Ted Talks are Terrific
Song - Artist -
Doing the Charleston - John Salmon -
To stay aware of new Celtic music I often tune my OXX WiFi Internet Radio receiver to ‘Celtic Music Radio,’ a community station based in Glasgow, Scotland. As the station name suggests, there is a wealth of Celtic music and song to be heard there. Celtic Music Radio (www.celticmusicradio.net) is a place to go for many of the live performances aired during the annual gathering of musicians and singers who come together, from around the world, at Celtic Comnnections. For three weeks last January one could hear Detroit soul, Carribean Creole, Danish fiddle and, of course, native Celtic strains in abundance.
I happened to catch an announcement, in Gaelic, introducing a live performance from Celtic Connections by someone I thought was named MacLeod, singing a song I was not familiar with – John Condon. I was totally riveted by this performance. 'John Condon' turned out to be the most wrenching anti-war song I have heard in all my many years. I was near to tears. In my view ‘John Condon’ ranks right up there, as a testament to the tragedy of war, with the well-known poem ‘In Flanders Fields.’
I listened to no more music from Celtic Connections via Celtic Music radio that night. Instead, in the grip of the emotions induced by the soaring, crystal clear voice of the singer, together with the delicate guitar accompaniment, I went searching for information about both the singer and the song. At first I could not link a MacLeod with the song. Then I searched only for the song. This proved to be more successful. On the very first results page, there were links to the lyrics and to recordings by Mary Dillon, Niamh Parsons , and Flossie Malavialle, but seemingly no MacLeod. And then I noticed a small YouTube link featuring ‘Janet Dowd’ live. Paydirt at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ip27e6xZK8w.
The song ‘John Condon’ was created from an idea by Richard Laird, with the collaboration of his friends Tracey McRory and the late Sam Starrett As the trio Songshed they published a CD including the song (vocals by Mary Dillon) but their album, Boys Of The Island, seems to be out of print. The subject of the song, 14 years old John Condon, is alleged to be the youngest British soldier killed in the First World War; both his age and burial place are in dispute.
In addition to the live performance by Janet Dowd I have now heard recordings of ‘John Condon’ by Mary Dillon, by Niamh Parsons, and by Flossie Malavaille. All of the recordings of ‘John Condon’ which I have heard have been moving. However, for sheer raw emotion and depth of feeling Janet Dowd’s brilliant singing, to a most sensitive accompaniment, is a standout: www.cdbaby.com/cd/janetdowd. Her recording of ‘John Condon’ is, I believe, on track to become the standard when memorials or politics call forth anti-war sentiments.