Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Kiss: Ae Fond Kiss

Seamus Kennedy: Ae Fond Kiss


Eddi Reader: Ae Fond Kiss


Karen Matheson (with The Duhks and Bryan Sutton): Ae Fond Kiss


Ae Fond Kiss began life as a poem by Robert Burns. From 1787 to 1791, Burns had an affair with the actress Agnes McLehose, (Nancy in the song). McLehose was separated from her husband at the time, so she and Burns corresponded under the names Sylvander and Clarinda to avoid a scandal. Accounts differ as to whether the affair went beyond the exchange of letters. We do know, however, that McLehose decided in 1791 to try to reconcile with her husband, and the exchange of letters stopped. Soon enough, Burns would marry someone else. Ae Fond Kiss was written as part of the last letter he sent to his Clarinda.

The melody is traditional, and I was unable to find out who originally paired the two. But the song has become a classic of Celtic folk. There are many Scottish versions, of course, but the song has also made its way to Ireland and beyond. Seamus Kennedy works in the United States primarily these days, but he is originally from Ireland, and he gives a fine example of an Irish treatment of the song. Eddi Reader first sang Ae Fond Kiss with the group Fairground Attraction, but I am presenting her solo version here because she restores the original lyrics. Karen Matheson’s all-star version comes from Hands Across the Water, an album which raised money to help the children of tsunami victims in 2005.

I would like to close with a little survey if I may. I can imagine doing a theme, here or on my own blog, of poems that someone other than the original poet set to music. My first question is for my fellow Star Makers: would anyone be interested in doing this? And, to our readers: would you be interested in this theme? I think it would be a challenging one to put together, so my last question is for everybody: can you suggest songs for this? Comments, please.

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