Daily Archives: March 25, 2008

Sounds from My Past

We all have sounds stored in our memory banks. Sounds that can bring you right back to a particular place, or to a moment in time.

The rhythmic sound of mammy beating/creaming butter and sugar in a large delft baking bowl with a wooden spoon, it was the first stage in the making of all cakes. Remember it was before we had food processors and electric mixers.

The pressure cooker sounding like a steam train as it came up to pressure. It was used at least twice a week to boil marrow bones or chicken carcases for the making of stock for soup. Once cooked, the bones were soft; the liquid was put through a strainer and left to cool, usually overnight. The following morning the liquid had set like a jelly with a layer of solid fat on top.

Irish dancing on the radio – No not me! It was ‘Take the Floor’ on Radio Eireann, with Dingo the presenter calling out the steps like they do in square or barn dancing, while we heard the music and the sound of the dancer’s feet.

The sound of coal or logs cracking brightly in the hearth on a cold winter’s night…

And singing voices… Around the fireside in our house when visitors came, everyone had their own song:

‘An Cuileann’ (The Coulin).* sung by my maternal grandmother right up to her 80th year. An Aunt and Uncle with their rendition of the love duets from the Shows, Bitter Sweet, Bless the Bride and Rose Marie to name a few.

There was Nora from Cork who always sang ‘If I were a blackbird’ leading to songs that included many of the 32 counties on this Island of Ireland. These included Rose of Tralee, The County of Armagh, Galway Bay, Come back Paddy Reilly and The Kerry Dances, The Mountains of Mourne, Skibbereeen and Danny Boy.

I vividly remember following a wedding, one of the guests, a gentleman from Derry singing a hauntingly beautiful version of ‘She moved through the Fair’. I never met him before or since, but when I hear that song I am back there beside the fire transfixed!

My final musical memory for now takes me back to the early 70’s, when I was involved with a musical society in Dublin. We attended the annual AIMS (Association of Irish Musical Societies) Awards weekend during the month of May in Waterford. The hotel was fully booked by the members with the overflow staying at other hotels and B&B’s in the area. The atmosphere was very similar to that of the recent Irish Blog Awards, a large group of people of very different ages and from all walks of life, friendly and inclusive, with everyone sharing information and stories of shows they had performed.

The Awards were presented on the Saturday night at a dinner, and naturally with a common interest in music we sang the night away finishing every year at 6am with the members of St Agnes’ Belfast, and The Glasnevin (Dublin), the largest of the Societies leading us in six part harmony of ‘All in an April Evening’! Once again whenever I hear that sung I am back with those wonderfully talented people.

What sounds move your heart?

* I found an instrumental version of ‘An Cuileann’ by J.J. Sheridan on Soul of the Irish Piano