Lullabies are more than they seem. Nóirín Ní Riain describes a lullaby as “more indicative of the mental state of the mother than her wish to lull her child to sleep, and so often her frustrations find a legitimate voice through song”. Her contribution here, the melancholic, heartbreaking, yet uplifting and all too brief Suantraithe (Lullabies), where her high lilting voice soars like a crystal star, is one of the highlights in this enchanting compilation.
The music here didn’t lull me to sleep, instead it’s more of a spiritually uplifting experience. True to the theme described above, the songs here aren’t mere sweet, sugary cooing. There’s no sugar, but a journey through the sometimes dark, sometimes stormy, but always warm and illuminating workings of a mother’s love for her child. And more often than not, these songs reflect the resignation and frustration of a mother in a time where war and uncertainties reign, as well as her love for her baby.
Bill Douglas conducted a choir that hums through the heartbreaking yet soothing Irish Lullaby, which is a tale of Moses floating down the river as his mother sings him to sleep. She knows she will never see him again, and it just breaks me to pieces to hear the soft four-part choir hushes:
Sleep, baby sleep, mother is here beside you forever.
The theme of a mother’s love is further explored in the ensemble Anúna’s Suantrai (Lullaby), which describes the Virgin Mary’s radiant joy as she beholds the baby Jesus in her arms.
A mother contemplating her sleeping child with love is the theme behind the wonderful Gartan Mother’s Lullaby, a hypnotic lullaby which a final refrain that just hurts the ears in its melancholy-tinged crescendo. Julie Last’s The Nightingale’s Lullaby is my favorite, as it is a simple, elegant song from a mother telling her child to sleep and dream. In dream, the child will be in a magical, fantastic world, one which the mother hints that she herself longs to be in. Ms Last’s voice is crystal clear yet soulful; her Sweet dreams son – a simple statement – is so full of emotions that it sends a chill up my spine.
Arcady’s John O’ Dreams is a sweet, gentle tune about sleep and dreams that soothes the raw mind. There are also soothing instrumental pieces, my favorite being Alasdair Fraser’s Christina.
There are some oddities, of course, such as Arcady’s Lullaby which is a pure pop tune. What is it doing here?
All in all, however, Celtic Twilight 3: Lullabies is a soothing, magical journey. It soothes the soul and it reaffirms that yes, maybe there is such a thing as love after all, and isn’t it a beautiful thing?