This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #441: The Parting Glass by seemingly, every Irish musician ever!
Storytelling is a time-honoured tradition in cultures around the world and has been since time immemorial. Many of these cultures have taken to sharing their stories through song. As the generations have passed, certain of these songs have emerged to form the cultural canon of that particular country. There are many songs that exist in Ireland’s long musical history that are intrinsically-linked with their heritage; songs that, as soon as they begin, immediately bring Ireland to mind for those lucky enough to be hearing those sweet sounds. One such song is “The Parting Glass”.
While “The Parting Glass” has its origins as a Scottish song, in modern music history, I have only ever heard it sung as an Irish song by Irish singers. The first time I heard “The Parting Glass” was as a child, when the song was performed by The Clancy Brothers, along with singer, Tommy Makem. Since then, I have listened to countless renditions of “The Parting Glass” from everyone from The Irish Rovers, to Ed Sheeran, to Elvis Costello, to regular folks at Irish funerals, too.
“The Parting Glass” draws its inspiration from the long-ago practice of giving guests a drink to fortify and warm their insides as they prepared to depart from your home. As the song describes, the act of giving someone a “fond farewell” is an act as cultural, as it is personal. It is a display of affection for family and gives rise to a sense of community. It is not surprising that “The Parting Glass” is a song that, although it can be sung alone, is most often sung communally. I believe, from the depths of my heart, that there is power in singing together in public. The ties that bind are never as strong as they are when united in song. “The Parting Glass” is one of the best examples of this.
The video you are about to see contains a bonus. It is, also, a political statement because, unfortunately, it seems difficult to talk about Ireland in any way without appearing to choose sides in the conflict based upon the choices we make. For the sake of this post, I am going to ignore the politics and focus on the beauty of Irish culture. This video of “The Parting Glass” comes from a special performance in 2014 called “Ceiliuradh at Royal Albert Hall” in England. This performance was created to celebrate the ties that exist between England and Ireland and to showcase talented Irish performers who were actually living and working in England. The Ceiliuradh at Royal Albert Hall was an event held on the occasion of a visit from the Prime Minister of Ireland. Because it was a “Royal Gala”-type performance, there is an all-star cast of singers assembled to end the show by singing “the Parting Glass” together. But, before they do this, there is a reading of a poem in honour of Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who had passed away just prior to the show. So, you get a terrific spoken word poem and a stirring rendition of a Scottish song that has come to represent Ireland on the world stage. As well, in the comments section, I will pop in the mostly-acapella version sung by the Ginger Fury himself, Ed Sheeran. It is quite nice. I will, also, include a video of the closing scene in a terrific little movie called, “Waking Ned Devine”, too. I am not even Irish but, I imagine I will be bawling before all is sung and the parting is done.
The link to the music video for The Parting Glass/Seamus Heaney at The Ceiliuradh at Royal Albert Hall can be found here.
The link to the music video for The Parting Glass by Ed Sheehan can be found here.
The link to the closing scene of the movie, Waking Ned Devine, featuring, The Parting Glass, can be seen here.
There is a website dedicated to all things Seamus Heaney. A link to it can be found here.
Ed Sheehan has his own website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.