Vocal Chords – An Odyssey of the Voice


       Episode 1         Episode 2         Episode 3         Episode 4         Episode 5

Vocal Chords is a five part music feature series for The Lyric Feature on RTÉ lyric fm presented by singer Iarla Ó’Lionáird (The Gloaming)exploring the global story of the human voice. Iarla shares his odyssey of the voice in song and asks ‘why do we sing and what happens when we do?’  Is singing our primary language before words divide us, and why do we sing in both times of joy and sorrow?

Vocal Chords Episode 1 - The Noise Before Meaning and The Sounds Before Singing


First broadcast on May 1st 2015 – this episode airs again on May 6th 2016 at 7pm on RTÉ Lyric fm (RTÉ player)

As Sinead O’Connor says, “the first thing a human does is use their voice, the first thing a baby does is cry.”  Before language, words and songs there were noises. Is singing, those sounds without meaning, our innate communications?
Episode 1 of Vocal Chords explores the idea that, as anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen says, to look at the voice is to look at what it means to be human, while New York vocalist Meredith Monk talks of singing as joining the “world vocal family”. Iarla Ó’Lionáird explores our journey of voice and sound – and finds what unites us and divides us. As Belfast composer Brian Irvine put it, “Singing is just a subsection of the way people use their voices… you talk, scream, cry, shout and wail”
Voices you hear include singers Sinead O’Connor, Peter Gabriel, Frances Black, Polina Shepherd, Julie Fowlis, Meredith Monk anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen and ethnomusicologist Jaime Jones.
You can hear the full episode here


Music: An Roghainn Dain Do Eimhir Xxii (The Choice), Julie Fowlis.
Music in this episode:
Peter Gabriel feat. Iarla Ó’Lionáird – Low Light
Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble – Live Recording of Album Songs of Ascension in Ann Hamilton’s Tower, Walking Song
Roomful of Teeth – AEIOU
Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble – The Walking Song
Polina Shepherd – Ay Yay Yay
Julie Fowlis – Fodar Dha Na Gamhna Beaga (Fodder For The Small Stirks), An Roghainn Dain Do Eimhir Xxii (The Choice), Ribinnean Riomhach (Beautiful Ribbons), Moladh Uibhist
Iarla Ó’Lionáird – Brecaigh an Lae/Daybreak, Abha
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Musst Musst
Sinéad O’Connor – The Glory of Jah
Philip Glass – Vessels
Adjagas – Šuvvi Ljat
Bafana Nhlapo & Ibou Cissokho – Enlightenment of the Universe
The Blind Boys of Alabama & Ningali Laword – Cloudless

Vocal Chords Episode 2 – Singing Our Way Home

First broadcast on May 8th 2015 – this episode airs again on May 13th 2016 at 7pm on RTÉ Lyric fm.

After sound comes language. In this episode presenter and The Gloaming singer, Iarla Ó’Lionáird explores the roots of traditions and folk song and how language, culture, identity and belonging are all tightly interwoven with song and singing.  Song, Iarla says, becomes a vocal map to ourselves, to our roots, to our home. Voices in this episode include singers Christy Moore, Steve Byrne, Julie Fowlis, Francis Devine, Grace Toland, Frances Black, Treasa Ní Mhoilláin and South African singers Nomfusi, Otto Maidi, Bafana Nhlapo.

Music: Tu mikh aroyf, Polina Shepherd

Music: Howe O The Mearns, Steve Byrne
You can hear the full episode here

Music in this episode:
Iarla Ó’Lionáird – Aisling Gheal, An Salm Maífead Thú, A Thiarna,
Francy Devine – LWhat’s the Life of a Man
Elizabeth Cronin – Cucanandy
The Gloaming , Martin Hayes – Sailor’s Bonnet
Grace Toland – As I roved out
Treasa Ní Mhoilláin- Donal Og
Steve Byrne – Howe O The Mearns
Miriam Makeba – Beware Verwoerd (Naants’ Indod’Emnyama)
Abdullah Ibrahim – Toyi-Toyi
Paul Robeson – Swing Low Sweet Chariot
Polina Shepherd – Tu mikh aroyf
Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem – Drunken Sailor (Live)
Christie Hennessy, Christy Moore, Luka Bloom – When will we Learn
Christy Moore – Black is the Colour, Currough of Kildare
Darach O Catháin – Oro Se do Beatha Bhaile, An Sceilpín Draighneach
Paul Brady – Oro Se do Beatha Bhaile

Photo courtesy of Cape Town Opera

Vocal Chords Episode 3 – The Stories We Tell

First broadcast on May 15th 2015 – this episode airs again on May 20th 2016 at 7pm on RTÉ Lyric fm.

So when you have a voice, what do you sing?  What stories do you tell? In this episode presenter and The Gloaming frontman Iarla Ó’Lionáird explores the narrative power of a song, from songs of love and war to protest and empowerment, and explores how song is at the heart of remembering. Voices you hear in this episode include singers Christy Moore, Treasa Ní Mhoilláin, Peter Gabriel, Sinéad O’Connor, Francis Devine, Grace Toland and composer Brian Irvine.

