Fire Songs and Summer Change

Brigid Text-page-001.jpg

I've been focusing on an acappella song cycle for the stunning Bethany Hill. Have you seen her singing the piece I wrote for her?  (featuring the beautiful singers of 'the Jupiter Choir'.)

When Bethany asked me if I could write an acappella song cycle for her, I thought of the ancient celtic Goddess Brigid - about whom I knew very little other than she had fire hair. Which seems like a good match for beautiful Beth. I've finished the work and as Bethany hasn't performed it yet, the sheet music will stay an alluring mystery for now! But I would love to share the story I uncovered of Brigid, and the text I created.

Brigid is a triple Goddess - of healing, blacksmithing and poets. Which was a great point of departure but isn't enough information to create poetry.  I got stuck for a while til I discovered the irish myths in the Book of Invasions - written circa 1100. This gave me some more biographical detail for Brigid, and allowed me to map the events of her life onto the three rhealms under her care.  This idea wasn't mine.  As she's a Goddess of poets, I had asked Brigid for inspiration. (sure I'm an aetheist but I figured why not?) And this idea of structuring her story around her three aspects was hers. Once she gave me that, I was able to create the text. This is Brigid's life story.

Fire Songs is an acappella song cycle of the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Brigid is an ancient Goddess from the pantheon of Irish celts, and a living Goddess, followed in contemporary pagany. She is often represented as a triple Goddess with care over the domains of healing, blacksmithing and poets. Brigid holds a goblet for healing, fire for the forge, and a harp for the poets. In this cycle I have drawn on myths of early celtic belief. I imagine Brigid growing through her life experiences. I am interested in how her life forged her - how her story created the attributes she needed to become the “exalted one” for her people.

When Brigid’s people, the Tuatha De Danann (the people of the goddess Danu) arrived in Ireland they set their entire fleet on fire to signal their intention to stay. The original inhabitants of Ireland - The wild, fierce warriors of the Fomorians - not surprisingly didn’t care for this, and immediately clashed with the Danu.

In the ensuing battles, the Danann king was killed. His son had lost an arm in battle and was incapable of succeeding his father. Brigid, the king’s daughter announced she would marry Bres, king of the Fomorians, in the hope this royal marriage would provide a king for the Danann and heal the wounds between the two peoples.

Peace was never secured. Bres, a Fomorian was a cruel, oppressive king to the people of Danu. But Brigid chose to stay with him. I imagine Brigid made an informed, wise decision. I think she continued to believe her marriage would bring peace. I suspect the poet-seers had told her that it would cost her dearly, but her eldest son Ruadan would be the light that restored peace to Ireland. Brigid assumed her marriage to Bres was the price she needed to pay and used her knowledge of blacksmithing to harden herself against Bres’ cruelty, giving herself the fortitude to stay and guide their son to fulfill this destiny.

Brigid passed on to Ruadan the Danann skills of blacksmithing. He proved an excellent blacksmith - combining the raw strength of the Fomorians and the skilled craftsmanship of the Danann to create mighty swords.

But the enmity between Bres and the people of Danu grew. Bres finally betrayed Brigid when he led the Fomorians to outright war against her people. In the terrible second battle of Mag Tuired, her beloved son sided with his father, turning against the Danann. Ruadan died in that battle.  

Throughout the night following Ruadan’s death, Brigid’s anguished cries rang out across Ireland. At dawn her keening softened and her voice fell on the land like rain.

When the sun rose, Brigid reached into the sky and pulled a thread of sunlight down for the poets to spin into words and tell her story. The poets sang of her dedication, sacrifice and grief. The intensity and sorrow of the songs so moved the warriors, they finally laid down their weapons.

With harps and songs, the poets of Brigid brought peace to Ireland. Brigid’s own time at the anvil was complete. Her red hair turned to flames as she stepped into the sky, and ascended from woman to Goddess.

And here is the text...

I.  WEDDING SONG

Tonight.
My wedding night.
My wedding robes.
Woven from the grass that grows on the hills. that grows on the hills.

Tonight.
Tonight.
My wedding night.
My wedding wreath from the sham-rocks and flo-wers that grow be-neath my feet. that grow beneath my feet.

My groom
A mighty king.
The flame in his eyes burns with the fire of the night.

And you. oh my people.
And you Oh my people.
Whose red blood has flowed down to the water deep in my wells.

Tonight. Wine will flow. 
Tonight war will cease.
When the daughter of Danu marries her enemy.

The deep wounds will open.
The water will clean.
Tonight will begin with a dance.
Tonight will begin with a dance.

II. WEDDING DANCE

(this one doesn't have words! It's a jig. )

III. FORGE SONG

come.
Ruadan, Ruadan, Ruadan my son.
Watch for the colour. See, my bright one?  
There in the flames, white as the flesh of an apple.  
Deep. So deep. My son. Deep in the heart of the fire.  

Ruadan Ruadan Ruadan my son.
Watch for the iron. See, my true one?  
See it grows bright. Bright as the sun of high summer.
Deep. So deep. My son. Deep in the heart of the fire.  

Now take the hammer See, my own one?  
Strong in your hand. Strong as the ox of the farmer.  
Deep. So deep. My son. Deep in the heart of the fire.  

Strike true. Strike true. Strike true my son.
Strike true. Strike true. Strike true my one.
Over and over and over my son.
Over and over and over my one.

come.
Ruadan, Ruadan, Ruadan my son.
Come see the blade. See what you've done.  
See the straight line? Straight as the path of my arrow.  
Deep. So deep. My son. Deep in the heart of the fire.  

I have my own blade to pattern
I have my own fire to burn.  
My son is the true light of Danu for him I stay true.
I stay Deep. So deep. I stay deep in the heart of the fire.  

IV NIGHT SONG

Ah
Cuisle mo chroi Cuisle mo chroi (trans - pulse of my heart)
Beat of my heart.
My son. my son. My beautiful one.
Cuisle mo chroi Cuisle mo chroi.
You turned on your people. You turned on me,
And now you lie slain.

Cuisle mo chroi. Cuisle mo chroi.
Beside you the sword we made at the forge.
The forge of the Danu.
Cuisle mo chroi Cuisle mo chroi
Beat of my heart.
My son. my son. My beautiful one.

Never again. Never Never again. will you hold it.
Never again. Never Never again. will I hold you

Cuisle mo chroi Cuisle mo chroi.
Beat of my heart. Beat of my heart.  

V DAWN SONG

The Dawn
night turns again.
Light comes again.
Sun rise again in the sky. 

Sunlight
I reach up my arm reach up to the sky.
I take a single thread of sunlight. 

For you. oh my people.
For you. oh my people.
Take this thead in your hands.
Take this thread In your hands.
Spin it in to a song of light

Let your song rise up
Let your song rise up in to the sky
and the fighting will cease
This bloody war will cease.
finally I will bring peace. 

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So that's the text. And she'll be premiering in January at the Mornington Peninsula Music Festival if you happen to be in Victoria and would like to be there - drop me a line and I'll find out the details.

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Because I've been working on pieces for professional singers I feel like my composing is going in a few directions at once. I've been feeling like I need to revamp this website to reflect this - an area for community choir pieces, an area for discussing the opera I'm working on (the revolutionary one where the heroine not only doesn't die, but grows in wisdom, strength and emerges victorious), an area for the choir sightsinging songs I will be publishing in the new year, care of a wonderful scholarship from the Australian Kodaly folks, and other pieces I'm writing. So I'm going to take some time over summer to reshape this website. and be back in the new format by the end of March 2018.  I hope you have a wonderful Christmas period and new year. See you in 2018. x