This a migration story about Sue Rynhart’s song La Malouine; written by an Irish women, about a French ship for a Liverpool performance on the #LIF2018 Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta Ship Stage…
Sue Rynhart (SR) has been in Liverpool before. Her friend Ailís Ní Ríain suggested Sue contact the Liverpool Irish Festival (LIF), following her own appearance in 2016. From this point a fascination with the city and its connections has developed.
This is both a complex and a simple story; based on migrating ideas, developing long-distance friendships and creative trust; explorations in to the past and translations in to today. It is layered – as all relationships are – with varied meanings, snatched ideas and conversations, but this one has a creative flow that crosses the seas.
At it’s simplest it is about taking an opportunity and making it work.
Sue is known for her music. She has often written about water; about women and the female relationship with the world. With an elfin gait and a wide eyed charm Sue may look something approaching fragile, but she is spry and keen, strong and flexible. Lauded for her “songs that sound at once ancient and modern, with echoes of folk and early music, contemporary jazz and the avant garde, recalling Theo Bleckmann, Bjork and a hint of Joni Mitchell” (The Irish Times ****). She is cited as a “Beautiful vocalist…[with] wonderful composition” (BBC). “Sue’s atmospheric lyrics would all – I suspect – make fantastic reading as poetry even outside of their prime, intended musical context….She communicates her artistic vision in her songs with precision and immediacy, combining grace and energy while deliberately placing her voice within the context of sparsely scored, emotion-baring musical settings” (Folk Radio UK)… and for all of these reasons and more, we have wanted her to come back and work with us, ever since we met her in 2017.
When Sue first contacted us, we were (ashamedly) not aware of her slick, witty, charming music and disarming, kooky, ethereal sound. It didn’t take long to have us hooked. Tooing and froing about where we could place her in the programme and how to organise it all at the last minute – just weeks ahead of the festival launch – it soon became very obvious that Sue had to be part of our Visible Women showcase at the Liverpool Philharmonic. She – and double bassist, Dan Bodwell – held the audience, captivated. We stayed in touch.
Sue sent us a copy of her album Signals, a follow on from her album Crossings. We stayed in touch. We talked about how both albums linked to water and migration, our theme for 2018.
We – Liverpool Irish Festival – were commissioned to find and platform work for the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta on behalf of Culture Liverpool/Liverpool City Council. We thought about Sue’s work. We were given a Tall Ship to programme.
La Malouine is a twin masted French Brigantine tall ship, registered in the Port of Dumfries in Scotland.
How wonderful would it sound on a ship, in the open air…how would it chime with the femininity of ships (they’re all named after women), of Sirens, of time… We got in touch.
Sue said yes. Not only did she say yes, she came back – in what seemed like moments – and said “I have written a song”. Over to Sue…
SR: “When I was invited to sing on board the Tall Ship La Malouine I was so excited. For as long as I can remember I have admired Tall Ships. I grew up by the sea in Dublin and it has always been a source of inspiration for me. It’s a great honour to be invited aboard this Ship and I wanted to express my gratitude to the Ship owner and to the Festival. I began researching the ship. I discovered that She was once called ‘Wilem’. I also found that she was originally registered in France, with her home port being Saint Malo. She is still French flagged, and her registration is for private charter, but her home port is now Dumfries in Scotland.
“La Malouine is a non-profit organisation, and the crew take a lot of young people sailing, usually for no charge or for a small donation.
“I had already been humming a melody and felt words coming ‘La Malouine…La Malouine…Mother, Daughter, Ship is Queen…aboard La Malouine…’ then I thought ‘Aagh! What if I have the incorrect pronunciation?’
“I sent a slightly manic message to the to the contact email asking “does the ship’s name rhyme with Hallowe’en?”. Realising how bonkers that must have sounded to them, I quickly explained that I was writing a song to sing aboard La Malouine at the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta presented by Liverpool Irish Festival in Liverpool and needed to be sure that I had the correct pronunciation… An extra syllable – or one syllable less – would have thrown the metre off altogether and I was so happy with the lyrics that were emerging…
“I have to say the Captain and his Crew got back to me straight away and reassured me (very politely glossing over my out-of-the-blue, slightly bonkers tone!). I was in the flow of coming up with this song; I jotted down words and sounds; sang some of them and sang more words that came to mind.
“I had written words, which I was going to use in a spoken word intro, but when I started it, it sounded too dreamy; too wishy-washy.
“Then I imagined an electric guitar with distortion. My Dad is an excellent electric guitarist, so I went to my parent’s house and had a listen to my Dad playing all sorts of effects using vintage pedals. Thanks to my Dad, I found effects that were perfect for the intro and for the song throughout. It was very important to me that the song – and the Ship, in turn – would have a very strong introduction.
“The guitar at the beginning is full of power, presence and strength, there is a stoic quality to the theme and I thought this was very fitting. The rest of the song just flowed. I added in the guitar to play in canon – in parts to be playful like the wind in the sails – and for the most part to arpeggiate the chords. I wanted a big contrast between the distortion on the intro to a more gentle effect for the main [body] of the song, to give lots of space for the lyrics to be heard”.
You can hear La Malouine here.
Lyrics: La Malouine
Summer young blows her along
A ship at sea
A dreamer flying free.
Tears of time, she sings her song;
“Hold us tight draw us away”
Tide is pulling
She’s every colour, she’s everything, she will make the water sing.
She’s every colour, she’s everything, she will make the water sing.
A distant light to Evensong
Ink blue mysteries grow long.
Swell and sway.
With the wind and sea she’ll stay.
Mother, Daughter, Ship is Queen.
Hold her tight and pull her in
On board La Malouine.
Who is she?
To the sea?
Lyrics and music (c) Sue Rynhart, 2018. The song was recorded at Arad Studios in Dublin by Les Keye, with Charlie Moon on guitar and Sue Rynhart on vocals. Charlie also accompanied Sue at the Liverpool live performance as part of the Three Festivals event.
Sue Rynhart: Sue’s debut album ‘Crossings (Songs for Voice & Double Bass)’ and follow up album ‘Signals’ have both received international critical acclaim from RTÉ Lyric fm, The Irish Times, the respected American website allaboutjazz.com, The Independent and The Sunday Times UK. She has premiered works by many of the Composers from the Irish Composers Collective and the Contemporary Music Centre and and has performed on BBC Radio with the Choir of Christchurch Cathedral Dublin. Sue recognises the support she has received across various projects from the Arts Council of Ireland, Culture Ireland, the Improvised Music Company and Note Productions.
About the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta: The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta took place in Liverpool 25-28 May 2018. The Liverpool Irish Festival featured quite heavily, with two days of programming on the La Malouine and in the National Museum of Liverpool‘s Martin Luther King Jnr Building in Albert Dock. The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta is also a unifying race between three countries. It is a key event because it ties us to our neighbours – through time and tide. It helps to place-make each location by showing the world where we are on its map. The Liverpool Irish Festival‘s contribution to this event has been supported by
- Liverpool City Council
- Arts Council England
- The Irish Government’s Department for Foreign Affairs.