Album: An Dàn (The Song)
Gaelic Songs for a Modern World
Artist: Mary Ann Kennedy - Màiri Anna NicUalraig
Label: ARC Music
CD #: EUCD2737
Genre: Gaelic – All liner notes Gaelic/English
International release date: 28th July 2017
Cover portrait: Michael Marra
Cover design: Nick Turner / Sarah Ash
Showcasing Gaelic as a living, breathing language of today, ‘An Dàn’ is the debut solo album from broadcaster, writer, producer andaward-winning musician, Mary Ann Kennedy. Mary Ann Kennedy is a much-loved and respected BBC Radio 3 personality at both a national and regional level, fronting major series and specials on world and traditional Scottish and Irish music. ‘An Dàn’ celebrates her Gaelic world of urban and rural, from the homeland to the diaspora, and is Mary Ann Kennedy’s first solo album.
Mary Ann Kennedy – aka Màiri Anna NicUalraig – was born 100 miles south of Ardgour in the multicultural and multilingual city of Glasgow. Glasgow, known as ‘Baile Mòr nan Gàidheal’ in Gaelic, literally means the ‘City of the Gaels’. Born into a family whose mother tongue was Gaelic, her mother, Kenna Campbell, grew up in a renowned family of tradition-bearers – The Campbells of Greepe on the Isle of Skye. Her father, Alasdair Kennedy’s home was the Hebridean island of Tiree.
Mary Ann's musical career in its many incarnations has been recognised with major awards, including the Concours Internationale de l'Harpe Celtique at the Lorient Festival Interceltique, the international Celtic Media Festival's Radio Presenter of the Year, and the coveted double gold at Gaeldom's premier festival, the National Mòd. With her tradition-bearer family, the Campbells of Greepe, the major biography and album project 'Fonn' won the Arts and Culture award at the first National Gaelic Awards, and her choir, Còisir Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis, is recognised as one of the country's top choral ensembles.
‘An Dàn ’ is Mary Ann’s first voyage as a soloist, yet throughout, Mary Ann’s deep commitment to preserving Gaelic musical traditions is apparent. Mary Ann accomplishes this not only by re—creating what has gone before, but through new songs that help to shape its future. As Mary Ann so deftly writes, “The truest respect one can pay one’s culture and heritage is to make sure it’s a part of a continuum”.
For Mary Ann, who oftentimes refers to herself as an ‘urban Gael’, ‘An Dàn’ is a collection of Gaelic songs for the modern world. The word ‘Dàn’ translates as both ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ as well as ‘song’. ‘Seinn, Horo, Seinn’ (Sing!) is the album’s opening track, a call to look forward to new ideas while honouring the past. The song started life as part of a commission for the Highland Festival, a seminal 90s event which gave rise to bands such as Mary Ann’s Cliar. The band won the all-time Best Album accolade at the inaugural Scots Trad Music Awards, and earned Mary Ann a Saltire Award.‘Seinn, Horo, Seinn’ and ‘Eadar-Thìr’ (Between-Land) were both written and composed by Mary Ann. ‘Eadar-Thìr’ was inspired by St. Columba’s island of Iona, “Between the two: the edge of creation and heart of the world”
As Mary Ann writes, “Songs of ... love and loss, nature and nurture, war and peace, spiritual and temporal, place and people... refracted through the facets of the linguistic prism that gives the Gaelic language and soul its particular outlook on the world and that gave rise to the unfathomable riches of our Gaelic song tradition... this is an album of present and future: this is my own ‘heart’s music’."
‘An Dàn’ also celebrates Gaelic’s poetic riches. ‘Taigh an Uillt’, is written by one of Gaelic’s 20th century literary greats, Iain Crichton Smith. Glasgow born and Lewis-raised, the Argyll village became his beloved home in later years. As Mary Ann observes, ‘Taigh an Uillt’ is a “miniature village national anthem” celebrating the village on the shores of Loch Etive.
‘Òran do dh’Iain Dòmhnallach’ (Song for John MacDonald) is a setting of an exquisite elegy poem written by Irig MacDonald from the island of Tiree in honour of cousin and fellow islander John MacDonald who died saving the life of 2nd Lt. Jock Stewart at the battle of Arras in the Great War. It features a sample from a southern African Tswana song about homeland, reflecting Jock Stewart’s post-war life in South Africa and Ghana.
‘Mise Fhuair’ (I Have Won the Apple) and ‘Sìth na Coille’ (Forest’s Peace) were both authored by one of Gaeldom’s most revered poets, Aonghas MacNeacail. Mary Ann’s songwriting took off through her work with Aonghas, with whom she also created ‘Aiseag’ (The Ferryboat) for the first UK New Music Biennial in 2014. Mary Ann regards Aonghas as one of her greatest artistic influences as well as a friend and mentor.
Other Gaelic poetry on ‘An Dàn’ also features poetry from Mary Ann’s cousin Catriona Montgomery on ‘Dàn Ùr do Fhlòraidh NicNìll’ (A New Song for Flora MacNeil); Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul with ‘Gràdh Geal Mo Chridhe’ (My True Love) and George Campbell Hay for ‘Air Leathad Slèibhe’ (On a Hill-land Slope).
The last song on ‘An Dàn ’, ‘Grioglachan’ (Constellation), deserves special mention. ‘Grioglachan’ is a poignant song of praise and dedication to cousin, godmother and singing soul-sister of Mary Ann, Maggie Macdonald, who died from cancer in 2016. Maggie sang in Mary Ann’s choir as well as being a founder member of Cliar, and the words were written by fellow chorister, Marcas Mac an Tuairneir. Mary Ann reflects, “We gathered in the town, hundreds of us, and sang our breaking hearts out. Madge loved to watch the stars: Marcas sets a new star in the sky… sparkling silver as ever.”
String quartet, samples and soundscapes, choral richness, guitars, uilleann pipes and strings provide the sweeping journey of ‘An Dàn’. All liner notes written in both in Gaelic with English translations. ‘An Dàn’ is being released worldwide on July 28th through ARC Music.
- Seinn, Horo, Seinn (Sing!) - 4:55. Lyrics Mary Ann Kennedy
- Òran do dh’Iain Dòmhnallach (Song for John MacDonald) - 5:54. Lyrics: Ìrig MacDonald
- Mise Fhuair (I Have Won the Apple) - 3:29. Lyrics: Aonghas MacNeacail
- Sìth na Coille (Forest’s Peace) - 5:54 Lyrics: Aonghas MacNeacail
- Eadar-Thìr (Between-Land) - 3:11. Lyrics: Mary Ann Kennedy
- Dàn Ùr do Fhlòraidh NicNìll (A New Song for Flora MacNeil) - 3:58. Lyrics: Catriona Montgomery
- Taigh an Uillt (Taynuilt) - 3:33. Lyrics: Iain Crichton Smith
- Iain Againn Fhìn (Our Own John) - 3:57. Lyrics: Donald Meek
- Gràdh Geal Mo Chridhe (My True Love) - 5:03. Lyrics: Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul
- Air Leathad Slèibhe (On a Hill-land Slope) - 4:40. Lyrics: George Campbell Hay
- Grioglachan (Constellation) - 4:35. Lyrics: Marcas Mac an Tuairneir
Total playing time: 47:41 min.
All liner notes in Gaelic and English.
All tracks composed and arranged by Mary Ann Kennedy.
For more information please contact Angie Lemon: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: +44 (0) 1342 770 486 | ARC Music Productions International | PO Box 111 | East Grinstead | West Sussex | RH19 4FZ | UK www.arcmusic.co.uk