Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Paddy's slope style

Katie McD

Katie McD returns to the mountain for St. Patrick’s Day. Born in Ireland and now living in Boston, McD blends traditional fare and original work. Here’s what she had to say in response to a few question we sent her way. Katie McD will set up on the back deck and get the tunes flowing at 1 p.m.

What Irish songs do you never get tired playing? “Caledonia” written by Dougie MacLean. And “Bonnie Laboring Boy,” a traditional song by Oisin. Those are two of my favorites.

Which traditional songs and artists have most influenced your original work? Dolores Keane, Mary Black, Eleanor Shanley & Maura O' Connell, Cathy Jordan & Karen Casey are the artists that have influenced me. The songs by these artists that influenced me include “Anachie Gordon,” “Bonnie Laboring Boy,” “My Irish Molly O,” “Ar Éireann Ní Neosainn Cé Hí,” and “Young Roger the Miller.”

Do you like to perform traditional songs the way you learned them or do you like to put your own twist on them? Every artist dusts a song with a little magic. Otherwise it would all sound the same. When I sing a traditional song, I draw from all the life experiences I have had, be it love, hope, loss, despair, death. Irish music is about sharing, not about how good you sing but how you deliver the song, in effect, with all heart. The magic is fulfilled when the song is felt more than heard, and it in turn assumes a life of its own.  When the huddled crowd hangs on every word, with not a din in the room, and they bend their ears to every note, and delight in the delivery of lilting pure tones of a female singer - that we call “Sean Nós,” or traditional style singing.

Songs that most remind you of home? “The Galway Girl” is set in my hometown. This catches my heart every time. The promenade is a big part of the city and there is a prom is South Boston so that is why I live there _ I don't get homesick. In Galway, we kick the wall at the end of the prom, an acknowledgment that we did the walk. Now there is a sign there asking not to kick the wall. Talk about trying to kill an old tradition.
The old version of “Galway Bay” is so beautiful. One line gets me every time: "I will lay mee bones 'neath Church yard stones beside you Galway Bay, and I hope my soul to soar forever more above you Galway Bay!"
And then, there is “Caledonia.” Dougie MacLean wrote this song and when his roommates heard it, they all moved back home! No matter where or when I sing it, it is a big hit. The song has a way of fitting into everyone’s life.
In terms of my original songs, “Immigrant Soul” is about living in America and always wanting to go back home and walk along Barna strand with the nephews. More recently, I was commissioned to write a soundtrack for an Irish movie “No Eye to Pity Her” set in my hometown of Galway city. Based on Irish history, it reminds us that our ancestors fought all the way for us to have the Ireland of today.
 On another occasion, I was involved with a play called “Man from Inniskeen,” and one of the actors didn't want to recite the Patrick Kavanagh poem, “Inniskeen Road July Evening.”  I said, “Give it here to me,” and I wrote the music for it in the next room in the House of Ireland. It has since become an anthem for all my friends and fans. When we sing it, we know the next signpost is home or at least it should be! Believe me!

To hear Katie McD's music and see some of the other projects she is involved with, check her out online at

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