Lewis Gaelic voice at funeral of music legend
Lewis singer, Alyth McCormack – who has toured with The Chieftains for the past 14 years – sang last Friday at the funeral of the group’s founder, Paddy Moloney.
The death of the traditional musician at the age of 83 has been respected as a major cultural loss in Ireland and the funeral, held in Glendalough, County Wicklow, was attended by President Michael D. Higgins and other dignitaries.
Alyth was asked only at the wake the previous night, by Mr Moloney’s widow, if she would sing at the funeral and after much thought chose the poignant Gaelic song ‘Maighdeanan na h-Àiridh’.
Her association with the hugely influential group went back to 2007 when Alyth sang at the Beo music festival in Dublin just days after moving to Ireland. Paddy heard her and was impressed.
She explained what happened next: “I was at the Lorient Festival that same week and a gentleman came up with a tiny piece of paper with Paddy Moloney’s number on it.
“I was leaving early and phoned him at 7.30. He asked me to sing with them at a gig in Limerick. Then he said it was very good to talk to me but next time, could I phone a bit later”.
Limerick went well and Alyth was asked to join The Chieftains on their annual tour of North America where they have a huge following. She continued to tour with them ever since in Europe, China and Japan as well as the US and Canada.
The last tour was cut short in Boston when the pandemic struck and lockdown then followed in Ireland. “He went into his home on 14th March 2020 and never left,” said Alyth. “As his son Aonghas said at the funeral, his dad died when the music stopped.
“He was my boss initially but he was my pal in later years. When you’re in your 70s or early 80s, touring is a tiring business and the baby Chieftains, as we named ourselves, took some of the load.
“But musically, he drove everything right up until the last tour.
The moment he went on stage and announced ‘I’m Paddy Moloney, from Dublin, Ireland, the greatest city in the world’, playing music gave him the energy”.
Most of the time Alyth sang in Scottish Gaelic. Paddy Moloney, an Irish speaker born in Dublin, had visited the Hebrides in times past “and spoke fondly of it – we always talked about him coming back, but it didn’t happen”.
Tributes were paid by some of the world’s biggest names across musical genres. Ry Cooder recalled working with him in Havana. “Every Cuban song we played him, he said it reminded him of an Irish tune. I swear Paddy thinks all the music in the world originally came from Ireland.”
Paddy Moloney formed the Chieftains in 1962 to make an album for the new Claddagh record label which Garech Browne, a member of the Guinness family, had created to give a home to traditional and Celtic music. Paddy became managing director of Claddagh which, like The Chieftains did much to inspire the resurgence of traditional music in Scotland as well as Ireland.
During the recent lockdown in Ireland, Alyth and her husband, musician Noel Eccles, collaborated to create a “Concert in the Cottage” made
at their home in County Wexford and this is available at www.alyth.net/shows