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Narrative Singing in Ireland: Lays, Ballads, Come-All-Yes and Other Songs


Hugh Shields

Narrative Singing in Ireland is a definitive account of Irish traditions of singing as a storytelling art. Of interest to scholars and general readers, this book examines the varied associations of song and story in Ireland and why people sing as they do. It ranges from ballads in English, through Irish Heroic songs – of Fionn mac Cumhaill, Deirdre, the Big Fool and others, sung from earliest times to the present – to ballads of European tradition with the lyric songs of Irish.

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ISBN: 9780716525004 Categories: ,


Written in a lively and entertaining style, Narrative Singing in Ireland includes chapters on: Irish narrative singing in general, lays, ballads – old and new, the lyric songs of Irish and their stories, singers and song-makers, traditional singing and the media and narrative singing today.

Reviews from the First Edition

‘the contribution of this book to the field of Irish folksong study is impossible to overestimate.’
– Julie Henigan, Eire-Ireland

‘In this book Hugh Shields offers an absorbing and intricate account of narrative singing in Ireland’.
– Harry White, The Irish Review

‘Dr Shields’ enthusiasm for narrative song comes across in virtually every page of the text. It is, in short, a classic and will remain the standard reference book on the subject for the foreseeable future.’
– Robbie Hannan, Ulster Folklife

Table of contents

1. Irish Narrative Singing in General
2. Lays
3. Ballads Old
4. The Lyric Songs of Irish and their Stories
5. Ballads New
6. Music
7. Singers and Songmakers
8. Traditional Singing and the Media
9. Narrative Singing Today

Song Appendix
Index of Songs, Poems, Stories etc
Index of Singers, Poets, Makers et al.
Bibliography and Discography
Subject Index

About the Author

Hugh Shields was lecturer in French and fellow of Trinity College Dublin, and worked on research in medieval and oral literature. He published a study of folk singing in North Derry, a collection of old Dublin songs, numerous articles on songs, singing and the ballad press as well as ethnographic tapes and discs of traditional singing in Ireland and in France: the fruit of many years’ collecting.