Growing up I was told, "Listen to the Story tellers, the weavers of dreams and history, legends and traditions. The Seanchaí will take you places you may only touch or see through the magic of their words." I listened and absorbed. I became a loom on which they built each warp and weft, word, rhythm, rhyme. Music was a form of storytelling that took me even deeper, farther, into a vast realm of colour and texture that I am still, 45 years later exploring. On my 16th birthday, I received a package in the mail , within it a card, unsigned, that simply said "Enjoy the music of the Seanchaí" and four record albums: Caledonia's Hardy Sons, Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy, The Wheels of the World, and The Noah's Ark Trap.
That was my introduction to Shanachie Records and their amazing, eclectic artists. The next birthday, another box, another four albums -- Planxty, De Dannan, The Chieftains and Clannad -- all found a home in my growing collection. The accompanying note, "Find your strength in the dance of the Seanchaí,” was still unsigned and ever cryptic. On my 18th birthday, another box, another set of albums and the message, "Now you will become the Seanchaí."
It wasn't until many years later, in going through the personal belongings of my late mother-in-law, that I learned who had sent my mystery packages. She understood my love of music, all kinds of music, better than most.
Shanachie fed that love, nourished my soul like rain on a parched field, with their ever-growing discography and cadre of singers, songwriters and musicians. Each artist in a wide range of genres, were indeed following in the footsteps of the Seanchaí. I often drank from the Shanachie well, and my collection has grown as rapidly and as variedly. Shanachie Records introduced me to reggae artists, blues artists, jazz artists and with each addition my soul soared to new heights.
I always returned though to the music that spoke to my core and roots. Celtic. When I took on that mantle and became a Seanchaí, it was these albums and later CDs to which I would turn for inspiration, for reassurance and for the warp and weft to flesh out my repertoire.
Shanachie Records was always the well to which I returned. As the flavours of that well spring blended and grew from fiddle and Celtic to funk, blues and reggae, so too did rhythms and beats of my own life tapestry brighten ... becoming more vivid and rich.
Shanachie gave me Makem, Clancy, Clannad and Planxty. Through them, I found Silly Wizard and because of Silly Wizard, Andy M. Stewart joined the rest in enlightening my life with music. They also gave me an avenue into some Celtic artists who were lesser known here in the States: Dolores Keane, Seamus Egan, and the Silly Sisters (Maggie Prior and June Tabor) among them.
Listen to the storytellers, the Seanchaí, for they will bring colour into your life that you couldn't begin to imagine. How glad I am that I have heeded that advise all of my days. Indeed, I seek out the storytellers, the Seanchaí, where ever my journey takes me. For storytellers are found in every corner of the world, in back streets, forest lanes, desert trails and city streets. Each one adds their texture and tone, rhythm and rhyme to the tapestry that is my life.