The Kerry Christmas Carol
Click on underlined titles to hear MP3 sound samples.
Between The Mountains and The Sea is the latest of five albums from renowned traditional singer songwriter Tim Dennehy accompanied by Garry O'Briain. This album is a tribute to the Cahersiveen writer Sigerson Clifford who dedicated his life to capturing the essence of his native Kerry in stories and verse. With the help of Valentia Island photographer Tony O'Shea, we are taken on a magical journey through the rugged and beautiful Iveragh Peninsula.
Sigerson Clifford was a ballad poet, his work celebrating his hometown of Cahersiveen, its scenery, its people and their everyday activities. He recounts a story with the enchanting combination of both seanchai and poet. Whether songs of loss and longing like 'The Boys of Barr na Sráide' and 'The Ballad Of The Tinker's Daughter', or the humorous observations of 'Lenihan's Big Bazaar' and 'The Races', his verse allows the scenes of his native town to unfold before us in all their breathtaking colour and scope.
'Between The Mountains And The Sea' recalls a time when the singer was centre stage at every social occasion, when communities gathered around to hear their own stories retold to them in verse. Tim Dennehy has taken these tales of a time past in South Kerry and infused them with a mix of gentle magic and pathos giving them a universal appeal that will resonate far beyond a specialist interest audience and the borders of the Kingdom.
For Tim, producing this album is the culmination of a lifelong love affair with Clifford's work, first sparked as he was growing up in South Kerry, when 'The Boys of Barr na Sráide' was an anthem at every gathering. Later, as a young teacher in Dublin, he began putting his poems to music. Since then Tim's live performances and his albums have always featured the songs of Sigerson Clifford
The title track of this album, "Between the Mountains and the Sea" was penned by Tim himself as he made his way home from Sigerson Clifford's funeral in 1985. "The late John B Keane had just given the grave side oration and the place-names kept echoing in my head until they finally formed themselves into a song. While sad, this song is essentially a celebration of man and of place and for me that is the great strength of Sigerson Clifford as a writer, his ability to draw us completely into his world."
" 'Between The Mountains and The Sea' has been an ongoing project for over twenty years and has brought me into contact with Sigerson Clifford's family, friends and many admirers" says Tim. " This album is my way of paying homage to a remarkable man whose heartfelt verse has gently shadowed me all my musical life".
The project was assisted by the Arts Council (An Chomhairle Ealaíon) and The Góilín Traditional Singers Club.
is unique in that he has always attempted to bring to the fore local songs and
poems of the place where he grew up. Locality rings true and Sigerson
Clifford is the beneficiary of Tim's work down through the years. This album
is of huge importance locally but of equal importance nationally.'
Frank Harte, Singer, Song Collector and Historian
Tim & Sigerson Clifford are closely associated with Cahersiveen and Ballinskelligs.
Tim has championed Sigerson's works for many years and this album adds hugely
to the recognition that Sigerson Clifford so richly deserves'
Muiris O Rócháin, Director of the Willie Clancy Summer School of Traditional Music
beautiful production has been in the making for 20 years and has put the enthralling
words of one
of Ireland's most talented writers to music." (John O'Donoghue, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)
new collection bears testament to simplicity, to a world where life is in the
detail, and in the detail lies delight in the ordinary." (Siobhán Long,
The Irish Times
Edward Bernard Clifford was born in Cork in 1913 and his family moved to Cahersiveen in Co. Kerry when he was 2 years old. He began to write poems while still at school and was greatly influenced by his grandfather Ned Sigerson, a stonemason, handyman and storyteller. During this time he adopted Sigerson as his Christian name. The natural beauty of Cahersiveen, its sportsmen and characters, its music and lore held a fascination for him and would be the well spring of inspiration to which he would return again and again throughout his life as a writer. At 19 he joined the Civil service and in 1943 was transferred to Dublin. Two years later he married Marie Eady from Cork and they had seven children. He retired from the Civil Service in 1973. Sigerson Clifford died in Glenageary Co.Dublin on 1st January 1985 and is buried in Cahersiveen.
