BÉAL TUINNE - Live at St James' Church, Dingle
Tara 4022


Album cover artworkBÉAL TUINNE are Seamus Begley, button accordion and vocals; Rita Connolly, vocals and guitar; Lawrence Courtney, vocals and banjo; Eilis Kennedy, vocals and whistle; Jim Murray, guitar; Eoin Begley, concertina and button accordion; Shaun Davey, pedal harmonium and vocals with honorary member; Daithi O'Se, vocals.

THE BAND; Beal Tuinne (pronounced 'Beel-thinneh) is the name of a group of West Kerry-based musicians featuring Seamus Begley and Eilis Kennedy, who joined together with singer Rita Connolly and composer Shaun Davey in 2006 to perform a collection of new songs.

THE MUSIC; Beal Tuinne formed in order to perform a collection of new songs in Irish, music by Shaun Davey, with lyrics based on the poems of the late Caoimhin O Cinneide. In the sleevenotes Shaun explains; - 'The songs on this album are from a small village, west of Dingle in Co. Kerry, which lies between the wild grandeur of Mount Brandon and the booming Atlantic over the brow of the hill. It is a place where music and community go together, music serving as a collective bond, and where the distinction is blurred between the amateur musician and the professional.......I was keen to work amidst a music of this kind, to share the experience with our neighbour, the legendary box-player and sweet singer of soaring traditional melodies, Seamus Begley, to hear the equally wonderful singing of my wife, Rita, and to realise an ambition to play a pedal harmonium in their company.'
Melodic and traditional in style, the songs feature the sweet singing of Seamus, Rita and Eilis (daughter of Caoimhin O Cinneide) aided by the gritty voice of man-of-sea, Lawrence Courtney, with choral harmonies by the full band. The band feature acoustic instruments, played in West Kerry traditional style, unusually combined with the pedal harmonium (a portable, bellows-powered organ). The music includes trademark instrumental forays on button accordion by Seamus and his son Eoin who also features on concertina.

THE LYRICS; the songs tell of life in Baile an Mhuraigh ['Parish of Moor'), a small gaeltacht village in the Ballydavid area, west of Dingle, where Caoimhin O Cinneide spent most of his life. Typically the poems convey a man on the outside of the parish, looking in. At times conferring heroic status on neighbours, while fishing or rescuing a survivor from shipwreck; at others there is leg-pulling typical of a close-knit community. Occasionally the poet ventures further afield, nowhere more poignantly than when at sea, rounding Carraig Aonair, (the Fastnet Rock), or lamenting the fate of the exile, far from home in the building sites of Chicago. Sometimes he is solitary, as during a nighttime vigil out in the bay, reflecting on those who drowned. Always Caoimhin seems to have placed his poetry at the service of his neighbours, ready to console and reassure in times of bereavement, or to chronicle the birthdays of his own beloved family.

THE CD; the opportunity to take the music to a wider audience was provided by film-maker, Phillip King, who decided to base a film documentary around the occasion of Beal Tuinne's debut concert in St James' Church, Dingle, in October 2006. This was shown on RTE during the summer, 2007, as part of South Wind Blows 'An Droichead Beo' series in partnership with RTE and the CBI. The production of this CD has been encouraged by the widely favorable response to the film, which can be seen again on RTE over Christmas.

"The poetry of Caoimhín Ó Cinnéide, the late west Kerry poet and teacher, has been reignited by these musical diverse settings, composed and arranged by Shaun Davey, and performed last summer in St. James' Church in Dingle. Davey's deeply sympathetic compositions scatter stardust across Ó Cinnéide's extraordinary tales of ordinary lives. The harmonies of Éilis Ní Chinnéide and Rita Connolly on 'Lá Eigin Fadó Fadó' are a revelation: celebrating the simplicity of a day spent in good company. Séamus Begley's reading of 'Ar Muir San Óiche' teetering on the brink of an uncertainty born of unfamiliarity with the song, is a delicate filament of a thing, with Eoin Ó Beaglaoi's tiptoeing concertina and Jim Muarry's restrained guitar shoring up the rear magnificently. A magnificent meithil, a snapshot of a glorious summer's evening of music."
Rated 4 stars: Siobhan Long - The Irish Times Feb 2008


