Sillertides: songs across the ocean

Among all the suffering and heartache caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has been one unexpected cultural consequence: namely, the widespread proliferation of online song sessions as many singing clubs have tried to continue some kind of interaction. albeit in rather restricted circumstances.

As well as providing a focal point for local club members, the new online sessions have also attracted additional contributors from around the world.

Visitors from Britain, North America, Europe and Australasia – sometimes as special guests – but more usually as participants from “the floor,” have become a common and welcome feature at most of the online singing sessions in Ireland.

The SIllertides: Linn Phipps and Doug Huggins

This international virtual environment has given rise to a special transatlantic collaboration between two singers – Linn Phipps, a Scot who divides her time beteen the Isle of Lewis and Yorkshire, and Doug Huggins based in Colorado. They have been regular performers on many online singing sessions hosted in Ireland over the last two years.

At one such session, hosted by An Góilín Traditional Singers, Linn and Doug experimented with sharing a song in real time – though separated by over 5,000 miles. Violet Reid’s Norland Wind was an ideal choice since it takes the form of a conversation between two people. So Linn and Doug were able to sing couplets consecutively (thereby avoiding the problem of the small time delays that makes singing in unison online virtually impossible).

This creative approach was so well received that Linn and Doug decided to pursue it further – gradually extending their repertoire and performing regularly at Zoom sessions, virtual folk festivals, céilidhe and workshops in Britain, Ireland and the USA under the name they adopted for their partnership: The Sillertides, suggested in the first verse of Norland Wind.

As well as song videos on their Youtube channel, https://bit.ly/3hzmYNC, Linn and Doug have released a debut album, Silk and Leather (Conversation Songs from the Folk Tradition), which is available on Bandcamp at http://sillertides.bandcamp.com.

Famine Art Exhibition at Clare Museum

Their latest project is a multi-media initiative with Clare-based artist Lionel Coates, whom Linn describes as “an old friend.” Lionel’s major exhibition of paintings entitled Famine, Fields and Fishing on the theme of The Great Famine of 1845-1850, opened in the Clare Museum in Ennis on March 14.  The Sillertides have been working on a number of songs to match individual paintings. As each song is recorded, it is being posted on the Sillertides YouTube channel.
 
So far eleven songs have been posted:
  1. A chuisle grá mo chroí, is at https://youtu.be/i0zH1LrayLI.
  2. The Fields of Athenry, is at https://youtu.be/OErR959RBQc
  3. The Shores of Lough Bran, is at https://youtu.be/rx7AnabLtIY
  4. Verdant Braes of Screen is at https://youtu.be/y2FvOqz9YyQ
  5. The Month of January is at https://youtu.be/q1M8JAVO4bM .
  6. Galway Shawl is at https://youtu.be/pYDkhl3-Wf4
  7. The May Morning Dew is at https://youtu.be/UjypEShPDQc
  8. Spancil Hill is at https://youtu.be/2Ux38YDZvS8
  9. The Quiet Land of Erin is at https://youtu.be/6rChOz6bQQ4
  10. Báidín Fheilimí at https://youtu.be/f2Wut9vilco
  11. Three Fishers at https://youtu.be/XXGOr9Va-ug
Linn and Doug aim to produce up to 20 songs altogether in this series. So even if you cannot get to Ennis to see the exhibition, you can experience it remotely through the Sillertides’ silken singing.

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The Fields of Athenry by Lionel Coates
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