TODAY (February 1) Cork singer-songwriting duo Aine O’Gorman and Victoria Keating release their recently-penned song dedicated to Brigid, mythical icon and patron saint of Ireland.
While it coincides with the feast day of the Catholic St Brigid, Aine says that, when researching the song, they were drawn to the pagan incarnation of her.
“There are so many interesting, evocative stories about Brigid. She was the daughter of a Druid, and thought to be a very powerful healer in the community. She also, apparently, had a son who died. In pagan legend, she was associated with metallurgy and was talked about as a three-person deity who embodied the concepts of rebirth, renewal and becoming.
“We have woven all of these individual elements into the lyrics of our song. The stories of the cloak and the crown are pagan too, but have been borrowed by the Catholic Church”, according to Aine.
A beautiful gem of a song, Brigid is a wistful and evocative celebration of this powerful woman.
No stranger to making music together, Aine and Vicky have been singing side by side for more than a decade.
“We love singing harmonies together,” attests Aine.
And well they might. Their voices sound so alike, that they create a sort of seamless ‘sisters’ type harmony, where one voice is indistinguishable from the other.
Aine grew up in a very musical family.
“My parents have always valued music, and music education, and I feel very privileged to have been given lessons from a very early age.”
Aine’s mum played piano, her sister Eibhilín was in the band Fred, and her dad was also a great singer.
“None of us played sport, so music was literally our thing as a family,” she says, by way of explanation.
A singer and multi-instrumentalist, Aine plays and teaches violin, guitar and piano and has been playing the violin since she was six.
“It’s funny how comfortable I always was around music,” she continues.
While she dipped her toes into many different career options from chef to studying music management, her life journey took a circuitous route from Cork to New Zealand and NYC before returning home.
“I was always drawn to music, and kept coming back to it. Sometimes I think I may be morphing into my mum (no bad thing, by the way!) and, like her, I too am working with the local church choir. And loving it.”
The church choir is the local one, in Ballinadee, which rehearses on a Thursday nights from 8.30pm.
“I am currently subbing as a Special Needs Assistant in primary schools in the area, and sometimes work can run late.
“I am often so exhausted by then, it can be challenging to have to turn around and make a quick dinner and, then, motivate myself to head out again to choir practice. But, there is something profound and primal in the act of singing with others,” she insists.
Communal or group singing, rather like the tribal singing at matches or in mass of old, unifies and ignites the joy from within. And Aine says that she comes “home feeling so overjoyed and renewed”.
Making music with others has defined most of her musical journey to date.
“I have always played piano in a supportive role in the many bands and ensembles I’ve worked with.
“I had done my undergraduate studies in Music in UCC but spent more time making fun, partying my undergraduate degree years away, that unsurprisingly I failed.”
When she re-engaged with education, Aine was 26 years old.
“I went back to UCC as a mature student and met Vicky (Victoria Keating) who was 10 years older than me.
"We were instantly drawn to each other, both as creatives and as friends, and have been best friends since. We always laugh at the idea that we were supposed to be ‘mature students’. We were probably the least mature of the whole year!” she adds with a laugh.
“While in UCC, performance was part of the course and Vicky and I set up a little group, with Jamie Kelly, and ultimately from the many different permutations of that group, Vicky, Jamie and Aine ended up in a band called From The Forest with Declan Sinnott and Martin Leahy.”
When that dissolved in 2019, Aine released her first solo single. Brigid will be her fifth. All her songs have a dark beauty.
Vicky and Aine are long-time collaborators and co-wrote The Poor Ground in 2020, a very powerful song about the Mother and Baby home in Tuam which Christy Moore describes as “beautiful, horrific, the beauty holds me there as the horror unfolds... a tour de force.”
While Brigid is a brand-new release, it was actually conceived last year as part of Creative Bandon’s Brigid Festival.
“Marguerite McQuaid of Creative Bandon is the driving force for the arts in the town, and commissioned us to write something for the festival. In typical fashion, we only wrote the lyrics to the song on the actual day itself. So, we hadn’t quite finished it when we first performed it.”
While music feeds her soul, as a single mum to 12-year-old Rowan, Aine is ever mindful of the need to also feed the body. She retrained as an SNA teacher pre-Covid, in order to secure a full-time job and a stable income to ultimately buy her own home.
“My son has music on both sides of his family. His paternal grandfather is a very respected musician who played with The Lynch Mob band. His dad is a musician too.
“Rowan resisted doing anything in music that could be compared to the rest of his family and has recently forged his own path in traditional music (something none of us has done) and plays banjo.”
Speaking about her talented son brings many emotions to the surface, not least of which is the sheer terror at the prospect of their impending move out of the rental home in which they have lived for all of Rowan’s life.
“The owner is selling the house so we have to find somewhere to live.”
She wants to buy a house for her and her son, but as teaching has not returned to pre-Covid levels, Aine has not been able to find a full-time job.
“I cannot afford to pay the rents being asked, which have doubled since we have moved here. And while I could actually pay a mortgage right now, without a full time job, I can’t get financed to buy a house.”
So, they have to move on.
“There is a pervasive sense of shame associated with this. We should not have to feel shame or anger. Our anger should be directed at government for their lack of engagement with the outrageous problem of eviction and homelessness. Being without a root-structure has a massive knock-on impact on everyone’s mental wellbeing.”
Despite the rocky path ahead for Aine, one suspects that music will be the salve that will keep all joy in full view.
Brigid by Aine O’Gormon and Victoria Keating will be released to radio stations and online streaming platforms today. It will also feature on Victoria’s FB live page, Little Rooms Big Music, which runs every Friday evening. Aine O’Gormon and Victoria Keating will perform at UCC’s Aula Maxima on February 3 at 1.10pm, as part of the Fuaim lunchtime concert series.