"We were going to review several albums this month in one of those, "clean up the attic and catch up" moments. That plan is out the window. There is only one album to discuss this month. Beal Tuinne, out on Tara Records. It is the most beautiful Irish album we have heard in our 25 years of writing about Irish music. The most beautiful. It is to the deepest core of what it is to be Irish. Perhaps we should explain?
About a month or slightly more ago, we were sitting in front of the computer in our normal half-conscious, somnambulant state. The phone rang. Alan O'Leary from London and the fab Copperplate Consultants calling. "Have you heard Beal Tuinne yet?" Whaaa?? "Beal Tuinne. It is the most amazing album I've heard in my years in the business. Have you heard it?" We had not. But----suddenly---excitement was in the air. Says Alan, "I'll mp3 you one of the songs immediately." True to his word, he sent me the cut of Ciúmhais Charraig Aonair. To say we were bolted to our office chair through all 20 immediately repeated playings would be an understatement. Stunned. Immobile. Shattered.
Shaun Davey is Ireland's greatest composer. How many years ago did we first hear the iconic Brendan Voyage? The Pilgrim—Granuaile—The Relief of Derry Symphony? A symphonic composer employing Irish instruments, themes and melodies of such exquisite taste and genius, we have been among his biggest fans for years. Decades, really. And, his wife! Rita Connolly first transfixed us with her voice in Granuaile . A voice from heaven. Shaun Davey has been emulated, copied and idolized for years. Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame and fortune, as well as others knows well what they owe to the likes of Sean O'Riada and Shaun Davey. Yes. We include Shaun Davey in the same sentence as Sean O'Riada. The number of films, television shows, documentaries and other projects for which he has written the music can only begin to be grasped by a visit to his website. Perhaps best of all, he also wrote the anthem for the worldwide Special Olympics hosted by Ireland a few years ago.
On with the story. He and wife Rita bought a summer home on The Dingle Peninsula a few years ago. Shaun and Rita, like everyone of us who has ever been there, had fallen in love with the The Dingle. They bought a summer home. Upon moving in for the summer, the inspiration took hold, and Shaun started writing music. But, to really, truly and deeply reveal the spirit of the place, ordinary lyrics would not do the trick---and so the search began.
The regular reader knows well the name of Eilis Kennedy. She is one of the great singers of Ireland and her two solo albums have both won her Awards here, as well as through other venues in Ireland. One of the immortals!! Eilis, of course, lives on The Dingle, as the regular reader also knows. She and her husband, John, own and operate one of the great pubs in the west, John Benny Moriarity's. It also turns out that Eilis' father was Caoimhín Ó Cinneide (Kennedy). Her family was of the Blasket Islands. He was, in a way of thinking about it, perhaps, the poet laureate of The Dingle. Is that too grand? Eilis blushes at it, but it is not far off the mark.
After he passed away, his poems were collected in a small volume that had been out of print for some time by the date that Shaun and Rita arrived on the Peninsula. Fortunately for Irish music, someone brought the volume to Shaun, and it began. Caoimhín's wife and Eilis' mother, Eithne, encouraged and helped in the entire production. We can only imagine Shaun's thrill at the involvement of Eilis herself, as the voice of her father surely speaks through her (he was also a noted singer, as well as poet). Add to that another iconic Irish musician and singer from the Dingle, Seamus Begley and the forge was cast for something amazing.
Rehearsals. Meetings. Notes. More rehearsal—reworkings, changes—and then, more rehearsal. And, then, it all came together on a magic evening in September of 2007 at the small St. James Church in the town of Dingle itself. The RTE was, by this time, involved, and the concert and lead up time are all part of a documentary. There are surely more concerts scheduled for the future for this wonderful octet of musicians and singers.. This must become a major part of the biggies like Irish Fest in Milwaukee and others.
If we could own only one Irish album, this would be it. Don't screw this up. Get it. It will touch your ears with a gentleness equaled only by its caress of your heart and memory. It is a masterpiece—and all the poems (lyrics) can be found in the English translations online at the Beal Tuinne website

It has never, and will never, be done better than this.
Rating : Perfection"

Bill Margeson - The Chicago Irish American News July 08

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