Monday, April 28, 2008

Jimmy Mo Mhíle Stór

A friend introduced me to this beautiful Irish song, Jimmy Mo Mhíle Stór. It just gets better with each listening.

The title translates poetically from Irish to "Jimmy My Thousand Times Beloved." Some translate it to "Jimmy My Thousand Treasures," which is an attempt at direct translation, but doesn't really make much sense. Or they drop the word mhíle altogether, and wind up with "Jimmy My Treasure," which is rough, but at least accurate to the original meaning of the phrase, if not precise.

The song is a monologue by a girl whose love has gone to the sea, and she waits every day for his return.

This particular rendition is my favorite of the ones I've heard. It is sung by Kathleen MacInnes. Her performance is incomparable. The song is a waltz, but the musical phrasing is constantly adjusted throughout the song, following the lead of the singer. Ms. MacInnes's voice has a genuine, natural quality that gives the song a vivid sense of personality. Her phrasing is deliberate and unchained, following the voice of the sea, or a desperate, inconsolable young woman who refuses to believe that her Jimmy is lost. Nothing in the song's lyrics actually suggest he is lost, but the very fact that she's lamenting his absence, and he at the mercy of the sea, urges you to that conclusion.

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