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Thugamar Féin am Samhradh Linn May 1, 2015

Tulips in Boulder, 2012***

Today is May 1, and the flowers are blooming, sometimes even through the snow so you know they are serious and not about to back down anymore.

Happy Beltaine! Here’s a festive Maypole (earth-fertility symbol) and an old song in Irish to celebrate.

Maypole erection at New College of CA's Permaculture Intensive, 2007

Maypole erection at New College of CA’s Permaculture Intensive, 2007

According to An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa, this traditional Irish song Thugamar Fein an Samhradh Linn, sung on May Day (Beltaine), dates back a ways: “Edward Bunting—a 19th century music collector—said this song “is probably extremely ancient” and was sung in the Dublin area around 1633. Even so, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin says it dates back to 1745, yet Mary Devlin (author of The Lost Music of Ireland) claims it was 1726, so the origin is rather vague.”

Want to hear it? Here’s the magnificent soprano Nóirín ní Riain singing it. I learned this song from listening to her CD, Celtic Soul.

There are of course numerous versions, as with all old folk songs. Check the bottom of this post for a second version that for some reason also involves herring.

It’s fun to honor the changing seasons in creative ways like singing. You too can sing in Irish!

This song is presented in three ways to  make it relatively easy for you to learn. The first line is in Gaeilge (Irish), the second is phoneticized pronounciation for native English-speakers (Foghraíocht), and the third is Béarla, a rough English translation. (Apologies to all native speakers and my relevant distant ancestors for any mistakes here: I grew up in an American desert region where Irish is rarely, if ever, spoken, and still don’t know much so must rely on others. Just doing my best to keep it alive and spreading, at least in song.)

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THUGAMAR FÉIN AN SAMHRADH LINN

Gorgeous Maypole top from Buddha's Birthday celebration, northern CA. Photo by Tina Fields

Gorgeous Maypole top from Buddha’s Birthday celebration, northern CA. Photo by Tina Fields

   (We Brought the Summer With Us)

Véarsa 1 (Verse 1):
Babóg na Bealtaine, Maighdean an tSamhraidh,
(BA-bohg nuh BAL-tin-yeh, MY-jen uh TOW-ree)
Doll of May Day, Maiden of Summer,

Suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann,
(SOO-uss gakh cruk iss SHEE-uss gakh glyan)
Up every hill and down every glen,

Cailíní maisithe, bán-ghéala gléasta,
(KAL-yee-nee MASH-ih-heh, bahn YAL-uh GLAY-sstuh)

Beautiful girls, radiant and shining in dress,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
(HUG-uh-mar hayn un SOW-roo lin)
We brought the summer with us.

Curfá (Chorus):

Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna,
(SOW-roo, SOW-roo, BA-nyeh nuh NGOW-nuh)
Summer, summer, milk of the calves,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the summer with us,

Samhradh buí ná nóinín gléigeal,
(SOW-roo bwee nah NOH-ih-neen GLAY-gyal)
Yellow summer of glistening daisies,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the summer with us.

Véarsa 2 (Verse 2) 

Thugamar linn é ón gcoill chraobhaigh,
Hug-a-mar lin ay oo-n gill khreev-ee,
We brought it in from the leafy woods,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the Summer in.

Samhradh buí ó luí na gréine,
Sa-u-roo bwee o lee na grayn-ya,
Yellow Summer from the time of the sunset,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the Summer in.   (sing CHORUS)

Kendall & me Permy 07

With Kendall Dunnigan, wild queen of OAEC, 2007. Flowers can be worn anywhere!

Véarsa 3 (Verse 3)

Tá an fhuiseog ag seinm ‘s ag luascadh sna spéartha,
(Tahn ISH-yohg egg SHEN-yim segg lOOS-koo snuh SPAYR-huh)
The lark is singing and soaring in the skies,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Tá an chuach is na héanlaith ag seinm le pléisiúr,
(Tahn KHOO-ukh snuh HAYN-lee egg SHEN-yim leh PLAY-shoor)
The cuckoo and the lark are singing with pleasure,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We brought the summer with us.
[Sing Curfá (CHORUS) again.]

Singing to welcome in the vibrant Spring spirits as we erect the maypole, 2007

According to the folks of An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa , “…“féin” can be pronounced “hayn” or “fayn”, and “thugamar” can be “hugamar” or “hoogamar” depending on the speaker. Same with “Samhradh”, which can be “Sau-roo” or “Sau-rah”.”