Tim Dennehy was born in Ballinskelligs and later' the family moved to nearby Cahersiveen. Both his parents sang and were inheritors of a huge store of songs and stories in the Irish language. Tim's mother, Nora Kelly from Cill Rialaig, had developed the custom of constantly singing as she went about her daily chores and this left an indelible mark. He spent a number of years working in Dublin and then moved to Co. Clare. These days, Tim teaches at Ennis C.B.S. and is also part of a team of traditional and folk music presenters on Clare FM Radio. He continues to write poems and songs and is a regular contributor to various workshops and singing weekends throughout the country and abroad. He lives with his wife Máirín in Mullach, Co. Clare and they have two sons, Tadhg and Seán.
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Also available from Copperplate
SRCD 004 Tim Dennehy: The Blue Green Door
SRCD 005 Tim Dennehy: Old Boots and Flying Sandals
The Irish Post 4.06.05
production has been in the making for 20 years and has put the enthralling words
of one of Ireland's most talented ballad poets to music.
Sigerson Clifford was born in 1913 and christened Edward Bernard Clifford. Aged six he went to live with his mother's father Edward Sigerson and stayed for four years. He never forgot his grandfather's fund of stories when the winter nights were gathering in he would sit with his cronies around the kitchen fire telling tales of weird and ghostly happenings.
Later Sigerson would remember them in a poem "Where the old men thatched their dreams with adjectives".
At school with the Christian Brothers his essays and poems won praise. Schooldays over he joined the civil service where "they chained my bones
to an office stool and my soul to a clock".
In 1985 some months
after his death the good people of Cahersiveen decided to honour his memory
with a monument built of local stone. The
inscription reads: "Whispering across the half-door of the mind, for always I am Kerry"
In 1973 Tim Dennehy encountered Tim Dwane who had met Sigerson Clifford on several occasions and then he discovered The Ballad Of The Tinker's Daughter in an English book. He put a melody to it and sang it for the first time at the Goilin Singers Club in Dublin.
It was broadcast by Harry Bradshaw on a radio programme The Long Note and since then Between The Mountains And The Sea has been an ongoing project.
This 12-track CD is accompanied with a 48-page booklet giving extensive background on the composer Sigerson Clifford.
The Boys Of Barr na Staide is undoubtedly Singerson's most popular composition and it captures beautifully the essence of Cahersiveen.
The Ballad Of The Tinker's Daughter is a spellbinding story and in the best traditions of the ballad it allows the story to unfold.
I am Kerry is a fitting conclusion to the album as it touches on most of the poet's favourite themes of stories and legends, the wild beauty of south Kerry, youth and old age, and the mental merging of music and rhythm of the place he loved.
This CD is guaranteed to soothe the troubled brow and should have a space on every Kerryman's CD collection.
By any standards
Tim Dennehy has done a beautiful presentation of the songs of Sigerson Clifford.
The Folk Diary
It quickly becomes obvious that here is one of the great west of Ireland voices with all the qualities that the high art of this tradition demands;
light, pure of tone and carefully and highly decorated.
Yet, these are not traditional songs that we are listening to; they are all the compositions of the late Sigerson Clifford of Caherisiveen on the Ring of Kerry. He was a poet, ballad and song writer who was rooted in the background and traditions but on this evidence, despite their local settings they have a great universality. From the careful observation of a light piece like "The Races" to the passion of "The Ballad of Johnny Golden" we hear a varied and high quality programme beautifully performed. The highlight of the album is the exquisite "The Boys of Barr Na Sràide".
This album comes as an unexpected delight. Vic Smith
Ireland is famous for its literature. Kerry is the kingdom of Ireland and Sigerson Clifford is one of her greatest
writers. Now his beautiful words are given to a new audience through the warm voice of Tim Dennehy.
Clifford was actually born in Cork but the family moved to Cahersiveen soon after and although most of his works were written long after his brilliant works are deeply rooted in the lives and stories of his grandfather and the people of that region. 'Boys of Barra Sraide' is probably one of his best-known songs, having been recorded by a large number of people but that is just one of a dozen pieces on offer here.
