Sunday, November 16, 2014

Supplication: Cathie Ryan and "Understanding Love"

The random and appropriate tune for a Sunday is Understanding Love by Cathie Ryan and written by Ryan and Gerry O'Beirne, is a supplication for strength to Mother Mary whose soul was pierced by the "sword of sorrow" and who "carried on." The singer, "a banished child of Eve" who needs "to feel [her] courage" beseeches Mary to "still the fear" with her "understanding love." I know that when I have trouble sleeping at night, I repeat the Hail Mary remembered from my childhood as a kind of mantra to put me back into dreamland, and regardless of whether it is her intervention or just the soothing words repeated in my mind over and over again, it works!

Cathie Ryan is an Irish-American native of Detroit, Michigan who was exposed early to Irish musicians such as Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, as well as American musicians such as Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves and Hank Williams. In her childhood she idolized her father, a tenor, who taught her how to interpret and honor songs by knowing their histories and contexts. She was also exposed to the music of Appalachia from neighbors who had migrated to Michigan to work in the auto factories and gained an appreciation for the likes of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, as well as the local music out of Motown. Moving to New York, she learned more about traditional Irish music from her then husband singer-songwriter Dermot Henry and mentor Joe Heaney. After graduating from CUNY with a degree in English Literature and Secondary Education, she began teaching at Lehmann College in the Bronx, but left the classroom behind as her singing career began to blossom. She still continues to teach workshops in traditional Irish singing and Irish mythology and folklore. Understanding Love can be found on her 1998 album The Music of What Happens.