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Here are a couple more verses found on the most excellent folksong-nerd site Mudcat Cafe, posted by Malcolm Douglas on 7 July 2001, after he found it appearing as song #502 in George Petrie’s Complete Collection of Irish Music (ed. C. S. Villiers, 1903):

Of all the fish that’s in the sea
The herring is king, the herring is king.
Sing thugamur fein an samhra linn
‘Tis we have brought the summer in

The storm is o’er ’tis calm again;
We’re safe on shore from the raging main,
Sing thugamar fein an samhra linn,
‘Tis we have brought the summer in.

**

If you would like to learn how to sing more songs in Irish, check out Mary McLaughlin’s very user-friendly intro book/CD combo, Singing in Irish Gaelic (Mel Bay Publishing). It contains some great material, including a bouncy little childrens’ ditty about “Phillip’s little boat with Phillip in it” drowning in the sea.

Yep, pretty authentic Irish material, singing cheerily about death. Enjoy being alive right now to see another Spring!

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Stellar Days and Nights February 3, 2015

Filed under: Announcements,Dance — BrujaHa @ 10:53 pm
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Stellar 2015

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Hey contradancing folk, consider coming to a long weekend event in the lovely Colorado mountains later this month,

Stellar Days and Nights.

Excellent food, dancing ecstasy, great music, and relaxing fun. It’s held in a summer camp setting, so you get to stay in rustic cabins with running water and dance and eat together in one large hall. You can even x-c ski directly from your cabin!

I’m co-calling with Scott Higgs to the transporting music of Foxfire (Daron Douglas + Karen Axelrod), and two of my favorite local Front Range musicians, Elizabeth Wood + Rodney Sauer.

This year’s event will feature both Contra and ECD (English Country Dance). Plus Rodney will teach contra piano, Erik will lead a late-night techno contra, Daron will lead an English ballad swap, there are jams and workshops for all levels of musicians, Ceili, waltz, and Cape Breton step dancing workshops, and an evening gathering for everyone to share their talent/no-talent. And along with calling contras, I’ll also lead two song sessions (1) Bawdy British Ballads & Funny Chorus Songs;  2) Chants, Rounds and Sacred Songs from Many Traditions), and a genderplay dance workshop.

Come play!!

February 19-22, 2015, near Buena Vista, Colorado.

I just spent the eve plotting the “Gender Shenanigans” workshop with my co-leader, Erik Erhardt. Oh, are we gonna have fun. And further infiltrate the straight dance world. And help enhance everyone’s joy. Hoopla!

There is still space available for you to join in.

For more info and to sign up, see http://www.stellardaysandnights.org/

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Stellar t-shirt

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Farewell, Pete – and thanks January 28, 2014

Filed under: Announcements,Arts,Singing — BrujaHa @ 10:50 am
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Pete Seeger's banjo

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“To my old brown earth, and to my old blue sky
I now give these last few molecules of ‘I;’
And you who weep, and you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry:
Guard well our human chain–
Watch well you keep it strong
As long as sun will shine.
And this, our home, keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours, and you are also mine.”

—Pete Seeger

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Pete Seeger young singout

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R.I.P. and deep thanks to our elder Pete Seeger, who just passed on at age 94, in late January of 2014. They say he was chopping wood just 10 days before he died.

Pete Seeger wielded folk music as a guerrilla tool to create a better world. His legacy spreads around campfires and along picket lines still, and on the sloop Clearwater (where a number of my students did environmental education internships). His powerful banjo inscription: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” is, in my opinion, a sign of wisdom, showing a way to make deep and lasting change from a place of positive, inviting joy rather than from angry confrontation.

What an example of a life well lived.

Sing on, sir – sing on.  And we will too.

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pete seeger walking banjo rr

 

Happy Birthday, Tom Lehrer April 10, 2012

Filed under: Arts,Singing — BrujaHa @ 12:18 am
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  This post is a celebration of irreverent creativity.

Harvard mathematician Tom Lehrer had the chutzpah to make a song out of every tabu subject you can think of: the arms race leading to death by atomic bomb (“We Will All Go Together When We Go”), BDSM sex (“The Masochist Tango”), the Catholic church (“The Vatican Rag”), racism (“National Brotherhood Week”), Nazi scientists (“Wernher von Braun”), the Boy Scouts (“Be Prepared”), herpes (“I Got It From Agnes”), and the composition that must win the Nerd’s World Cup hands-down,  the Periodic Table of Elements set to music.

Tom Lehrer’s music became quite popular during the 1950s, but by 1965 he stopped performing because he allegedly grew bored of singing the same songs again and again.

Singing two of former the good doctor’s songs at a high school assembly got me, an honor student, sent to the Principal’s office and put on probation. This had the opposite effect of what the administration likely hoped.

I love his smart, irreverent humor still. If you aren’t yet familiar with it, I’m very pleased to be the person who’s about to ruin you. (Grateful thank-yous involving chocolate or bad puns always accepted.)

