Here are two clips from CTV’s 2009 broadcast. The first, which features the full choir, is Sa Stábla, Sa Mhainséar (“In the Stable, In the Manger”)…an Irish version of the beloved American carol “Away in a Manger.”
The Irish words are traditional, and Mary arranged the song using the “Cradle Song” tune that it is popularly sung to in Ireland and England. The choir is accompanied by Steve Coulter on the harp and Lars Johannesson on the flute, and conducted by Kathleen Loveless.
The lyrics translate as follows:
In the stable, in the manger, an infant is lying,
The little infant Jesus, who will yet be our king.
The stars are shining high in the sky
On the little child Jesus lying in the manger.
There is a great silence all around, there is magic in the air,
There is bliss and joy throughout the entire world.
The angels of heaven are eternally praising God.
High praises to Jesus, to the resplendent little child.
Be with us, O Jesus! Be with us forever!
Be with us in the nighttime; be with us in the day.
Love your children; love us eternally,
And we will be faithful; we will be truly faithful.
The second selection, Muire agus Naomh Seosamh (Mary and Saint Joseph) features one of the small ensembles, with Mary singing solo.
This is an Irish version of “The Cherry Tree Carol,” the words for which Mary found in Douglas Hyde’s book “Spiritual Songs of Connaught,” and set to a 19th century tune from “The Oxford Book of Carols.”
Laura Reeve accompanies on the bodhrán and also sings first tenor in the ensemble. The other singers are Audrey Nickel and Stephen Westfold on second tenor and Janet Herman on first soprano.
The lyrics translate as follows:
Wasn’t Joseph holy when he wed Mother Mary?
Wasn’t it he who gave a great gift to Eve’s descendents?
He refused the yellow gold, and the crown that was David’s,
And he preferred to be guiding her, and teaching her knowledge.
One day the couple was walking in the garden,
Surrounded by fragrant cherries, apple blossoms and sloes,
Mary craved them, and she longed for them immediately,
From the strong scent of the apples that were fragrant from the King.
Then spoke the Virgin, in a faint voice:
“Pluck for me those jewels that are growing on the tree.
“Pluck for me my fill, for I am weak and faint.
“God’s work is growing in my womb.”
Then spoke St. Joseph, in an angry voice:
“I won’t pluck the jewels; I don’t want your child.
“Call on the child’s father; it’s with him you should be forceful.”
Then Jesus stirred, blessedly, in her womb.
Then spoke Holy Jesus, sacredly from her womb:
“Bow down low there, O witness, O tree!”
The tree humbled itself before her, as a witness without delay,
And she took her heart’s desire directly from the tree.
Then spoke St. Joseph, as he threw himself on the ground:
“I will go to Jerusalem to do penance for my sins.”
Then spoke the Virgin, in a blessed voice:
“You have been pardoned by the High King for your sins.”
Three months from that day, the blessed infant was born.
The three kings came to do honor to the child.
Three months from that day, the blessed infant was born
In a cold and lowly stable, between a bullock and an ox.
See our series of articles on singing in Irish by Cór Ainglí member Audrey Nickel. Click the links below.
Part 1 “Singing in Irish: yes – it’s a language”
Part 2 “Singing In Irish — The Sean-Nós Tradition”
Part 3 “A listener’s guide to irish song: a taste of sean-nós”