The voice of Clannad, MARIE BRENNAN talks us through the tracks on her new album


This song is based on the missionaries that went from Ireland, bringing the word out there. I write very much in a picturesque kind of way. The verses are very much images of people sailing to foreign lands, or sailing out in gathered haze, they didn't know where they were sailing into. A line that comes up in the song twice, which is "the banner of hope", that's what they were hoping would be the result at the end, that they were bringing hope to people. The Irish part of it "you are my God, it's you that gives me love today"... I threw in Gaelic things that I felt suited the song.

There's a line "Fear not the stillness." We're not to be afraid of the quietness because God's everywhere. There's another line, "now the flowerless trees bloom carefully." It's that sense of hope again. The chorus of it goes, "A wasted life I had in my hands, down the centred way I did stray. The "centred way" being when you were a teenager or whatever and you want to go the "cool" way. It's where you stray. I myself stopped going to church in my mid '20s, and it was probably in my mid '30s when I really realised that I wanted something more in my life than just on the road, drink and rock'n'roll. I went through a bit of that. But I was also inspired by my church in Dublin. There is a programme called Teen Challenge that helps a lot of young people with drug addiction. They spend maybe six months or so going through a programme, and they come back and give testimony. It is so moving listening to them. That's very much part of this song as well, of just imagining a life where at 12 years of age you get hooked on heroin or something, and finding life again through Jesus. It's wonderful! I was influenced by listening to these kids' testimonies.

This relates to Ireland, this conflict between traditions, Catholics and Protestants, and being afraid to lose traditions. We feel that if we give something away we're losing something. The song talks about building a bridge across the land, so that we can sing God's name and pray in unison. It's about not being afraid to let go of traditions, to try and respect and unite in some way together. I think there is a new wave of hope coming into Ireland, how fast I don't know, but there are people wanting more. Rather than us being so judgmental towards somebody that wants to be quiet when praying, or wants to dance when they worship, we need to respect each other's diversity. We're all so different. God gave us all different fingerprints. We honour and pray to God differently, and it's up to us individually to find what is the right path for us.

This is an image of Jesus getting baptised and him talking to his Father in Heaven, asking to help him see clearly what he was on earth for. It's really about baptism with that gorgeous image of Jesus being baptised and Heaven opening up. The image of two hands stretching out to guide us, or to bring us forward, or bring us into the water.

I suppose there are different connotations to the meaning of that line. I haven't got a huge voice like Whitney Houston or whoever, it's quite a quiet voice just bringing the Lord's message. "Whisper To The Wild Water" can also be a whisper telling of God's love and the wild water being the people out there not being aware of God's love. There's yet another dimension. The fact that we think of God as great and mighty, yet when he speaks to us it can be in a whisper. But sometimes we don't listen. I like images with two or three layers of meaning. I think that's the way my creative mind works. It's the way that a lot of traditional songs used to be written.

This is a special song. Last year I was doing a couple of concerts, I did a short tour and I included the song "Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace" in the programme because I love the song and I love the Francis Of Assisi prayer. Then when it came round to doing the album I just had an idea that it would be nice to do something around that prayer. In the studio one day I was just humming melodies, and then I came up with what you hear me singing as the backing. Then I thought it would be nice maybe to speak a prayer rather than sing something. I don't like my speaking voice so Denis Woods, who was producing with me, thought wouldn't it be lovely to have a child speaking. I asked my little son, who has done speech and drama for a year, whether he would speak on the album. He said no at first and I would never push him into doing anything. But then he said yes. So I translated the middle part of the prayer into Gaelic and took just some of the lines and got him to say them. It's very moving for me, and the way it all happened was very nice and natural.

It's about angels. When I'm doing an album, I read about six or seven books at one time. I soak myself in different kinds of words and atmospheres and themes. My sister-in-law gave me a book at the beginning of the year about angels, written by a woman called Hope Price. It's lovely, all these different ways that we see angels, especially children. These enormous, tall, statuesque, incredible beings and the images of swords and wings; the images of people that come and help us and the next thing they disappear; it just fascinated me, all the different stories. It made me aware that we've all get angels protecting us sent God. That song's really about that.

This is a hymn I wrote with my mum's choir involved. When I did a psalm with my mum on 'Perfect Time' so many people loved it that I wanted to do something again, rather than a psalm, this time a hymn. It's just written as a hymn, in praise of the Lord, to guide me, give me strength, praising him that he is the King of Heaven and earth. I went down to the church in Donegal to do it as I did the last time. I brought the engineer and just an ADAT machine and set up a couple of microphones and we did it down there.

People like the arrangement on this song. There are guitar synths and Celtic pipes. The songs talks about the joy and wonder and blessing we can find in this life.

This is a song in awe of God's creation. He made the sea, he made the mountains. I live in Dublin, but I grew up in Donegal and I go back there a lot, so creation is a recurring theme of mine! It's probably a very Irish thing, as well as just being aware of our surroundings. I look at Psalms sometimes and it feels like a painting to me, it's like a painting with words. The chorus goes, "You made the water, you made the wind, you gave us flowers and you gave yourself."

This is an instrumental. I was trying to think of a nice name for it and in my books found that St Bridget had a nickname, and it was Mary Of The Gaels. When I saw that I thought wow! what a great title. St Bridget was a very, very generous person, giving to the poor people, to the dismay of her father who gave her a bad time for giving away so much!

On the last album I wrote a kind of synopsis of St Patrick's life. I wanted to relay in some way about St Column Kil. St Columba but he christened himself St Column Kil, Kil being the trees, the woods and Column being a dove. He was such a holy man and he went off to lona, so hence talking about "I sail to the island E", and when I played it to my husband first he went "Oh look! All the druggies will want to know where the island E is." It's the Gaelic, it's I with an accent over the I and it's the Gaelic for lona, would you believe. When Column Kil was born, they say that there was a sign that came over the hills, there was a cloth, a veil which came across to his mother. He was born into quite a well-to-do family. It was indicated that she was going to have a special son, and when an angel came to take the veil away she said, "Why are you taking my colourful cloth away?" and he said "Because it is to show you that Column Kil is just not for you but for everybody else." There're lovely stories about him, that he had seen miracles, even to the point that he had changed water into wine. He was one of the translators of the Gospels at the time. I wanted to write something about him.

My Grandfather translated this beautiful hymn into Gaelic many, many years ago. I've sung it in the choir and everything. He didn't directly translate it, because you can't really with Irish in that way, but it's the theme of it that's within this. I just wanted to do it the way I felt, without touching too much of the song, just as it is, the pure song. It's so gorgeous and I just felt it was kind of a complete ending to the album. CR

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