Celtic Shores Extended Liner Notes

1. Kimiad The beautiful place of my childhood, my country. 

Beautiful Lower Brittany. To me, this song feels like the eternal lap of ocean waves against the coasts of the seven Celtic nations. I often use it for calming the mood in the room when I begin playing at the hospital. I first found the melody in a collection of international tunes, Whistle Around the World, by Larry McCullough, on Oak Publications. The full name is Kimiad ar soudart yaouank (Farewell of the young soldier). This 19th century song is an anti-war song, sung from the perspective of a young soldier dying on the battlefield, reminiscing over his home in Brittany. You can find several wonderful versions of the Breton harper, Alan Stivell, singing it on youtube. Here's a lovely one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yEZL3kZF2M 

2. Catherine Martin/Air de Carnac 

The first tune was composed by the famous Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738). The second tune comes from the French Celts in Brittany. Carnac is an area in Brittany famous for its Neolithic standing stones and beaches. 

3. Welsh Lullabies - Mi Gysgu Di 'Mban/ Tôn Garo

The Welsh Lullabies were taught to me late one night at the Nonsuch Dulcimer Festival in Malvern, England, by the Welsh flute player, Andy McLauchlin. When I wrote to him in panic the night before my recording session that I had inadvertently changed time signatures on Suo Gân, he assured me that "Traditional tunes are fluid things which have cheerful disregard for niceties of time signature and geographical borders." My version of the first tune is a combination of Andy's and the group Plethyn's.

4. Suo Gân  

 This is a beautiful Welsh lullaby, usually sung in 4/4 time, but I came across a bagpipe version in 3/4 and was drawn to its flowing nature. It is often used in Celtic Christmas services and was also popularized in the 1987 Steven Spielberg movie, Empire of the Sun.

Here is a combination of my favorite translations from the Welsh: 

To my lullaby surrender, 
Warm and tender is my breast; 
Mother's arms with love caressing 
Lay their blessing on your rest; 
Nothing shall tonight alarm you, 
None shall harm you, have no fear; 
Lie contented, calmly slumber 
On your mother's breast my dear.

Sleep, my darling, night is falling 
Rest in slumber sound and deep; 
I would know why you are smiling, 
Smiling sweetly as you sleep! 
Do you see the angels smiling 
As they see your rosy rest? 
So that you must smile an answer 
As you slumber on my breast?

Fret you not, 'tis but an oak leaf 
Beating, beating at the door. 
Fret you not, a lonely wavelet's 
Murm'ring, murm'ring on the shore, 
Sleep my child, here there is nothing, 
Nothing that can frighten you; 
Smile in peace upon my bosom 
On the distant angels true. 
In my bosom soft and warm

5. John O'Dwyer of the Glen  - Séan Ó Duibhir A' Ghelanna 

This is a beloved Irish air, dating back to the mid-17th century. For the morning dawn will wing us across the sea. 

6. Little Red Lark - Ushag Veg Ruy (A Part traditional Manx/ B Part ©2019, Karen Ashbrook) 

This tune shows up often in Manx repertoire, but I first learned it from Jo Morrison's book Beginning Harper's Tunebook, Triharpskel Productions, 2003. The book is a wonderful collection of beautiful Celtic airs. The protagonist is a bird that is having a wretched time trying to sleep, until she finally finds comfort sleeping between two leaves. 

From Suantraighe, A Collection of Celtic Lullabies:

Little red bird of the black peat ground 
Black peat ground, black peat ground 
Little red bird of the black peat ground 
Where did you sleep last night?

Did I not sleep last night on the top of the bush 
On the top of the bush, on the top of the bush 
With rain falling on every side 
And oh! wretched was my sleep 
Did I not sleep last night on the top of the briar… 
While the wind was blowing all around 
And oh! wretched was my sleep!

Did I not sleep last night on top of the wave… 
Where many a man's son slept before me 
And oh! wretched was my sleep 

I slept last night between two leaves… 
As the baby sleeps on the breast of the mother.

7. Galician Air/ Processional March from Vilalaba 

The air is from the harp playing of Stefano Corsi and the march from the Galician group Berrogüetto.

8. Highland Farewell/ Hungan 

Highland Farewell is a Scottish tune that shows up in several tune collections. I'm not sure where I first heard it, but this version was based on the version in Laura's Descants, compiled and edited by fellow dulcimist Chuck Boody and flautist Laura Dillon, 2009. 

Hungan is the Cornish word for 'lullaby'

Here are the lyrics:

Sleep baby sleep, Dad is not nigh, Tossed in the deep, Lullaby;

Moon shining bright, On dancing foam, Green harbour light, Bring daddy home.

Catching the fish, That ever roam, Fulfill your wish, Bring daddy home. 

Sleep baby sleep, Dad is afar, Tossed on the deep, Watching a star;

Follow the plough, To anchor stone, Make a wish now, Bring daddy home. 

9. Ca' the Yowes/ Beloved Gregor - Griogal Cridhe (Marion Campbell, 1570) 

Beloved Gregor is a Scottish tune I learned from Jo Morrison's Beginning Harper's Tunebook. The song was composed by Gregor's wife lamenting her husband's execution by the British. Robert Burns collected Ca' the Yowes ("cows"), which is both a lullaby and love song. There are many ways of writing the Scots dialect, but this version seemed to be the most standard. Connie McKenna, the singer in my Irish trio Ceoltóirí, loved singing these verses when her son was young. 

Ghaist nor bogle shalt thou fear, Thou'rt to Love and Heav-n sae dear, 
Nocht of may come thee near; My bonie Dearie. 
Fair and lovely as thou art, Thou has stown my very heart, 
I can die- but canna part, My bonnie dearie. 

10. Songs of Mannanan - Two songs from the Isle of Man invoking Mannanan, the Celtic sea god. 

Mannanan Beg Mac y Leir - Put a blessing on our fishing. 
Safe journey out and a better journey homeward. 

I found these in Ree ny Marrey, a collection of songs from the Isle of Man, edited by Fenella Bazin, Nelson Press Co. Ltd, 1994. This book, a gift from a student, was a rare source of Manx music. The book has lyrics in Manx with English translations and gives the sources. 

11. Éiníní/ Eagle's Whistle 

Éiníní is an Irish lullaby that is a litany of birds-the lark, the wren, the thrush-all being told to "sleep, sleep." The closely related tune, 
Eagle's Whistle, is the march of the O'Donovan clan in Northern Ireland. A version of this melody is also found on the Isle of the Man as a song about a fairy washing her baby. 

12. Fire in the Hearth (©1999 Sue Richards)/ Dawn (©2019 Karen Ashbrook) 

I've loved Sue's tune since I first heard it. Sue and I moved to the Washington, DC area (suburban Maryland) around the same time and met up at Irish sessions led by Brendan Mulvihill at the Irish Times in DC. Later, with Connie Mckenna, we became the trio Ceoltóirí and made several recordings on the Maggie's Music label. I composed Dawn as a little musical postlude envisioning the sun rising as the end of our musical night's journey.


Karen was trained as a therapeutic musician and became a Certified Music Practitioner (CMP) through  the Music for Healing and Transitions Program (MHTP).  Check their website to learn more!