Is there Celtic music in Brazil? The answer is “yes”, and it is possible to cite several national artists influenced by the style, such as Tuatha de Danann, Galwem, Terra Celta, and others. In his first solo album, Canções De São Patrício (Songs of Saint Patrick), Rafael Senra, born on Minas Gerais in Brazil, ventured on the style, performing eleven versions with lyrics in Portuguese for Celtic songs of public domain (written between the 18th and 19th centuries).
The repertoire goes from well-known songs like “How Can I Keep From Singing?” (Played by Enya, Pete Seeger and others) and “Down By the Sally Gardens” to some lesser known songs, such as “The Green Fields of Gaoth Dobhair” and “Three Ravens”.
When he started this project, in 2014, Rafael was in the middle of his Doctorate in Letters (at the UFJF, which was completed in 2016). Before that, during his master degree, he researched the work of Milton Nascimento and Clube da Esquina, a work that turned into the book Dois Lados Da Mesma Jornada (Two Sides of the Same Journey), prefaced by the late Fernando Brant. Thus, his musical experience transits both through academic research and practice – he has composed for more than twenty years.
His passion for Celtic music, born in the bucolic environment of the city of São João del Rei in Minas Gerais, where he lived for 13 years, ended up generating this work, born in an unpretentious way. Some versions, such as “The Pretty Maid” sought to be very faithful to the original song, while others took more unusual paths. “Embarcanações”, for example, is a version of “Mhorag’s Na Horo Gheallaidh”, known from the repertoire of Irish groups like Altan and Clannad. The original lyric, sung by mill workers in Canada and Spain (18th century) referred to King Charles and the Jacobite rebellions. But in Senra’s version, the lyrics speak of European maritime expansion and the arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil.
One of the versions is noteworthy, involving a mixture (or “mash-up”) of two different works: the melody of the Celtic song “Coinleach Ghlas An Fhómair” and two poems (cançonetas) by the arcadian poet Claudio Manoel da Costa (Glauceste Saturnio), who, along with Tiradentes and Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, was one of the great names of Inconfidência Mineira, one of the most important political movements in Brazil. Identifying that both Celtic and Claudian troubadours had common influences on Troubadourism, Rafael risked the mix, realizing that the metric of “Coinleach …” was identical to some of the Unconfident works (such as “To Lira Contempt” and “To the Lira Palinódia”), and probably lyrics and music is of the same age (mid-eighteenth century). On the record, the version is called “À Lira”, and the pastoral and melancholic climate of the poem seemed very comfortable in this melody.
Arrangements followed the same path as the lyrics. Some were quite inspired by various harmonies conventionalized in various versions, while others demanded greater doses of inventiveness. It is a “clean” record instrumentally, counting only with voice and acoustic guitar, all interpreted by Rafael.
After three years of writing, Senra recorded it in March 2017, while the post-production (mix and master) was done by Renato Lopes and Cleiton Lupe at Omega Studio (Congonhas, MG).
More details on Rafael Senra’s site: rafaelsenra.com/cancoes-de-sao-patricio/
released August 9, 2017
Rafael Senra: arrangements, versions (*), compositions (bonus tracks), vocals, acoustic guitar, Melodica.
* except on track 4, lyrcis by Cláudio Manuel da Costa – excerpts from À Lira Desprezo e À Lira Palinódia.
Recorded in March 2017, at Casa dos Senra studios (Congonhas – MG, Brazil).
Mixed by Renato Lopes and Cleiton Lupe at Ômega Studio (Congonhas – MG, Brazil) in April/May 2017
Graphic design by Rafael Senra.
Pictures by Mauro Fernandes Barros
copyright © 2017 Rafael Senra
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