Your Spirit Dances On

Track Number: 

Words and Music copyright John Farrell 1998 

Most of the music for this piece was composed during a visit I took to northern Ireland in September1996. I was touring the islands off the west coast with folklorist and musician Mick Moloney and archaeologist Michael Gibbons. There are three parts to the music, which is the background for the narration. 

The first tune " The Long Walk," was inspired by a walk we took along a nineteenth - century famine road in County Mayo. 
There is a memorial there commemorating one of the countless tragedies that occurred during those years of The Great Hunger. In the late 1840's hundreds of starving tenants walked several miles on this road to plead for food and help from the landlord. They were turned down and told to go away. As they walked home they were caught in a hard rainstorm. Due to their weakened condition many fell and slipped from the muddy road into the nearby river where they drowned. 

The second tune, " Leaving Achill," came from a story Michael Gibbons told about an elderly woman he had met on one of his visits to spectacular Achill Island. She talked about growing up on Achill but having to leave when she was still a young girl. For many years she had dreamed of returning to her childhood home but was unable to do so until she was an old lady. This music is intended to evoke her melancholy feelings of longing as well as her memories of the joys of childhood and a special place. I wrote the music from the backseat of the tour bus as we were leaving Achill on an crystal clear autumn day. Of all the magnificent scenery in western Ireland, Achill Island is unsurpassed in my mind. 

"Rambling With Michael Gibbons" is the lively hornpipe at the end of the recording. It's a tribute to the archaeologist and the tour guide extraordinaire from Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. If you're ever there, try to find the time to take a walking tour with Michael. It's something you'll never forget. 

The narrative for this piece was written after the music was recorded. Originally the selection was going to be just instrumental. After listening to the music and contemplating what I had learned on my trip to Ireland, I decided I wanted to tell some of the story of my ancestors. I still know only a handful of facts about my great-grandparents, but I have learned a little about the places and times they lived. 

As I began to write, it led me to tell about my parents and grand parents too. Thinking about ancestors, future generations, and the common threads that link us together is somewhat like looking in a mirror and seeing another mirror behind your back, in which you see yourself looking in a mirror looking at a mirror. It just goes on and on in both directions. I'm convinced we're all connected by the music and the stars and the dance. That's why I call this piece "Your Spirit Dances On." 

The photograph on the left side of the cover art is Thomas and Kate Farrell. They came to America in the 1860's. The photo on the right side is my mom and dad soon after they were married in 1931, a midpoint of our family history in America so far. 

The names of Thomas and Catherine Farrell and Mary Leonard Farrell have been engraved on the Immigrant Wall of honor at Ellis Island in New York City.