Music: The Stardust Song, Christy Moore
You can hear the full episode here

Music in this episode:
Iarla O’Lionáird, Steve Cooney – Mo Ghile Mear
The Cheiftains- Mo Ghile Mear
Mary Black – Mo Ghile Mear
Fionnuala Gill – Mo Ghile Mear
Phil Coulter, Cór Cúil Aodha – Mo Ghile Mear
Sutari – Kupalnocka, Idzie Niedźwiedź
Aaron Neville – Amazing Grace
Jesse Allison, Vera Hall, Reed Dock – Amazing Grace
Mahalia Jackson – Amazing Grace
Ladysmith Black Mambazo- Amazing Grace
The Brother Moves on – The Mourning After, Rainbow Child
Miriam Makeba – West Wind Unification
Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind
Sam Cooke – A Change is gonna come
Nina Simone – Strange Fruit
Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up
Christy Moore – The Stardust Song
Steve Byrne – The Ither Lass, Johnnie o Braidiesley
Iarla O’Lionáird – Seven Suns
Dan Mc Gonigle – Glenswilly
Afro Celt Sound System, Sinéad O’Connor – Release
Ze Luis – Sodadi Na Distancia
Leonard Cohen – Show me the place, Suzanne
Anne Sofie Von Otter – Wiegala
Freedom – Iarla O’Lionáird, Paul Muldoon

Sinead o connor
Photo by Iarla Ó Lionáird

Vocal Chords Episode 4 – Better Together

First broadcast on May 22nd 2015 – this episode airs again on May 27th 2016 at 7pm on RTÉ Lyric fm.

Something changes, transforms, when a group of people come together and sing. In episode four of Vocal Chords, presenter and singer Iarla Ó’Lionáird explores the power and spirit of the combined voice from church choirs to street protest, from prison camps to the factory floor. Iarla takes the journey from the unique sound of Robert Hollingworth’s solo voice ensemble, I Fagiolini, and grammy award winning folk choir Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares to the deep bass tones of Welsh mining men’s choirs and the Singing Revolution of the Baltic States. South African singers talk of toyi-toyi  protests when the power of the marching crowd’s singing carried them for miles. Voices heard in this episode include Dora Hristova, Nobuntu Mpahlaza, members of the Cwmbach Male Choir, Francis Devine, Christy Moore, Grace Toland, Robert Hollingworth, Polina Shepherd, conductors Fergus Shiel and David Brophy and composer Brian Irvine.

Music: Mu Isamaa On Minu Arm, Recording at the Estonian Song Festival
You can hear the full episode here

Music in this episode:
Cor Cuil Aodha – Sanctus
Estonian Song Festival Choir- Mu Isamaa On Minu Arm
The Black Family – The Ploughboy Lads
Brian Irvine – Rain Falling Up
Brian Irvine & Fergus Sheil – Shelter me from the rain
Daragh O’Toole, Conductor David Brophy – Ballymun Lullaby
High Hopes Choir – High Hopes
Pete Seeger – We shall overcome
Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven – We shall overcome at the Memorial Concert 2012 in Oslo
Estonian Song Festival Choir- Ta lendab mesipuu poole
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir – Laulu voim
Lithianian Folk Singers Group – VOLUNGELE
Robert Hollingworth, I Fagiolini – Quell’ augellin
Hereford Cathedral Choir – Rorate coeli desuper
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers – Song for Athene
State Choir Latvija – The Deer’s Cry
Elena Bozhkova – Eleno
Imelda Drumm, Miriam Murphy, Lars Cleveman, Brett Polegato, Manfred Hemm and Chorus of Wide Open Opera, Composer: Richard Wagner – Tristan & Isolde
Iarla O’Lionáird – Grá agus Bas
New York City Opera, Orchestra and Chorus, Composer: Phillip Glass – Satyagraha Act I Tolstoy Scene 3

Photo by Iarla Ó Lionáird

Vocal Chords Episode 5 – The Global Voice

First broadcast on May 29th 2015 – this episode airs again on June 3rd 2016 at 7pm on RTÉ Lyric fm.

If music is indeed mankind’s common language, a sound we have localised wherever we live to echo our own home, our own stories, what happens when we come together and share those global sonic chords? In the final episode of this series of Vocal Chords presenter and singer Iarla Ó’Lionáird delves into the harmonies and cross-overs of global vocal experience and sounds from his own roots in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records family to the story of a Muslim Imam who now sings Irish sean nós songs and says his ability to do so comes from his roots in incanting the Quran. Voices heard in this episode include Peter Gabriel, Sinéad O’Connor, Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Jaime Jones and Niillas Holmberg

Music: Lamentation, performed by Maria Kaufmann on the Kaufmann Project
You can hear the full episode here

Music in this episode:
The Gloaming – Song 44
Maria Kaufmann- Lamentation
Nordic Namgar – Blooming Flower, Running Horse
Anna Maria Hefele – Hildegard
Supersonus – Rosary Sonata 1
Ayub Ogada – Kothbiro
Afro Celt Sound System – Nil Cead Againn Dul Abhaile
Muhammad Al Hussaini – Surat Quratsh, Sliabh Geal
Noirin Ni Riain and the Monks of Glenstal – An Teiceadh Go hEigipt, Mira Bai
Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo- Homeless
The Blind Boys of Alabamba – Nobody’s Fault by mine
Yunchen Lhamo – Happiness Is..
Youssou N’dour – Chimes of Freedom
Buena Vista Social Club – Chan Chan, Dos Gardenias
Barbatuqes – Baiana
Linda Buckley – Eriu, Revelavit

You can hear the voices from the series here and visit Sinéad O’Connor and Peter Gabriel to hear the one hour specials.