‘Starlight Falling’ – true gem from slow-burner Deirbhile

Deirbhile Ní Bhrolcháin.
Deirbhile Ní Bhrolcháin.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Singer Deirbhile Ní Bhrolcháin could never be accused of having been in a rush to release her second album.  Her debut, Smaointe, was launched in 1994 on the Gael Linn label, and it’s only now, 27 years later, that she’s following it up.

Starlight Falling 1 / Coinnlíní Ceoil 1 is part one of a two-part project that began in December 2015 after three people who were very close to Deirbhile died within a short period.

Deirbhile’s mother Mairéad was the first loss. That death wasn’t unexpected as Mairéad was in her 90s, but was still upsetting. Then Deirbhile’s sister Muireann died at the age of 59, and finally her close friend Connor (57), who had helped her through the other losses.

It dawned on Deirbhile, who is now in her mid-50s that life can be short and if she wanted to make a new album, she’d better get started.

There had been many reasons why Deirbhile, a teacher in the City’s Irish-language secondary school, Coláiste na Coiribe, had never found time to make a new album. For many years, she had been her mother’s main carer. And, while she’d been a member of many choirs through the decades, she didn’t have the inclination to record another solo album.

Being a teacher is tough on the voice, she says so when she’d come in from school in the evening, singing was not a priority. Making this new album only became important after she was bereaved and initially, it was still only an idea.

Then Deirbhile, whose clear-as-a-bell voice is both sweet and wholesome, happened upon a Facebook post late in 2015.

it was from Gabriel Donohue, who lives in Philadelphia, but is originally from Rathgorgin, Kiltullagh. He was coming home for Christmas and was putting on a fundraising concert in the Village Theatre, Carrabane, for Thoor Ballylee which had flooded that year. His Facebook post was a request for people to take part in the fundraiser.

Deirbhile sang two songs at that event, and Gabriel, “a hugely talented musician”, backed her. She hadn’t been singing much in the lead up to the concert and found his approach “professional without being daunting”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.