Songs without Borders for RTÉ Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster


‘Beyond Borders: The European Song Tradition from the Parlour to the Street.’
BAI funding application: deadline 7 Nov. 2019
Format: 40-minute documentary for RTÉ Radio
Proposal drafted by Sarah McCleave,
Successful songs travel across space and through time. In the process, the place of their origins may become blurred as the song enjoys a strong identity in its new location. What qualities make a song so appealing? This radio documentary will explore the promotion, exchange and transformation of five European folk songs, dating from the late eighteenth century up until the modern era – with a particular emphasis on songs that became ‘transnational’. For each of these songs, Ireland played a central role in the transnational exchange.
Contributors’ names, roles, and contact details.
Sarah McCleave, Script writer and speaking contributor.
David Robb, Script consultant, speaking contributor, and singer.
Oskar Cox Jensen, Script consultant, narrator/interviewer, and singer.
Tríona O’Hanlon, Script consultant, speaking contributor.
Brianna Robertson-Kirkland,

Those Evening Bells. Speaking contributors Sarah McCleave and Tríona O’Hanlon. Designated as a ‘Russian Air’ in Thomas Moore’s series of National Airs (Vol. 1, 1818), this tune has also been attributed to the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. It was actually composed by Anne-Honore-Joseph Duveyrier (otherwise known as Mélesville), a Parisian-based composer of comic operas whose work would have been known to Moore during his Paris sojourn. Moore’s lyrics were adapted/translated into Russian by Ivan Kozlov in 1828, and set to music by Alexander Alyabyev in the same year. Moore’s lyrics were also translated into German, Polish, and even Esperanto. Moore’s original lyrics were set by the Hungarian-born composer Henry Ketten (1848-1883), and also by the avant-garde American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954). Performance of select verses from:
- Thomas Moore/John Stevenson arrangement of 1818, in a *bespoke recording, sung by Brianna Robertson-Kirkland
- Thomas Moore/Charles Ives, either the Finley-Drake recording for Hyperion, Romanzo di Central Park or Paul Sperry for Naxos, The Complete Songs of Charles Ives vol. 2.
- Kozlov/Alyabyev, extant recordings include Russian Folk Songs for Naxos (soloist Vasilij Latin with the Patriarchal Choir, Moscow).
Robin Adair (tune ‘Eileen Aroon’). Speaking and singing contributor Brianna Robertson-Kirkland. This traditional Irish tune is understood to have been introduced into Scotland by the Irish harper Denis O’Hampsey (1697-1807). Lady Caroline Keppel wrote a set of lyrics to the tune in the early 1750s about her Irish lover (and eventual husband), Robin Adair. The tune appears to have been first published in Scotland as part of the Edinburgh Miscellany in 1793, and is usually labelled as a ‘Scots’ song in later London and Edinburgh publications. Beethoven published one of many German-language settings (often for male choir) - these variously describe the tune as ‘Irish’ or Scottish. Perhaps the most unusual transformation of the tune is in the song ’Sokoli Furalo’, as adapted by Rabindranath Tagore for the musical play Kalmrigoya (1882).
Performances of selected verses from:
One English language version, to be sung by Brianna Robertson-Kirkland
One German language version, to be sung by Brianna Robertson-Kirkland
‘Sokoli Furalo’ sung by Manoj Manisha, on the album Elo Gun Gunie

Green fields of France. Speaking and singing contributor David Robb. Originally called No man's land, this was written in the 1970s by a Scot Eric Bogle who lived in Australia. It became known in the British and Irish folk scene and was covered by the Irish act known as the Fureys and Davey Arthur in the early 1980s. Then the communist Hannes Wader picked it up in West Germany in 1982, and wrote a more overtly politicised anti-war version that was also covered by the East German Folk group Wacholder in 1989. Very much a product of the pre-1989 peace movement in both Ireland and Germany. Performance of select verses from:
- The Fureys, album Live at Dublin National Stadium (1994).
- David Robb, *bespoke recording of ‘insert German title’
Bonny Light Horseman. Speaking and singing contributor Oskar Cox Jensen. A Napoleonic song (‘Oh, Napoleon Bonaparte you are the cause of my woe’) of English origins that enjoyed circulation in the Anglo-Irish sphere, this song was printed in Waterford in the early decades of the 19th century; it was also to become popular in the USA. The ‘Bonny Light Horseman’ is trans-historical as well as transnational, for it has endured into our own time, with an iconic recording by Planxty (1979); it was also chosen more recently to re-invoke a specific Napoleonic past, when the English folk singer Kate Rusby recorded a version for the Sharpe soundtrack (1996). In 2019, the American singer Anaïs Mitchell recorded a version for the debut album of the group, Bonny Light Horseman. Performance of selected verses from:
- A bespoke recording* of an early setting as sung by Cox Jensen.
- Planxty, from the album After the Break (1979).
- Kate Rusby, from Over the Hills and Far Away: The Music of Sharpe
- - Anaïs Mitchell

Media contributions

TitleSongs without Borders for RTÉ Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster
Degree of recognitionNational
PersonsBrianna Robertson-Kirkland