumentary” “Rattle and Hum,” (1988) “It’s a musical journey.” For me, the phrase “Celtic soul” is evocative, not only of U2 and the Commitments, but also of Jerry O’Sullivan’s rendition of Kinny Landrum’s “Clear Blue Sky” (a definitive feature of today), which sounds like a jazz standard.
The uilleann pipes, also called the Irish pipes, or Union Pipes, featured in the soundtrack for the movie “Titanic” (1997), are characteristically the national pipes of Ireland, small, sweet, low, and meant for playing indoors. One does not blow into a bag, but rather inflates bellows by articulating it with the elbow (hence, “uilleann”).
Indeed, Celtic soul has made it to other places. In song, also, Robbie O’Connell has suggestion that there are “two great Irish nations,” the other being the USA. But we should not so easily conflate Celtic and Irish. Indeed, the liner notes for the Island Records compilation “Peaceful Planet” suggest that there are seven Celtic regions in Europe, the three that most people get, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but also the Isle of Man, Cornwall (in England), Northwest Brittany (in France) and Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain. I love blowing students’ minds by playing the following piece from that compilation by the Galician group Milladoiro, “Alalá Das Mariñas.” They identify it as Celtic, possibly from the movie “Titanic,” but they are surprised to hear it is from Spain.Vodpod videos no longer available.
One can clearly see the technique used to play these pipes in the video above.
Lastly, on the musical aspects of this journey, I must say that I am very inspired by the group Solas, which was formed from musicians from the two great Irish nations, one summer at the Lowell Folk Festival, very near where I live. One of my favorite tunes of theirs is this fresh and energetic cover of the fine old Woody Guthrie tune, “Pastures of Plenty.”Vodpod videos no longer available.
Part Two, “A Hardworking Lad,” will discuss some personal, biographical connections to the Celtic Soul.