Irish Songs for St. Patrick's Day

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, Zoomer Radio’s own Frankie Benson, host of Radio Erin on Sunday evenings at 6PM, has selected a variety of songs recognized by the Irish and non-Irish alike here in North America, especially at this time of year:

Danny Boy is a song written by Frederic Weatherly, an English lawyer, in 1910, set to the tune of Londonderry Air. It has been covered by a multitude of performers – even the Muppets! This version is by Finbar Wright, a popular tenor from County Cork.

Dolores Keane, who’s affectionately been called “the voice of Ireland“, sings this version of Galway Bay, a song composed by Frank A. Fahy, a native of Kinvara on the shores of Galway Bay.

McNamara’s Band by Bing Crosby, recorded in late 1945. The tale is based on an actual band, the St. Mary’s Fife and Drum Band, formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1885.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling is a romanticized tribute to Ireland, written by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr., set to music composed by Ernest Ball. It was first published in 1912. The famous Irish tenor John McCormack recorded the song during WWI. This version is sung by renowned Irish tenor Frank Patterson, “Ireland’s Golden Tenor”.

The Irish Rover is a traditional Irish song about a sailing ship that meets an unfortunate end. This version is performed by The Dubliners, an Irish folk band formed in 1962, who made a name for themselves playing at the famous O’Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin.

Black Velvet Band is a traditional folk song telling the tale of a young girl whose hair is tried with a black velvet band, slips a pickpocketed gold watch into a young man’s hand, leading to his arrest. A common punishment in 19th century Ireland was  exile to Van Diemen’s land (Tasmania). This version is sung by Luke Kelly, a founding member of The Dubliners, who sadly died in 1984 from a brain tumour.

I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen was written by Thomas P. Westendorf who wrote it for his wife in 1875. Despite its American roots, it is known and revered as an Irish ballad. This version of the song is sung by Josef Locke, the stage name of Irish tenor Joseph McLaughlin, who was successful in the UK and Ireland in the 40s and 50s.

Green Glens of Antrim, performed by Bridie Gallagher, who is affectionately known as ‘The Girl from Donegal’. She achieved international acclaim with her celebrated version of The Boys from County Armagh.

Isle of Innisfree, composed by Dick Farrelly, an Irish songwriter, poet (and policeman!) – he found the inspiration for the song while on a bus from Kells, County Meath to Dublin. The song was used by film director John Ford in the film The Quiet Man from 1952. This version is sung by Órla Fallon, from Knockananna, Ireland, of  Celtic Woman.

Frankie Benson will be singing at Quinn’s Steakhouse at the Sheraton Hotel (96 Richmond Street West, Toronto) this evening – stop by!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!



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