Noeleen Ni Cholla spends a lot of time in our home. She is my wife’s cousin’s girlfriend. Over these last years I have come to see her voice and singing as a part of her life rather than just something she does on a stage or on this her first record in her own right. She’ll share a song at will around a table or in the hall. It is quite a treat to hear a voice like that in such intimate settings.
Noeleen is from the same village of Donegal as Enya, Maire Brennan and that entire Clannad family business. She has been known to sing in Mammy Brennan’s Church choir. And Noeleen Ni Cholla conjures that same ethereal wonder with the Irish language as that mighty family do. Remember Harry’s Game and In A Lifetime.
Irish is is a powerful musical force of a language, beautiful and haunting. Though I, unlike Presbyterian ministers of the 19th Century, don’t need to be fluent in the language, and my language gifts have never allowed me to be able to speak it, I am proud of the the Presbyterian part in its history and I love its musical beauty. I have loved how Iarla Ó Lionáird and Liam Ó Maonlaí have used it artistically and indeed spiritually.
As well as Irish language songs Ni Cholla adds Scottish Gaelic and English to her repertoire. The phrase that appears most frequently in the sleeve notes is “for as long as I can remember.” Like singing the songs are part of her.
There is the added genius of Manus Lunny throughout. Brother of Donal and member of Capercaille Lunny’s production is absolute perfection, taking the sean-nos style of Ni Cholla and never swamping it with sounds but giving it literally the grace notes it needs. The voice and the songs are always the vital thing. It should find a home beyond the Gaeltacht. It is a tasty slice of Irish art.