Marianne Lihannah sings the well-known air 'Danny Boy' over a nyckelharpa drone.
The real story behind Danny Boy, the beloved Irish ballad :
"Danny Boy" holds its position firmly - as one of the most popular and recognizable Irish songs of all time.
Few people are aware, however, of the true origins of Ireland's infamous and unofficial national anthem, such as the fact that it's not even a completely Irish song.
In 2001, the Irish-American actor and writer Malachy McCourt took it upon himself to unravel the mystery of perhaps the most popular Irish song ever in his book "Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad."
Who is Danny? Why are the pipes calling?
It has since become a generally accepted (although still potentially blasphemous) fact that the lyrics of "Danny Boy" are in no way related to Ireland.
Not only are the famed lyrics not Irish but they were not even written by an Irishman, and no matter how vehemently the Irish claim authorship of the song, the fact remains that "Danny Boy" was written by, of all people, a British lawyer, McCourt writes.
The origins of the "Danny Boy" tune
In the hands of the Limerick-born author-actor, the musical story of "Danny Boy" has its roots way back in the terrible 1690 siege of Derry in Northern Ireland, and its colorful cast of characters includes Charles Dickens' son and a Jack the Ripper suspect.
In his quest to unravel the mystery, McCourt enlisted poet Seamus Heaney, actress Roma Downey, and even his Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Frank, to explain "Danny Boy"'s enduring appeal. McCourt distorts everything we previously believed of our beloved song revealing that "Danny Boy" is not even a completely original song but a version among the 100s of different lyrics set to the tune of the "Derry Air."
The original air is believed by some to date back to Rory Dall O'Cahan, an Irish harpist who lived in Scotland in the late 17th century, while the lyrics as we love and know them today were penned by a British barrister and prolific song writer, Frederick Edward Weatherly.
To add insult to injury, the lyrics weren't even originally used with the "Derry Air" having been written by Weatherly for another tune in 1910 in Bath, Somerset. In 1913, Weatherly's sister sent him the tune of "Derry Air," he adapted the lyrics to the tune and it was an instant success.
Weatherly gave the song to the English opera singer Elsie Grffin, who introduced the song to a wider audience. The first recording was made in 1915 by the German vocalist Ernestine Schumann-Heink.
No matter the origins, "Danny Boy" has still become the song of the Irish, with Irish people worldwide identifying with its words and associating it with our country's struggle for independence.
An extract from Tom Deignan's article from Irish Central, do read the full article here: https://www.irishcentral.com/culture/entertainment/danny-boy-beloved-irish-ballad
Various suggestions exist as to the true meaning of "Danny Boy". Some have interpreted the song to be a message from a parent to a son going off to a war or uprising (as suggested by the reference to "pipes calling glen to glen") or leaving as part of the Irish diaspora.
The 1918 version of the sheet music included alternative lyrics ("Eily Dear"), with the instructions that "when sung by a man, the words in italic should be used; the song then becomes "Eily Dear", so that "Danny Boy" is only to be sung by a lady". In spite of this, it is unclear whether this was Weatherly's intent. Indeed, the song has been covered by a diverse range of male singers, but they all stick to the original lyrics.
- Irish folk