A tune originally composed by Turlough O’Carolan, an Irish harper born in 1670, ‘Brigid’ was written in honour of Bridget Cruise, years after he first fell in love with her. Despite going on to have an arranged marriage with someone else, O’Carolan always believed Brigid was his soulmate. Tradition and legend have it that years later and long after O’Carolan’s eyesight had left him, the pair met once more while on pilgrimage at Lough Derg. When Bridget reached out to help the blind man, O’Carolan instantly recognised his long-lost love by her touch, and exclaimed in Irish: “By the hand of my godfather, this is the hand of Bridget Cruise!”
I have always found O’Carolan’s melodies completely enchanting. Playing his music makes me feel like I am being whisked away, on a gentle journey through the Irish landscape, over hills, through bogs and along the golden sand beaches and dramatic cliff edges of the west coast. When I was asked to prepare a song for the Irish Embassy in America for their 2021 remote St. Patrick’s Day presentation to the recently elected president Joe Biden, I immediately reached for this tune. The simple beauty and longing in Turlough O’Carolan’s ‘Bridget Cruise’ felt in tune with my mental state at the time.
As winter gave way to spring in 2021, the isolation and separation from family were beginning to weigh on me, and manifested in me a deep seeded desire for the pandemic to end. At the same time, when the days stretched and Spring’s warm sunlight began filling the landscape, when the birds began to perform their daily morning symphonies, the anxiety and uneventfulness of the previous winter seemed to heighten my awareness of the natural beauty in which I found myself. Playing this melody written by a blind Irish harper centuries ago for his true love felt like the perfect reflection of the situation. In many ways, recording Solace has been a translation of this period into sound. This aspect of the album is distilled in its purest form in ‘Brigid’.
Since moving to west Mayo, I have greatly admired the music of local harp player Laoise Kelly. She combines her technique for playing, which is steeped in the ancient Irish harping tradition, with her exquisite and original harp arrangements of traditional Irish tunes to create the most sublime music currently being produced on this island. It was such a wonderful experience to get to work with her on this song. We recorded remotely, as it was the height of lockdown, but it was nevertheless a real dream to work with such an incredible musician on this collaboration.