Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Snow

When I lived in Our Nation's Capitol, I heard a lovely Irish air called "Easter Snow," sung with English lyrics. Today, we have Easter snow on Droop Mountain, which motivated me to look up the tune. I discovered this entry in The Fiddler's Companion: A Descriptive Index of North American and British Isles Music for the Folk Violin and Other Instruments. by Andrew Kuntz.

EASTER SNOW. Irish, Air (3/4 time). G Major. Standard. AAB. Caoimhin Mac Aoidh explains the title is an English version of the Gaelic name Diseart Nuadhain, a placename in north Roscommon which can today be found in the form of Estersnow, a Boyle rural district. Mac Aoidh states that Petrie appears to have literally translated the English back into Irish as "Sneachia Casga" as an alternate title. The same air is to be found in Brendan Rogers manuscript collection (in the Irish Traditional Music Archive) noted from the performances of attendees at the Feis Ceoil competitions held in Belfast in 1898 and 1900. The musical family the Dohertys of Donegal had a different air by the same title, and the great Donegal piper, Tarlach Mac Suibhne, played a different air than the Dohertys. Mac Suibhne's playing of "Easter Snow" was recorded by the Dublin Evening Telegraph in 1897, when he was one of seven pipers at the first Feis, held in that city (the title in the newspaper was "Sneachta na Casga"). Finally, regarding this tune, Mac Aoidh notes that fiddler John Doherty personified "Easter Snow" as a woman, Ester Snow, whom he maintained was over six feet tall, very beautiful, and had skin as white as snow (leading to her name). Source for notated version: the Irish collector P.W. Joyce, 1864. Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 105, pg. 89. Stanford/Petrie (Complete Collection), 1905, vol. III, No. 1123.

The Balladeers website provides these English lyrics, which may or may not go to the air described above. They are, however, related to the lyrics I heard sung a few years ago.

EASTER SNOW
(Christy Moore)

Chorus:
Oh the Easter snow
It has fade away
It was so rare and so beautiful
Now it's melted back into the clay

Those days will be remembered
Beyond out in the Naul
Listening to the master's notes
As gently they did fall
Oh . . . the music
As Seamus he did play
But the thaw crept over the mantle white
And turned it back to clay

Chorus:
Oh the Easter snow
It has fade away
It was so rare and so beautiful
Now it's melted back into the clay

He gazed at the embers in reflection,
He called up lost verses again,
He smiled with a roguish recollection,
While his fingers gripped the glass to stem the pain
When knocked on his door was always open
With a welcome he'd bid the time of day
Though we came when the last flakes were melted
While it lay upon the ground we stayed away

Chorus:
Oh the Easter snow
It has fade away
It was so rare and so beautiful
Now it's melted back into the clay

A discography is provided for Irish Traditional Music Tune Index Tune ID# 3444 (Easter Snow) in Irish Traditional Music Tune Index. Alan Ng's Tunography. Some of the recordings are still "in print."

5 comments:

Dave said...

New one on me. I managed to find one free version of the song online (via Rhapdosy player).

Dave said...

Uh, I mean Rhapsody.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Hmmm. Last time I visited Rhapsody, it rendered so poorly on my browser that I didn't bother to read about it. I see it's working better with Open Source products now...may have to check it out. It has the "Celebrated Recordings of John Doherty"...

Paul Finnigan said...

'Easter Snow' is a track from Christy Moore's album 'The Best of Christy Moore' (ex 'Planxty.' He wrote the song after the death of a good friend.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Thanks for the reference, Paul.