By Renee Wood
Sionnach Rua means red fox in Irish Gaelic, with the witty and sleek animal quite mystical and mythical in Ireland.
Something singer and musician Gallie described when discussing the upcoming Sionnach Rua’s Great Irish Song Book tour with the Star Mail, with the story reminding him of his homeland and childhood.
“Red fox is this fairy queen who is a shape shifter and she loved men so she shape shifted into a fox and then seduced the man that way,” Gallie said.
“When we were kids there used to be so many foxes… there would be foxes in our garden and it just reminded me of learning to speak Irish.”
This is just one of many myths, stories and history that are deep within the country’s roots, with music and song writing helping to share traditions and tales from region to region.
Something Gallie and his band will be sharing as part of their tour, with Irish people well known for their story telling through song.
“We used to have Seanchaí (shan-a-key) who were these traveling musicians and storytellers and they go from valley to valley and village to village, bringing the news and bringing the stories and also sharing the songs,” he said.
The group is much like the travelling storytellers themselves within this performance, spreading authentic Irish music and culture around Victoria – soon to arrive at The Memo in Healsville on Sunday 29 May.
“You’ve got everything from contemporary songs, to Van Morrison and then we’re doing songs from the 1700s.”
The Dublin born frontman said stories used to travel around just by word of mouth – musicians in a way being the gate keepers to history and time gone by.
Gallie is passionate about holding on to history’s voice and is currently working with a fellow Irish woman to save songs from where she grew up.
“These songs are gonna die if somebody doesn’t record them and keep them alive. So now we’re researching all of these old songs that are 150 years old.
“So we’re going to be doing one or two songs in Gaelic [in the tour].”
The band comprises of Gallie on vocals, acoustic guitar and bodhrán, Jen Anderson on the fiddle, Paddy Montgomery on bouzouki and guitar, Luke Plumb on mandolin and Sam Davies on the uilleann pipes, tin whistle and low whistle.
The use of traditional Irish instruments will be a treat, including the uilleann pipes that were developed in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
“They’re not like the bagpipes, but they are played with a bellow and a bag and they have the most beautiful haunting sound to them – they’re from the belly of Ireland.
“He [Sam] brings tears to the eye just listening to how well he plays it and how unusual the instrument is.”
The sounds, voices and tales of the past being sung once more has a deep comfort of home to many in the audience.
Gallie has spoken with previous audience members whose family lines are connected to Ireland that say they feel a sense of home within the performance.
“This woman Mary down in Warrnambool … her grandmother came from Ireland and she had this real connection, she just felt like a piece of string went from her heart and all the way to Ireland.
“There’s something about the music and the stories that pulls on that string and she feels this connection – and a lot of people I talk to are like that they consider Ireland home.”
But that being said, the comforting performance set to be filled with laughter, sing-a-longs and tears will make all attendees feel the same warmth whether you’re familiar with Ireland or not.
“Sam on the ullien pipes does this slower instrumental and it’s just absolutely beautiful. And a couple of people came up and one man said he there were tears coming down his cheek.”
The song ‘Fields of Athenry’ is one that always connects to the audience as well about an Irish man who was sent to Australia after he stole corn for his family to survive through the famine.
“That was quite poignant being in Australia so that stirs up emotions as well. It’s quite a large spectrum [of songs].”
And out of that large song catalogue the audience is sure to be engaged and transported to another place – perhaps to a lively session in an Irish bar among friends.
Tickets are available via https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Experience/Events/Sionnach-Ruas-Great-Irish-Song-Book