'Lenihan's Big Bazaar' is one of my favourite pieces on the album. It is reminiscent of Percy French with its narrative form. Here in just over four minutes you can travel back to a time of innocence and wonder when travelling shows brought the entertainment we now seek in CDs and television sets. But it covers much more that the show as is evident in the lines "The great diversion that we had when the Missioners came, we were only middling sinners with venials to our score". All Irish people of a certain age will identify with this. (For the non-Gaelic the missioners were like evangelical preachers and venials were sins less serious that so called mortal or grave sins.)
are ideally suited to the voice of Tim Dennehy. His diction and tone are essential
for the appreciation of the lyrics. 'The Ballad of the Tinker's Son' is a tale
beautifully sung by a man who has a very obvious love of the story, the words
and the history. If you attended an Irish school or perhaps any school between
1900 and 1960
'The Old School' will touch you. It is pure nostalgia and as Dennehy sings the roll call insert your old friends, the visions of lessons learned will come of their own accord. The song is followed by a poem that complements the
"The lips of laburnum drool fire", so starts the song 'The Boy Remembers his Father'. How many modern writers can show such a poetic scene in six words? The song is a moving tribute to the bond between fathers and sons that is seldom equalled in music. 'The Races' is another evocation of times long past as is the wonderful and magical 'I Am Kerry'. The latter is a poem that would be written about every place on earth if we had the talent of Sigerson Clifford.
It is Kerry but
it is also our Ireland of legend and the story that comes if we listen to "their
voices come on every little wind whispering across the half-door of the mind".
The title track is from the pen of Tim Dennehy. It was written as he returned
to Clare from the funeral of Sigerson Clifford. It is a tribute and a celebration
of a man who
is very well commemorated on this beautiful album.
In addition to
the collection of poems and songs, expertly performed you will get a 48 page
booklet of lyrics, recollections and photographs that complement the CD to perfection.
This is the album to own if you like
intelligent, heartfelt lyrics performed whereby you understand every syllable and can feel the love of the world emanating from your speakers. Nicky Rossiter
Live Ireland Web Site
Lots of us already know this terrific singer. Poet, songwriter, this guy gets it. Now comes this musical tribute to the songs and music of Sigerson Clifford. No space here for all the biography and background on this important album. The trad fan will know Carlson ---if for no other song, The Boys of Barr na Sraide. There is so much more, and much of it is on this magnificent album. What a lovely salute. Dennehy is the perfect voice for the project, which apparently had some government help in making sure Cliffords legacy is not lost. One thought: Youd better love Kerry! Naturally, with Cliffords background and interests, this is ALL about Kerry. It makes no difference. There is great soul on offer here, be it in Dennehys voice and interpretation, or Cliffords memorable songs. If you are Kerry, you must have this album. If you are not Kerry, you should have this album. Would that all counties had a Clifford!! Bill Margeson
Folk World CD Reviews Issue 28 04/2004
Between the Mountains and the Sea - Tim Dennehy sings the songs of Sigerson Clifford" - so it's full title.
Cahersiveen writer Sigerson Clifford (1913-85) dedicated his life to capturing the essence of his native Kerry in stories and verse.
His stomping ground
was the village of Cathair Saidhbhín (Stone Fort of Sarah) at Iveragh
Peninsula in South West Ireland, or better known as tourist destination The
Ring of Kerry.
His best known piece "Boys of Barr na Sráide" - the town it climbs the mountain and looks upon the sea - made it into the Irish Ballad Hall of Fame and has been sung by the likes of Christy Moore, Niamh Parsons and Ron Kavana.
Ninety years after Sigerson's birth, fellow Cahersiveen singer Tim Dennehy and his accompanist Garry O'Briain put new life into his poems.
"Boys" was an anthem at every gathering when Tim grew up in South Kerry, later as a young teacher in Dublin he began putting other poems of Sigerson to music. His work celebrating his hometown, its scenery, its people and their everyday activities, but Sigerson also reflects his Civil Service time: they chained my bones to an office stool and my soul to a clock's cold hands.
