saint bridgid's day, and music
From Australia to Alaska, through all the counties that make up the island of Ireland, and across the world where Ireland's sons and daughters have made their homes, you will find churches, schools, hospitals, and children named after Saint Bridgid. Though she’s occasionally called Ireland’s second saint -- second to Saint Patrick, that is -- she is as strong is story and legend and as important to the history of Ireland -- and to the women of Ireland -- as Saint Patrick is.
She grew up in Louth, Ireland's smallest county. It is a place filled with mist and mystic landscapes, these days as much as it was in Bridgid’s firth century AD. It is a home of legends from Ireland’s ancient past, a fitting birthplace for a saint whose family included both Christians and followers of the old ways, and whose own legends as the patron of fire and of poetry would borrow from those ancient stories as well.
The first of February is the feast of Saint Bridgid. In Ireland this is marked as the beginning of spring, the turning toward light after winter’s darkness. While the weather in Ireland does not always go along with springtime ideas, there is a change in the light around the beginning of February, a welcome of bright days on the way.
For that reason, Kathleen Conneely’s recording Coming of Spring is a good one to enjoy at this season. The whistle is Conneely’s instrument, and she employs it beautifully through sets of reels and jigs, with a bit of hornpipe and slip jig thrown in, to share of the life and history of Ireland without speaking a word. Growing up in a family who brought their music over to England with them when they came from Ireland, Conneely has tradition in her family and in her heart, and the wisdom of all that comes through in her playing. All of the fourteen sets are well worth your listening -- and Conneely may have you dancing too if that’s your inclination. Standout tracks include the Bonnie Ann set of reels and the Rosemary Lane set of jigs.
There is wisdom in Cathie Ryan’s take on a hymn to Saint Bridgid, as well. On her album The Farthest Wave, she takes the ancient hymn Gabhaim Molta Brighde and has it both reach back across time and be fully present in today’s world by the clarity of her singing and the spare arrangement of the backing on accordion from Scotland’s Phil Cunningham.
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Cathie Ryan: Through Wind and Rain