Máire Brennan, “She Moved Through the Fair” (1992)
Máire Ní Bhraonáin, better known as Máire Brennan or Moya Brennan, is an Irish folk singer. A founder member of Clannad, she now performs solo under the name Moya Brennan (‘Moya’ is a phonetic spelling of the correct pronunciation of ‘Máire’).
This atmospheric, a capella version of “She Moves Through the Fair” appeared on the B-side of Brennan’s 1992 single, “Against the Wind”. She sings the modern version, all 4 verses of it. She does not follow Colum’s words exactly, but she is closer than many, not least because her love is not explicitly dead in the last verse.
Black, an Irish singer known for interpreting both traditional and contemporary material, sings the alternate/traditional lyrics here. It is a beautiful rendition, using traditional instruments, with Black’s natural vocals to the fore.
The only information I have about this recording was that it was made in 1984 at Windmill Studios. It does not seem to have been released on any other Mary Black album.
Margaret Barry, “She Moved Through the Fair” (1958?). Short version first, long second.
Barry, a member of the Irish travelling community, is on record saying that she learnt the song (a modern version featuring an adaptation of Colum’s words) from recordings of McCormack and MacEwan. The interview featuring this statement is included on I Sang Through the Fairs. Barry herself influenced a number of later singers, notably Anne Briggs. It may be that Barry initialised the flood of female singers tackling the song, which is, after all, narrated by a male character.
These versions are field recordings, made by Alan Lomax, folklorist and collector of folk music. As such, they are fairly basic – just Barry and her banjo – but her raw, powerful voice is affecting nonetheless. She was a street singer in Ireland and London; she later spent time in America. A short biography can be found here.
I Sang Through the Fairs contains two versions of “She Moved Through the Fair”. As might be expected, the long version contains all four verses and the shorter one (subtitled “Our Wedding Day”) only three (verse 3 – the one with the sorrow that ne’er was told – is omitted). In the shorter version, Barry clearly sings ‘he’, but I think that she retainsthe traditional ‘she’ in the longer version.
Barry has been accused of introducing the dead love in the final verse, but as both John MacCormack and Sydney McEwan use those words, that modification cannot be hers. Similarly, she cannot be credited fot the alteration of a dream to a physical prescence in the last verse, as MacEwan is, in this context, no dreamer.