On one track Sigerson's
wife Maire reads a tribute poem by M.J. McManus, the title track was penned
by Tim as he made his way home from Sigerson Clifford's funeral in 1985. "Between
the Mountains and the Sea" puts another attraction on the map of Kerry:
And when the wheel of life runs down and when peace comes over me, o lay me
down in that old town between the hills and sea. I'll take my sleep in those
green fields the place my life began, where the Boys of Barr na Sráide
went hunting for the wran. On the monument dedicated to the ballad poet, the
inscription reads: Whispering across the half-door of the mind, for always I
am Kerry. Walkin' T:-)M
The Irish Post 20.03.04
THIS album is sub-titled "Tim Dennehy sings the songs of Sigerson Clifford", a musical tribute to the Kerry poet whose best known work is The Boys of Bar na Sraide, basically the anthem of south Kerry.
The song is duly
performed here in plaintive style by Tim Dennehy, it's haunting words striking
a chord with every Kerry emigrant:
"But now they toil on foreign soil where they have gone their way /
Deep in the heart of London town or over in Broadway /
And I am left to sing their deeds and to praise them while I can /
Those boys of Barr na Sraide who hunted for the wren."
Tim Dennehy's voice is reminiscent of Patsy Watchorn's (Dublin City Ramblers) which in my book is a great compliment, and his plaintive voice is ideally suited to the body of work that Sigerson Clifford left us.
I Am Kerry, another of Sigerson's biggies, is given suitably lyrical treatment, while The Ballad Of The Tinker's Son, set during the War of Independence through to the Civil War, is given added poignancy by Dennehys doleful delivery.
The Kerry Christmas
Carol is a nod in the direction of the Irish tradition whereby Mary, Joseph
and the Child would
be expected every Christmas Eve, and food and light were duly provided.
No great surprises
in this album but a fine collection of music and poetry in tribute to
one of our lesser known ballad writers.
The name Sigerson Clifford (1913-1985) might not be familiar to many readers, but the poet and playwright from Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry retains much affection in Ireland thanks to the durability of compositions such as The Boys of Barr na Sraide (recorded by musicians as various as Séamus Tansey and Seán Garvey).
Originally from Ballinskelligs, further down the Iveragh Peninsula, Tim Dennehy has devoted himself to the maintenance of Clifford’s memory ever since the release of his first album, A Thimbleful of Song, in 1989 which included the setting of the poet’s The Ballad of the Tinker’s Daughter to music.
This, his fifth album, is almost entirely to Clifford’s work (the exception being the title track which Tim composed while returning home to Clare after Sigerson’s funeral). Dennehy’s rich and expressive voice is ideally suited to his subject’s own articulate accounts of local life and events, rendered all the more powerful by his eye for an apposite metaphor and telling turn of phrase. Sigerson’s widow, Marie, also provides her own pertinent reading of another of his poems, M.J. McManus.
Much is of the material is sung unaccompanied, thereby emphasizing the strengths of Clifford’s writing while the remainder is garnished by some of the subtlest arrangements of recent years, courtesy of the singer and his collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Garry Ó Briain.
the album’s beautiful packaging is enhanced by the inclusion of a superbly designed
48-page booklet replete with all the lyrics, superb recent and archive photography,
reminiscences and even Sigerson Clifford’s
funeral instructions! All it lacks (and it’s a huge pity that it does so) is a cogent, concise biography of the poet for those unsure of his importance. Nevertheless, this release’s essential value remains undiminished – not to be missed! Geoff Wallis
This review by Geoff Wallis first appeared in fRoots magazine – www.frootsmag.com
For more information
about Tim and Sceilig Records visit www.sceilig.com
Pay The Reckoning Web Site
Dennehy is a master of restrained and poetic singing; a style full of ornament and decoration and devoid of artifice and histrionics. Blessed with a rich and powerful voice, Dennehy has over the years done justice to self-penned ballads, "comics" and top-drawer sean-nos songs, rendering all with equal facility and delicacy of approach.
