Van Morrison’s 50 Greatest Songs Countdown – #14 Tir na nog

We were standing in the kingdom
And by the mansion gate
We stood enraptured by the silence
As the birds sang their heavenly song
In Tir Na Nog

TOC

  1. Facts
  2. Quotes
  3. Lyrics
  4. Live versions

Facts


Wikipedia:

From the album No Guru, No Method, No Teacher released in July 1986.

In Irish mythology Tír na nÓg ([tʲiːɾʲ n̪ˠə ˈn̪ˠoːɡ]; Land of the Young) or Tír na hÓige (Land of Youth) is one of the names for the Celtic Otherworld, or perhaps for a part of it. Tír na nÓg is best known from the tale of Oisín and Niamh.

Musicians (on album)

  • Van Morrison – guitar, harmonica, vocals
  • Teressa “Terry” Adams – cello, string section leader on “Tir Na Nog”
  • June Boyce – backing vocals
  • Richie Buckley – tenor and soprano saxophones
  • Nadine Cox – harp on “Tir Na Nog”
  • Martin Drover – trumpet
  • Joseph Edelberg – violin
  • David Hayes – bass
  • Rosie Hunter – backing vocalist
  • Jef Labes – piano, synthesizer, string arrangement on “Tir Na Nog”
  • Chris Michie – guitar
  • John Platania – guitar
  • Rebecca Sebring – viola
  • John Tenney – violin
  • Babatunde Lea (credited as Baba Trunde) – drum

Live:

  • Known Performances: 24
  • First performance: July 6, 1986 in Toronto, Canada
  • Last performance: October 28, 2012 in Sligo, Ireland

Quotes

If you placed Astral Weeks and Veedon Fleece in a blender this is what the outcome might sound like. A testament to the track’s prowess is that you feel a 7+ minute song has ended way too soon. The subject matter refers to Irish mythology about the otherworlds – a place devoid of illness. Tir Na Nog contains plenty of biblical imagery but, again, it doesn’t grate, it just sounds enticing. There is still the connection to Wordsworth and the power of nature, a recurring Morrison theme. The musicians have a real sympathy for Morrison’s vision. Special praise has to be given to Jeff Labes. He plays the piano and synth on the album but is also credited for the string arrangement on this song. The strings are simply magnificent on Tir Na Nog. One appealing aspect of them is the way they react after a line of Morrison vocal. Sometimes they are executed in a gorgeous sweeping manner, but the next, almost playful. My favourite example is when Van refers to a storm and the strings react by echoing a sound similar to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. I’m also fond of the part where Van describes being carried up to the sky in a chariot and the strings are played as if they are doing the lifting – though the strings could have been even more dominant at this specific moment. The harp is also featured on the song and seems perfectly at home, there is no unnecessary filling of quiet spaces in various passages of the song just for the sake of it.
–> Mark Holmes (Van Morrison 20 Best Albums: A Guide)

The second side of the album begins with “Tir Na Nog,” another track full of imagery, mysticism and mystery. It speaks of reincarnation, spirituality and destiny, the strings reflecting Morrison’s voice, as he creates a sense of yearning, of wanting to stay forever young. ‘Tir Na Nog’ is the Irish mythological ‘land of the young’.
–> Alan Ewart (soundofsummer.org)

“Tir Na Nog’ is the Irish mythological land of eternal youth, another kind of garden. Through love, one recaptures the child within. There is another echo of Astral Weeks, the line about “you kissed mine eyes”, along with a soulful cello. A strange song which gets odder the closer you look at it, with all kinds of faiths and mythologies packed in. It is like one of those pilgrimages that Seamus Heaney write about in ‘Station Island’, climbing a mountain on one’s knees.
–> Brian Hinton (Celtic Crossroads – The Art of Van Morrison )

Thankfully, “Tir Na Nog” – named for the realm of everlasting youth and beauty in Irish folklore – extends that state of grace for a further seven minutes. With its “Ballerina”-style string arrangement, it’s another moment that risks paling next to Morrison’s greatest triumphs, but actually deserves a similar degree of veneration.
–> Jason Anderson (The Ultimate Music Guide – Van Morrison)

‘In the Garden’ is one of several songs on No Guru containing allusions to Blake and the Bible, as well as harking back to the kind of glistening imagery employed on Astral Weeks. But this is no pastiche. The image of this creature consumed with rapture, entering a ‘childlike vision [that] became so fine’ until they ‘felt the presence of the youth of Eternal summers’, is entirely original. Likewise ‘Tir Na Nog’ (apparently a legendary Irish land of eternal youth), finds this pair of lovers ‘standing in the garden wet with rain’ before, a song’s end, we are returned to ‘Astral Weeks’, as ‘many many many times you kissed mine eyes/In Tir Na Nog?
The grand themes of Morrison’s canon here coalesced again into a sustainable whole. Whether he was depicting days when he used to gaze out/my classroom window and dream/and then go home and listen to Ray sing “I believe to my soul” after school’; or the warm feeling that ‘filled me with religion’ in her presence; or alluding to a world that seems like glamour… through your rose-coloured glasses”; this was an artist broaching a broad sweep of perennial preoccupations and carrying it off.
–> Clinton Heylin (Can You Feel the Silence?: Van Morrison: A New Biography)

Lyrics

We were standing in the kingdom
And by the mansion gate
We stood enraptured by the silence
As the birds sang their heavenly song
In Tir Na Nog

We stopped in the church of Ireland
And prayed to our father
And climbed up the mountainside
With fire in our hearts
And we walked all the way to Tir Na Nog

I said with my eyes
That I recognized your chin
It was my long lost friend
To help me from another lifetime
We took each others hands
And cried like a river when we said hello
And we walked to Tir Na Nog

We made a big connection
On a golden autumn day
We were standing in the garden wet with rain
And our souls were young again
In Tir Na Nog

And outside the storm was raging
Outside Jerusalem
We drove in our chariots of fire
Following the big sun in the west
Going up, going up, to
Tir Na Nog

You came into my life
And you filled me and you filled me
Oh so joyous
By the clear cool crystal streams
Where the roads were quiet and still
And we walked all the way
To Tir Na Nog

How can we not be attached
After all we’re only human
The only way then is to never come back
Except I wouldn’t want that would you
If we weren’t together again
In Tir Na Nog

We’ve been together before
In a different incarnation
And we loved each other then as well
And we sat down in contemplation
Many many many times you kissed mine eyes
In Tir Na Nog

Live versions

September 28, 1986 – Rotterdam, The Netherlands

November 19, 1986 – Bristol, England

September 18, 1987 – Loughborough, England

Sources

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