BÉAL 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
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.
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
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.
"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
Rated 4 stars: Siobhan Long - The Irish Times Feb 2008
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.
Shaun Davey is Ireland's greatest composer. How many years ago did
we first hear the iconic Brendan Voyage? The PilgrimGranuaileThe
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 rehearsalreworkings, changesand
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 masterpieceand
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
Béal Tuinne (TARACD 4022)
MAGNIFICENT collection of Irish songs brings together the prodigious
talents of traditional west Kerry musicians Béal Tuinne (Mouth
of the Wave) and those of composer Shaun Davey and singer Rita Connolly.
Based on the poems of Kerryman Caoimhín Ó Cinnéide
(Kevin Kennedy), the songs tell of life in Baile an Mhuraigh (Parish
of Moor), a small gaeltacht village in the Ballydavid area, west
of Dingle, Co. Kerry.
Shipwrecks and rescues, fishing tales, heroic deeds in times
of famine, the lament of the exile and the anguish caused by separation
and political conflict are all here alongside the gentle humour
and the enjoyment of everyday life of a small community dominated
by the sea.
An accompanying booklet includes the lyrics in Irish and
a summary of each song in English. English translations of the songs,
along with further information about the album, can be found at
As Davey explains in the album's sleeve notes, the village
"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 amateur and professional musician,"
Recorded live in St James's Church, Dingle, in the presence
of the poet's family and the community of Baile an Mhuraigh, for
whom and about" the poems were originally written, the album
reflects both the intimacy of the subject and the setting.
On these performances, local musicians Séamus Begley
(vocals/button accordion),Éilís Kennedy (vocals/whistle/flute),
Dáithí Ó Sé (vocals), Lawrence Courtney
(vocals/banjo), Eoin Ó Beaglaoí, (concertina/button
accordion) and Jim Murray (guitar) are joined by Shaun Davey (pedal
harmonium/string synthesises/harmony vocals) and Rita Connolly (vocals/guitar).
Beautiful melodies and delightful harmonies are to be found
in abundance, while the contrasting vocal styles of the three singers
and Davey's original compositions successfully deliver shades of
light and dark.
A brilliant and inspired project uniting poetry with original
composition, strong vocals, heavenly harmonies and inspired musicianship.
The result is both enchanting and evocative, to the point that the
listener can almost feel the pleasure and the pain of the villagers
and taste the salt in the sea air. Pure simplicity, pure genius.
David Granville - Irish Democrat
IMRAM'S FOCUS ON west Kerry this year is striking. It will
host a performance of Béal Tuinne , a song suite composed
by Shaun Davey, based on Fothar Na Manach , a book of poems by the
late Ballydavid teacher and poet, Caoimhín Ó Cinnéide.
A swathe of west Kerry musicians and singers will accompany Shaun
Davey and Rita Connolly to the Unitarian Church on St Stephen's
Green on Sunday night after the All-Ireland football final, where
it's likely that tears will be shed - whether of triumph or defeat
remains to be determined.
Seamus and Eoin Begley, Lawrence Courtney and Caoimhín
Ó Cinnéide's daughter, Éilís, will air
this song cycle, which Davey has composed with characteristic sensitivity
to its origins. For Éilís Ní Chinnéide,
Béal Tuinne is a magical excuse to revisit her father's poetry.
"The first reaction I had was absolute joy that someone
like Shaun could actually 'get' the poems," she says, "as
someone who didn't have the language first-hand. It's a testament
to how good the poetry is and how good a musician Shaun is. My father
didn't consider himself a poet first and foremost at all, but he
was a keen observer and he had a wonderful way with words. The music
gave the poems a shape that I hadn't seen before either. It was
like looking at something in relief. The music gave them a different
Shaun Davey was transfixed by Ó Cinnéide's
poetry when it was read to him by Mary and the accordion player
and singer, Seamus Begley. Having lived (at least for part of each
year) in west Kerry for a number of years now, Davey felt compelled
to give something back to the community which had welcomed him so
"Once we had demonstrated to our neighbours that we
would be there for a lot of the year," Davey recalls with his
customary modesty, "they accepted us as neighbours, and with
being neighbours come responsibilities, and a desire to enter into
the community. I actually felt that we had to make a musical contribution
because they value music so highly in that area."
Davey didn't speak Irish and so wasn't privy to the nuances
of the language. It was a barrier he surmounted with spectacular
success, despite his own misgivings.
"The language was - and remains - a barrier,"
he says. "It's very difficult to cross because I find it a
very difficult language to learn, but I was propped up on both sides
by Mary and Seamus, who sat with me in my house one evening, quietly
reading and rereading the poems, talking about them and translating
them. I recorded them, and from that I understood the cadences and
where the accents fall. The key is to understand where the accents
are, because they should end up as musical stresses."
The possibility that Davey has now augmented the traditional
song repertoire is one he's unwilling to take too seriously, given
the relative youth of his compositions, not to mention the nature
of the oral tradition to which he is a relative newcomer.
"I wouldn't presume or set out to write a piece of
music with that in mind," he insists. "That would be far
too self-conscious, and ultimately it's up to other people as to
whether that happens or not. Frankly, that's not my concern. I think,
though, that my melodies haven't achieved what the great traditional
airs have, which is an air that, within its arc, contains the harmony
that would support the tune. My tunes need an accompaniment, whereas
traditional airs are often performable without accompaniment."
This exercise in working with local musicians and source
material couldn't have been more different from the formal orchestral
projects which define Davey's musical identity: The Brendan Voyage,
Granuaile, The Pilgrim and The Relief of Derry Suite. The sense
of community bolstered him immeasurably, as a musician and composer,
he admits. "There's that dreadful feeling of walking the plank
as a composer when you have an orchestra of highly skilled musicians
sitting down playing it. It isn't necessarily a pleasant experience,
whereas, by contrast, the music written for Béal Tuinne is
designed to be performed in a truly companionable setting where
nobody's under undue pressure. It's easy music to play and it's
not too intense."
THE Ó CINNÉIDE connection at Imram continues
with the involvement of Irish-language poet, Dairena Ní Chinnéide
(sister of Éilís and daughter of Caoimhín),
who will be collaborating with The Gaelic Jazz Project for the second
time at Imram this year. Does the act of writing poetry differ when
she knows that her words will be accompanied by music?
"I would, by instinct, write a poem that would stand
alone anyway," Ní Chinnéide says. "It tends
to be quiet lyrical, but my background is in traditional music so
my inclination in relation to the 'music' of the poem would have
more of a traditional buzz. This jazz collaboration is quiet different
for me, but I really enjoy that chance to space out the words, to
deal with different rhythms and create a space around the words
that the jazz fuses with really well."
Ní Chinnéide finds that the work of her father,
Caoimhín, ignites her own writing.
"His influence was huge, immense," she states
unequivocally. "He was an extraordinary man, and you couldn't
help but be infected by his love for song. He expressed himself
so well in song, and had one for every single occasion. He really
enjoyed the fun of putting a situation and a song together and doing
it so beautifully. With Shaun Davey's work, he's married the two
aspects of dad's life that he loved: poetry and song. Caoimhín's
poetry had an incredibly melodic nature to it in Irish, and it lent
itself well to composition, and Shaun's talent was to pick up on
the nuances of daddy's writing. It's a gift, really."
SIOBHÁN LONG - Irish Times 2009