Moya Brennan, lead singer of Clannad and the first lady of Celtic Music, returns to public television this month (check local listings) with Music of Ireland -- Welcome to America.
The first part of this expansive documentary of Irish music aired back in March to rave reviews that ended with a heart-tugging interview with Liam Clancy that was filmed weeks before his death. This installment jumps the pond for a trans-Atlantic journey from Ireland’s West Coast to the heartland of America.
Music of Ireland – Welcome to America (part II) picks up the story with the emergence of U2 and the global phenomenon they caused. The show makes a clever right turn, taking the spotlight off U2 and putting it squarely on the busker’s scene in Dublin that eventually launched the likes of Academy Award winner Glen Hansard of the Swell Season and the Frames, Damien Rice and Damien Dempsey.
“That was so important to do -- take the fame of Bono and spread it to others,” says Brennan during a chat with the Irish Voice.
“The busker scene is the roots of where we all came from as singer songwriters. It makes Bono and Sinead make more sense; maybe its not such a fluke U2 came from Ireland. I mean, look at all the people that came from here! It’s not just about Celtic Woman or Riverdance.”
Sinead O’Connor’s controversial Pope-ripping incident on Saturday Night Live many years back is analyzed, then leads to the rise of the Cranberries, the Corrs, Black 47 and the Script.
Viewing this amount of history boiled down to an hour might feel like cultural whiplash, but the program moves along beautifully and makes the viewer either proud to be Irish if they already are, or wishing they were Irish if they weren’t.
This is less of a documentary and more of a national treasure that has the potential to capture the imagination of millions.
One of the most interesting moments in the show explores how Irish music has influenced America and American culture, with footage from Dublin’s Irish Festival in Dublin, Ohio. It was there that Brennan discovered the diversity of Irish American music that included Salsa Celtica and Gaelic Storm.
“I played Dublin, Ohio and the response was amazing,” she enthuses. “I loved seeing the families. You see grandchildren getting into their culture with their grandparents there.
“Irish music was all about fun. Irish music in this documentary is about having a smile on your face. There is a lot of tragedy in our history, like immigration, but there is always a sense of hope. That’s what I saw come out of my festival experience.”
Brennan reports that all artists gave her feedback of being honored that they were included, which thrills her. After the cameras stopped rolling, promises of doing something together were exchanged and Brennan now finds herself with a busy dance card that includes jamming with Dervish, Dempsey and Andy Irvine.
“It is thrilling to have another artist ask you to collaborate and I always try to accommodate those requests because I love it!” she says.
Brennan has been involved in a labor of love all summer, recording a project called T with the Maggies with Triona and Maighread Ni Dhomnadh. It is a combination of originals, cover tunes and traditional ditties that Brennan says is the most fun she has ever had making.
“We know each other for donkey’s years,” she says. “They used to spend their summers near us growing up. We did one off gig for a laugh and we had so many people at the first gig you couldn’t get a ticket.
“We looked at each other and we said we should do something some time. We were then asked to do the Cape Breton Festival this October plus a radio show.
“We went into the studio and record an album for that. We will have it done by mid September and it’s really good. I think this is the real Celtic Woman.”
For more information, log onto moyabrennan.com.