Happy 84th birthday, Prof. Dr. Lehrer.*

And thank you.

Click on the following links for videos or audios of TL performing:

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

Masochism Tango

I Hold Your Hand In Mine

Be Prepared

We Will All Go Together When We Go

The Vatican Rag

Here are a bunch more lyrics.

NOTES:

1) *His dual career was surely fated: Lehrer means “teacher” in German.

2) I have no idea why WordPress won’t let the links appear as embedded videos. I’ve scoured the forums and done everything they suggested, but no luck. I guess I’m still a technopeasant. Or perhaps Coyote is in charge of the cybergods. WordPress gurus, consider this the Bat Signal for help! Sigh.

3) Thank you to the fabulous Julie James for making me aware of this most auspicious day.


 

Music of the Spheres July 3, 2010

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “music of the spheres.” This originated for us with the Greek mathematician/philosopher Pythagoras, who proposed that proportions in the movements of celestial bodies can be interpreted as music. He viewed this “musica universalis” not as literally audible, but as a concept about harmonics, mathematics, and the divine.

In A Little Book of Coincidence, John Martineau tracks the ways in which these proportions make up gorgeous geometries. Remember “Spirograph,” that addictive drawing toy you might have had as a kid that involves toothed cogs with holes in different places to stick your pencil through in order to draw repeating geometric patterns? Turns out our universe’s movements look a lot like those patterns. No wonder we found them fascinating.

Contemporary geomancer Richard Feather Anderson claims that the entire universe is made up of only a very few geometric proportions. Feeling fascinated but skeptical, I asked him whether this was not a rather bloatedly arrogant claim, as we puny humans could not possibly know about the entire universe. I mean really, we understand only a tiny bit about the workings of our own bodies! We could speculate on what limited bits we’ve learned about our own planet, our moon, and the observable planets in our own immediate solar system, but the universe? Feather’s response was that the proportions observed by ancient philosophers have now been repeatedly noted by scientists with excellent modern telescopes and computers, and have been proven to (my memory is likely not exact here) something around 97% accuracy. Hearing this, I now had leave to go into spasms of awe.

It is not difficult to see how these proportional relationships might echo musical intervals and harmonics. Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle opined:

“All deep things are songs. It seems somehow the very central essence of us, Song; as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls! … See deep enough, and you see musically; the heart of Nature being everywhere music if you can only reach it.”

If we consider that life energy can be interpreted as vibration, and vibration can be interpreted via sensory organs and machines in many ways that include sound and light, it can be argued that in a way, the entire universe is continually singing.

This poetic opinion is now backed up by research scientists in solar physics at the University of Sheffield, U.K., who have for the first time managed to make recordings of the magnetic field in the sun’s outer atmosphere.

According to The Telegraph’s science correspondent Richard Grey, “They found that huge magnetic loops that have been observed coiling away from the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, known as coronal loops, vibrate like strings on a musical instrument. In other cases they behave more like soundwaves as they travel through a wind instrument. Using satellite images of these loops, which can be over 60,000 miles long, the scientists were able to recreate the sound by turning the visible vibrations into noises and speeding up the frequency so it is audible to the human ear.” (June 19, 2010)

The head of the research group, Robertus von Fáy-Siebenbürgen, is cited as saying, “It was strangely beautiful… It is a sort of music as it has harmonics.” As the Bard said, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

I find the Telegraph an excellent layperson’s news briefing source for scientific topics. The best thing about this particular article is that they provide actual video of the sun’s singing. I can’t figure out how to embed it in this post like you can with a YouTube video, being basically an upgraded technopeasant. But you can

click here for the video where you can listen to the Sun “sing!”

How cool is that?!

(All this longwindedness, in fact, sprang from my discovering this video and wanting to share it. Took me long enough to get to it, eh?)

The Aboriginal people of Australia believe that the world as we know it was originally sung into existence. Further, people must continue to repeat these songs if the places we live in and its beings are to continue. I find it a refreshing view to see our species as needed, instead of being a cancer to everyone else. So the people walk these “songlines” every year, literally singing the world back into being. They sing the original birth songs of their neighbors like stones and lizards. Perhaps they learned these songs from the beings themselves.

Five Dreamings. painter - Michael Nelson Jakamarra, assisted by Marjorie Napaljarri, Papunya, Central Australia.

Go outside after you see this video and sing with the Sun. Sing her back into being each year; each day, if you can. Welcome her with whatever comes to you as her own song, reminding her she is beautiful and needed and loved. And at night, don’t forget the Moon. And stars. And oh yes, anytime, all the trees and flowers and rocks and winds and…  Who cares what the human neighbors think? Their cells are all singing too, whether they know it or not.