She Moves Through the Fair: Hazel O’Connor″

This comes from O’Connor’s 1995 album, Private Wars, which was only released in Germany. The album  is apparently quite difficult to get hold of now, but fortunately the song also features on the 2003 anthology, A Singular Collection (less fortunately, A Singular Collection is also out of print and seems to have risen in price since I acquired my copy).

Hazel O’Connor is an actress, a singer, a musician and a songwriter. She first came to prominence in the 1980 film “Breaking Glass”, which she starred in and also wrote and performed all the music for. Although labelled with a ‘post-punk’ tag, she has recorded music in a variety of styles. The album Private Wars is often described as being a return to her Irish roots (she was born in Coventry, England, but her father was from Galway, Ireland).

Her version of “She Moves Through the Fair” is an unusually muscular one. It features drums quite heavily, but also fiddles and, I think, tin whistles; all traditional instruments, but there is a ‘rock’ feel to the energy with which they are played. O’Connor’s voice is strong and high in the mix. This is no airy fairy atmospheric evocation of Olde Ireland!

O’Connor sings all four verses of the modern version. She is quite close to Colum’s original words, for all that she sings “mother/father” and “dead love”.

In addition to the noted variations, O’Connor also sings “move here and move there” (as opposed to “go”) in verse 2. In verse 3, she sings “And I watched as she went with her goods and her gear”. Verse 4 runs:

I dreamt it last night that my dead love came in
So softly she moved that her feet made no din
She came close beside me and this she did say
“It will not be long love ’til our wedding day”

O’Connor then repeats the last line and we are left with a lengthy instrumental playout.

All in all, this is a wonderfully entertaining version. It isn’t played as an atmospheric ballad like may of the other versions; it isn’t trying to be overtly traditional, nor does it have a classical leaning. It stands in a class of its own.

I’m very fond of this version; I would never have discovered it if I hadn’t started this project.

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