I first saw - and heard - Máire Ní Choilm at the Cnoc Fola Festival on a fine summer's evening sometime in the 1990s. I was adjudicating at a singing competition and I can still recall to this day the effect her voice had on me. I knew then that she had a rare gift, and her voice has gone from strength to strength in the years since then. She has refined her singing voice and has kept adding to her repertoire - as is evident from the depth and range of songs on this CD. Some songs we have heard her perform before and some we have not. Máire has a very distinctive singing voice, blending sweetness, strength and diction in a way that makes everyone sit up and take notice.
Her voice has an echoing quality about it, lending a bittersweet flavour to words that remain in the mind long after the song has come to an end. Of course it's in the blood too - she comes from a long line of distinguished musicians: her father, Gerry, for example, and also her late uncle Fr Eoghan Ó Colm, parish priest on Tory Island and author of one of the best-known books to come out of Donegal in the last century, Toraigh na dTonn. Some of the songs on this CD come from Tory, ‘Beití Sailí Dan', and ‘Is deas an buachaill fóinteach mé' - songs she learned from the great Teresa Mhic Claifeartaigh and Éamonn Mac Ruairí - and a few more.
Máire has of course won awards and prizes and competitions, and will win many more, I'm sure, and these are all very nice, but Máire looks for something else from her singing: the fun and pleasure and companionship that comes from singing and music, and this is evident on each and every song on this CD. It gives me great pleasure and hope for the future to see another generation of highly accomplished musicians coming to the fore, taking up the tradition and making their own mark. And listening to this CD, what a a mark Máire Ní Choilm has made!
Lillis Ó Laoire
Review, David Kidman, Living Tradition
Máire Ní Choilm – Nuair a Théid Sé Fán Chroí
Máire, originally from An Screabán, Gaoth Dobhair in Donegal, is now living and working in Dublin as a lecturer in St. Pat’s College in Drumcondra. Máire’s distinctive singing voice and interpretation of songs have won her many awards (including Oireachtas, Comórtas na mBan in 1997 and 2009: the All-Ireland Fleadh, Gaeilge 2005 and the Pan Celtic traditional singing competition in 2008): she’s also performed at Celtic Connections. It’s perhaps surprising to discover, then, that Nuair A Théid Sé Fán Chroí is her first solo CD.
It contains 15 tracks, of which nine are sung unaccompanied by Máire in approved sean-nós style. The disc opens with a well poised account of Tá Mé i Mo Shuí, where Máire displays a naturally commanding sense of line and purpose that complements the strong timbre of her voice and enables an aftertaste that can be suitably bittersweet. This quality also surfaces to good effect on other songs with a comparably reflective flavour, like Nansaí Bhán Nic Giobarlaí (which uses the melody of The Parting Glass). The disc’s key performances are very probably the measured and powerfully committed renditions of Ag An Phobal Dé Domhnaigh and the measured and powerfully committed renditions of Ag An Phobal Dé Domhnaigh and (especially) Nighean an Bhaoigheallaigh and the closing lament Is Deas an Buachaill Fóinteach Mé. Elsewhere, the playful An tSeanbhean Bhocht forms a keen contrast (although I can’t quite get the ‘ball of yarn’ connotation out of my brain...!) as does Beití Sailí Dan. Incidentally, the latter is one of the songs Máire has sourced from Tory Island (where her late uncle was a parish priest) – another being the album’s penultimate track, An Ghiobóg, a charming duet with Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde, comes from the singing of Éamonn Mac Ruairí.
Halfway through the disc, as a kind of interlude I guess, comes the first of three items featuring a box player – the reel Damhsa Sciobóil, played as a solo by Máire’s father Gerry Ó Colm. An Chéad Mháirt d’Thómhar (fetchingly accompanied by Breanndán Ó Beaglaíoch) then provides a further disc high-point, while Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde does the honours in a more restrained fashion on Is Fada Ó Bhaile; finally, Conor Byrne provides a flute counterpoint to Máire’s singing on Tiocfaidh an Samhradh and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh embellishes Ar a Ghabháil Go Baile Átha Cliath Domh with hardanger and octave fiddles. It all adds up to a very listenable record, with Máire’s distinguished character as a singer – and the evident pleasure she gets from the singing – at the forefront in this truthful recording.
The only gripe I have with this release is, however, a serious one regarding the presentation; for it’s a great pity that while the booklet contains full texts and notes, all in Irish Gaelic, there’s not a hint of a synopsis – let alone a translation – to aid our appreciation of any of the individual songs. The only concession to the non-Irish-speaker is a general background note in English that’s mainly about Máire herself rather than the songs.