Christmas in Australia is always a little hard. Although I have my immediate, beloved family with me here in the hills outside Naarm (Melbourne), my body is filled with nostalgia and the faintest sound of a bell jingling can bring tears to my eyes. I am flooded with memories of home, and my favourite time of year in West Cork: Advent; when we would gather holly and ivy and the smell of pine would fill the warm house. You knew that the turn of winter was coming, the longer days would return and hope would fill the hearts of everyone surviving the darkness together. Carols would play endlessly for weeks, the house was buried beneath all sorts of tacky decorations and the smells of cooking and baking wafted throughout. I miss my parents, I miss Jennifer, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my next-door neighbours, I miss my village.
The song is definitely inspired by the Irish tradition of lighting a candle in the window to welcome in the spirits of those that are away and those that have passed over. Every Christmas I think of Máirtín Ó Direáin's poem "Coinnle ar Lasadh", which we learned at a very young age in primary school. The poet, an emigrant in London from the Aran Islands on the West Coast of Ireland, addresses the poem "do mo mháthair"; 'to my mother' and tells us how she will light 12 candles (for the 12 days of Christmas, presumably) in the window of her little cottage to call him in. Even as a child, I was just so moved by this poem and all that it represents. I think of it every Christmas as I light my candle here in my window and travel home to the ones that I love.
Christmas feels like a displaced import to me here in Australia, when we are in full sun and celebrating our summer solstice. I have got used to the sunshine and the outdoor dining and the Christmas lights twinkling in the golden twilight, as opposed to the crisp blackness of home. It's just different.
This little carol was recorded when I finally got to go home after 3 and a half very hard years of that global problem we all experienced a few years back. It swirled around in my head last Christmas singing to the hearts of treasured loved ones who I so desperately wanted to embrace, and when I got a very precious 24 hours with Christophe Capewell and his beautiful family -- in between alphabet pasta and toddler tantrums -- we managed a really quick recording session in the attic of his rental apartment in West Cork.
Without Christophe, not one of my songs would be out in the world. He recorded, produced and played most of the instrumentation. He is a brilliant, kind, confidence-giving, modest, musical genius. And I am eternally grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (www.christophecapewell.com)
Thank you to Ian "Dodge" Paterson for adding incredible bass and at short notice. (www.dodgebass.co.uk)
Thank you to Adam Downey for the beautiful, festive percussion. (adampatrickdowney [@] gmail [dot] com)
While I drew the album cover, I am pretty hopeless when it comes to technology and I have no idea how to take it from a piece of paper in my hand to an upload-able file with colours balanced etc. So, thanks to the amazing skills of brilliant artist Mary Callaghan, who did an amazing job with the photograph I sent her across the waves. (www.marycallaghan.ie)
Mixed by Anthony Gibney at Audioland Studios (https://audioland.ie/) and mastered by Simon Francis (www.simonfrancismastering.com/work)
Bless you all, and bring peace, bring peace, bring peace to this world. Let's sing in peace and love this year.
For Jennifer. I hope that you are singing with a choir of angels this Christmas and that you hear my call to you.
Nollag Shona Dhaoibh go léir,
M x x x