Róisín O Reilly’s New EP a Christmas Gift to Behold
A seasonal delight, to be sure, Róisín O’ Reilly – a former member of ANÚNA – has produced a Christmas gift that is the perfect and much-needed counterpoint to a time where the indulgence of ‘more’, and ‘bigger’, and ‘brighter’ have all somehow become the means by which so many measure all. But with ‘HUSH BE STILL’, the beauty of O’ Reilly’s voice possesses a rare, timeless sparkle in this co-write with Brendan Graham, transporting the listener to a space where innocence and hope once again entwine.
Here, in a body of work that also showcases ‘Buan do Ré’ (Roisin O Reilly, Brendan Graham) – an Irish language adaptation of Hush Be Still by Donegal poet Eilín Ní Bhaoill – the music brings a sense of purity, humility, and yes, peace too, a benefaction that is both balm and nectar for the spirit. Released as a single last year, as a Christmas fundraiser for Syrian refugee children, ‘HUSH BE STILL’ earned the Tune of the Week accolade on RTE’s website.
Describing the song as a “meditational experience” she herself had while attending Midnight Mass in December of 2020, ‘HUSH BE STILL’ explores how that moment left Róisín feeling like she had somehow been transported back through time to the stable in Bethlehem, a moment brilliantly described in lines like, “Was it only a dream, that’s not what it seemed when I sang and our hearts beat as one”.
One year on, and RTE Radio 1 has once again recognised ‘HUSH BE STILL’ by selecting the haunting lullaby for its Christmas Miscellany programme, this time in a sensitively understated arrangement by Gavin Murphy for O’Reilly and the RTE Concert Orchestra.
Not only that, TG4 has also chosen the song for its Christmas Eve TV Special in a special choral setting by renowned Californian arranger, Roger Emerson. The Galway City Chamber Choir – directed by Stephen Carroll – accompanied O’Reilly for this performance filmed in Galway Cathedral.
As well as the aforementioned title-track, and its Irish language kin, ‘Buan do Ré’, O’ Reilly has also looked to Graham for her other two Christmas-themed offerings that complete this EP. The song ‘Mary’s Lament’ (Graham/Lovland) goes right to the heart of things with lines like,
“You shoulder now his Cross, this night he first is born ;
You gave him birth to die for us…all on a Christmas Morn”.
With Gavin Murphy’s sparse piano and O’Reilly’s soulful voice…we are also brought to that special night in Bethlehem. And finally, there’s ‘Then Will My Heart Arise’, an adaptation by Graham, with his original English lyrics added to the 18th Century Norwegian perennial, Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker by Hans Adolph Brorson. Here once again, graced by Murphy’s ever so sensitive and understated piano ’empatico with both singer and song’, we find O’Reilly’s emotive reading of the song bringing us right to the crib – this time kneeling in penitential mode.