Garry O Briain deserves his share of the credit for this fine album, providing Dennehy with accompaniment (on those songs which are accompanied - Dennehy is well able for the solo rendition!) on guitar, mandocello, piano and harmonica. And a nod of the head to Marie Clifford (who reads Clifford's poem "MJ MacManus"), Danny Byrt (percussion) and Bebhinn Ni Bhriain (flute).
Clifford was a native of Cahersiveen in Kerry and his songs have a very particular local focus. Clifford sung about people he knew, places he knew, events he himself took part in or which helped form part of the intimate folk mythology of the people he lived amongst. And yet like the work of any musician or writer of any importance, Clifford's passionate and direct songs have universal applicability.
Clifford was by no means a preacher. Any message as such is implied in his songs; the listener draws conclusions by him or herself. Often he looks back on his own past and convinces us that it was a special time; that somewhere along the line in our "development" we've left behind things of great value. "Lenihan's Big Bazaar" is such a number and Clifford packs some mighty imagery into its lines. "He roofed the sky with smiles for slates ..." and "All my dreams were spancelled to her little twinkling feet".
Neither was Clifford afraid to tackle big issues. Witness his commentary on both social inclusion and the horrendous catastrophe that was the Irish Civil War in "The Ballad Of The Tinker's Son".
All of the elements that informed Clifford's work come together in his best-known song, the epic "Boys Of Barr na Sraide". Vivid reminiscences of happy times and hard times revolve around the central image - the boys out hunting the wran. Its few lines say more about modern Irish history and the ravages of emigration than any weighty tome by this or that professor or commentator. Needless to say, Dennehy does the song proud. Unaccompanied, Dennehy sings from his heart directly to ours.
Dennehy includes his own "Between The Mountain And The Sea", a song written in tribute to Clifford. Dennehy's understanding of Clifford's vision is evident; his respect for the man and his music and his sadness at his passing are worn proudly on his sleeve.
The production values are of the very highest. An accompanying 48-page booklet gives the words to all of the songs, provides lots of background (including Clifford's feisty and touching funeral instructions) and is graced with some breathtaking photography by Tony O'Shea.
This is one to treasure. One to take time over; to listen through time and again; to be enchanted by the company of a great songwriter and an equally fine singer.
Growing up in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, Tim Dennehy often heard songs penned by another illustrious denizen of the area- Sigerson Clifford (1913-1985), whose powerful ballad "The Boys of Barr na Sráide", has become a classic of the tradition.
Dennehy's fifth solo album is a tribute to Clifford and his work, featuring swift-paced humorous numbers like "Lenihan's Big Bazaar", alongside heavyweights like the tragic "Ballad of the Tinker's Daughter".
Garry O'Briain's spare production, Dennehy's resonant voice and the generous,
informative and beautifully illustrated 48-page booklet Clifford's songs get
their due. Dennehy himself wrote the title track as he made his way home from
A fitting homage to a great songwriter and poet.
Sarah McQuaid, Hot Press Rating: nine point five out of ten.
TAPLAS April/ May The Welsh Folk Mag.
SEVERAL years ago, in Killarney, I bought Sigerson Clifford's Ballads of a Bogman: poems rooted in the life and landscape of that part of Kerry around Dingle Bay. Kerry-man Tim Dennehy applies his rich, warm singing voice to a selection from that book, including the well-known The Boys of Barr na Sraide. His settings are not musically adventurous, but this is in keeping with Clifford's poems, which are sometimes nostalgic and senti- mental with a touch of sadness, sometimes humorous, and always infused with a strong and affectionate sense of place.
accompaniments are best when at their simplest:
where he multi-tracks several instruments (including an electric keyboard) the effect is inappropriately contrived.
Best are the unaccompanied tracks, and most of all the three spoken poems, which give the music in Clifford's verse a chance to speak for itself.
There is a fifty-page booklet with all the words and photographs by Tony OShea. John Neilson