March in the US is Irish-American Heritage Month as well as Women's History Month. Globally, the first half of March (1st-17th) is Seachtain na Gaeilge, a celebration of Irish language and culture which in part encourages people to use whatever Irish they may have. We also have the Vernal Equinox, World Storytelling Day, and, dear to me, Music in Our Schools Month.
So, as I launch this blog and dust off some tunes for my little YouTube project, I thought I'd try to weave some of those threads together as inspiration and start with a welcome song that is often learned by beginning Irish students, "Óró, sé do bheatha ‘bhaile." (Full disclosure, I recorded this and meant to share during Seachtain na Gaeilge...I'm just glad to be posting this while it's still March!)
First off, let me be clear I am a student of Irish myself. I love to sing sean nós but most certainly make mistakes (and my Irish has definitely gathered some moss over the last few years). I offer this is in the celebratory spirit of the song and as encouragement for others who are on their Irish language learning journey. Much like those on a musical learning journey - using what you have is how you make progress!
So, back to it then.
The origin of this song is said to be a homecoming march, traditionally sung when a man brought his new bride home. The chorus (everybody now!)
Óró, sé do bheatha ‘bhaile (3x)/anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh
translates to "welcome home, now that summer is coming" (beatha translates to "life" and abhaile to "home/homewards," óró is an exclamatory cheer, like "oh!" or "oho!" - if you want to get very literal it could mean "oh, your life is at home" which I take in the most optimistic sense to mean "you are where you are meant to be" vs "you are tied to housework forever" ha ha).
If this ever began as a welcome song for a new wife, wow, it has certainly undergone some changes over time. A version dating back to the Jacobite rebellion welcomes Bonnie Prince Charlie, which inspired the nationalist version we sing today as written by Padraig Pearse, who essentially upgraded the Bonnie Prince Charlie version with the far more compelling legendary pirate queen, Grace O'Malley. And what a story it tells! Grace O'Malley returning home with Irish warriors to rout the foreign invaders...whew! (An older gentleman once told me he remembered learning this in the Christian Brothers school, and being an elementary music teacher myself I can well imagine how captivating this one would be to the heart of a second grade boy!)
Without further ado, here's a link to my recently recorded 'traditional' version. While you're at it, have a listen to my not-so traditional version from the "blueridgecelticfusion" album I recorded with Trasna, goodness, almost 20 years ago now!
If you're learning or have never even tried a spot of gaeilge, connect with your inner Clancy Brother and sing along with the chorus! (This will get you close: oh-ro, shay doe va-ha wile-ya/ah-neesh air ahkt ahn tow-ree)
However your choose to celebrate the rest of March, may it be festive and cheerful, may you be where your life belongs, and remember - summer is coming!