Songs in Stories and Stories in Songs

I listened to the music discussed in this post as I made my solitary way through the Welsh countryside, so I’ve decided to take you on a mini-tour of some nice parks. Sound good? Okay.

I’ve been talking about travel so far this month, and this one sticks with the theme, though a little different.  One thing that is key to successful travel for me is to have the perfect playlist of songs to accompany me as I go.  I can spend hours going through music and perfecting that playlist to match my wanderings.

I am hard pressed to name a favorite genre of music.  The two that usually come out on top would have to be soundtracks and Celtic.  Both of these genres have to do with stories for me, which is part of why I like them so much.

A Song in a Story…

When I see a movie, I am always listening for good music in the background.  I love movie themes.  I even love that subgenre that not as many people know about called trailer music. Entire CDs are made of intense themes, which films then purchase for their previews.  Immediate Music, Epic Score, X-ray Dog, Two Steps From Hell –  you’ve probably never heard of them, but I guarantee you’ve heard them at the theater watching a preview.  For me, good soundtrack music either evokes images from the movie that it was used in or it inspires me to tell stories of my own that match the music.

Nothing makes a story come to life for me like the perfect song in the background.

Roath Park just outside of Cardiff is a massive park with a lake in the centre. On a sunny day, this place is glorious.

A Story in a Song…

As much as I love movie music, right now Celtic is my music of choice, and not just because Celtic stuff is sort of my thing (I will soon have a legitimate degree in it!)  I love songs with dramatic, dark, sweet, or downright odd themes.  I really enjoy a song that narrates a tale for me, something that many a good Celtic song does.  A story set to music, one that is entirely contained within the few minutes of the song, can be a powerful bit of storytelling.  Some of the ones that come immediately to mind for me are:

Loreena McKennitt is a classic for Celtic/World music lovers.  I like her Celtic music and adore her poems-to-music, such as these:

  • ‘The Highwayman’ – the poem by Alfred Noyes about, surprise surprise, a highwayman whose plans to carry off his love are hindered by the redcoats!
  • ‘Stolen Child’ – a poem by W.B. Yeats about a child being lured away by the fairies.
  • ‘Lady of Shalott’ – Tennyson’s poem is a sad, but lovely story and becomes even sadder and more lovely set to this tune.

Heather Dale does thematic CDs based on Celtic and Arthurian legends.  I find a lot of her music a bit simplistic, but she is definitely a tale-singer and sometimes she hits it dead on.

  • ‘Adrift’ – the Irish story of Fionn’s son Oisin, who goes away to the fairy lands with his immortal bride, but is drawn towards home, much to Niamh’s distress
  • ‘Changeling Child’ – the disturbing tale of a woman who asks the fairies for a baby… and gets what she asks for
  • ‘Mordred’s Lullaby’ – my favorite of Dale’s by far, this song is the creepy lullaby that Morgana sings to Mordred narrating her grievances against King Arthur and her plans for the infant’s future.

This is why I love spring.

Cara Dillon is an incredible, young Irish singer, though not as well known by overseas Celtic fans.  Her voice is amazing and I have yet to dislike anything of hers I’ve heard:

  • ‘Bold Jamie’ – a story of star-crossed lovers standing before a judge, this is a rollicking bit of Irish awesomeness that I will never get tired of listening to.
  • ‘Spencer the Rover’ – a traveler roams far from home before coming home again.
  • ‘Bonny Bonny’ – this mournful soldier’s song is a very haunting, rhythmic, memorable piece.

Blackmore’s Night is not traditionally Celtic music.  They range over everything from Renaissance to New Age to songs I really can’t place:

  • ‘Barbara Allen’ – a pretty stereotypical tragic romance, I still enjoy the sweet tune
  • ‘Hanging Tree’ – a strange story centred around a tree used, you guessed it, for hangings

Take good music, mix it with the sound of a stream, insert into a nice walk, and add an ice cream cone. You will have concocted a perfect afternoon.

‘A Spaceman Came Traveling’ – a seventies song that Celtic Woman has redone, this tune is a rather bizarre but oddly appealing retelling of Christ’s Advent, but with a sci-fi twist.  You have to hear it to understand.  Although the ending implies something that I’m sure is theologically skewed, even in this context, I can’t help enjoying the imaginative lyrics.

These are just the ones I found by skimming through my playlists.  There are plenty more and I’m sure you have one or two you’d love to share with me, whether it be Celtic or otherwise (hint hint). I don’t know what it is about tale-songs, particularly Celtic ones.  They thrill me, give me goosebumps, make me want to get up and go out and somehow justify the existence of such beautiful stories.  How about you?

*For more suggestions regarding these or similar artists, you have but to ask!


About Melissa

generally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...

Posted on May 23, 2012, in Blackmore's Night, Celtic, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Meditations, Melissa Rogers, Music Reviews, Scotland, Story, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. We have similar tastes in music! I also love listening to CDs of “movie trailer” music. I’ll definitely have to check out some of the Celtic artists you listed that I haven’t heard yet. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sometimes I’ll watch a movie twice — once for the story, and once specifically for music. I love Heather Dale, and the gernal concept of putting a story to music; her “Trial of Lancelot” is a prime example and one of my favourites. I’ll be sure to check out the other artists you’ve listed. Thank you for sharing!

    • I can’t even imagine how much less enjoyable most movies would be if you took out their soundtracks! Heather Dale is definitely special. I love that she spends so much time exploring Arthurian themes. Glad you enjoyed the list!

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