Tuesday, March 08, 2011

"Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral" – a [not-so] Irish lullaby / and a translation

From concert program notes on an Irish medley selected and arranged by musical director Richard Hoyle for the Croydon Male Voice Choir in England. The songs "were written in the years shortly before the First World War, and ... are similar in expressing themes of separation and longing, both celebrating and regretting the culture of the homeland, whether real or imagined. Strikingly, none of the lyric writers, with one possible exception, were actually Irish." All were recorded in the 1940s by Bing Crosby.
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral – An Irish Lullaby was written in 1913 by a US actor, composer and song-writer, James Royce Shannon. He was born James Royce in Michigan in 1881 and established a touring theatrical company which performed in both the US and Europe. Although of English descent, he adopted the name Shannon to give him street cred for the Irish-themed songs and plays he was writing and performing. He wrote Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral for a musical production, Shameen Dhu, first staged in New York in February 1914.

Shameen Dhu was a classic musical love story set in 18th-century Ireland. The Shameen Dhu of the title is the nickname of one of the lead characters, Dare O’Donnell, who is among a group of Irish patriots fighting to free Ireland from English rule. The character sings the piece to evoke memories of his mother as he contemplates marriage. It thus combines nostalgia for childhood and for the distant land – “Over in Killarney” – where he grew up. Add the anti-British sentiments of the play, and you have a potent mix to appeal to the expanding Irish expatriate community of early 20th-century New York. It remained popular as a parlour song for the next five years.

The same themes were picked up in the song’s second coming, when it featured in the 1944 movie Going my Way, starring Bing Crosby. Crosby plays a young New York parish priest ministering to the Irish community, Father Chuck O’Malley, and he performs the song in a version which fully exploits its sentimental value. The movie, directed by Leo McCarey, won seven Oscars, including Crosby’s award as best supporting actor. After World War Two Crosby presented a copy of the film to Pope Pius XII and even showed the pope his Oscar.

The song was subsequently sung and recorded by performers ranging from Dean Martin and Steve Martin to Van Morrison and Carla in an episode of Cheers.
Shameen Dhu opened Feb. 2, 1914, at the Grand Opera House on Broadway and closed Feb. 28 after 32 performances. Other songs in the Croydon Male Choir's medley are "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," "McNamara’s Band" and "Danny Boy."

This exchange from Irish Gaelic Translator.com forum. By bcKay / Gaeilgeoir:

I thought Toor a Loor a was just a made up thing that sounded good in Irish Lullaby. However, I have noticed that it comes up in many traditional songs...Spanish Lady (Dublin City), Jug of Punch etc....

I was wondering is this a 'made up sound' or could it be a warp of an early Irish term?
Answer by Redwolf / Ard-Banríon na Ráiméise:
To the best of my knowledge, it is just lilting (nonsense syllables used to convey an instrumental feel to a tune), and nothing more. You'll find a lot of "toor a loora," true, but you'll also find a lot of "what fol the diddle" and "da row de da diddly da diddly da dum."


toohep said...

Correction: Bing Crosby won the Oscar for best actor in Going My Way.

toohep said...

Correction: Bing Crosby won the Oscar for best actor in Going My Way.