As I was driving through the Mournes on the first evening of May, I turned on the car radio. The first thing I heard was Iarla Ó'Lionáird talking about the power of singing. It took me a few seconds to recognise his Cork accent, but I got it before long. I glanced down to see which station was playing. RTÉ Lyric FM. Should've guessed. I listened on.
In the show entitled "Vocal Chords", Iarla and his guests spoke about the power of song "to emotionally change us more than words alone" and the feelings of connection brought on by group singing. A woman spoke about the instinctiveness of song, and the fact that you can tell whether a singer is happy or sad.
Christy Moore mentions the "magic thread" between the singer and the audience. This is a metaphor I'm very familiar with, as it's one employed by Anúna singers in rehearsals; specifically by Sara Di Bella and Michael McGlynn. This connection is direct and abstract.
Iarla explains that singers inhabit the silence before sound, the presence of breath. Someone speaks about the tension and release of singing. "It's enthralling." Nóirín Ní Riain refers to the silent moment before the song as "the realm of the underworld".
It's coincidence that I switched on the car radio that evening, as I was on my way to meet sean-nós singer Doimnic Mhic Giolla Bhríde. I learned a song from him that night. Hopefully I'll have it learned before long...
You can listen to Iarla Ó'Lionáird's "Vocal Chords" series via the RTÉ Player here. I highly recommend it.