ne of my earliest memories (I have many vivid memories from before I learned to read at the age of 4, so earliest is really, really, early) is my absolute acceptance of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem singing in Gaelic to an audience at Carnegie Hall. Not that I had any clue who Carnegie was, or where his hall was, but it never occurred to me to wonder why I couldn’t understand a single word of the song “Oro Se Do Bheathe Bhaile.” After I learned to read, I was slightly puzzled that they pronounced it “Oro shay doe vaha wallya” but it was the only line I could figure out, and I sang it loud.
Statistics show that Gaelic is steadily making a comeback in Ireland. From the late 19th century until WWII, fewer than one in five residents of the Emerald Isle spoke Gaelic; nearing the end of the 20th century, over twice that many professed an ability to speak it. I’m considering doing my part by moving there and learning the language myself. Eventually. It would be heartbreaking to think of losing something as melodic and moving as the sound of such a glorious tongue.
Languages fascinate me; one of the strong appeals of Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” was his masterful ability, not just with English, but with fully formed languages he created himself. I’m also enthralled when a song to which I cannot understand the words still manages to convey enormous depth of feeling, merely by using the right music and the singer’s ability to emote.
One of the lesser known tracks from Enya‘s pseudo