New Emma Langford release inspired by women of Irish folklore
Emma Langford’s new publication Abigail (Tomhas Ghobnatan) is the first story of her voyage of discovery after two years of studying the women who populate Ireland’s history and folklore. Photo: Ruth Medjer
Described by Gobnait as a “non-holy prayer”, Emma Langford’s new publication is a celebration of the virtues she represents for the artist
The song, due to be released on all platforms this Friday February 3, combines age-old traditions surrounding the ancient saint or goddess Gobnait, encountered in the wilderness of Ballyvourney, with Langford’s own modern interpretation of her.
Emma was supported by Music Network’s inaugural RESONATE residency in 2021, during which she spent time developing work and performing at the Ionad Cultúrtha an Dochtúir Ó Loinsigh in Ballyvourney in Muskerry’s Cork Gaeltacht, creating a musical suite dedicated to local history and tradition – This new version is part of this suite, which will be released in full later this year.
After the two-year voyage, Langford’s first release of these works – recorded by an outstanding all-female cast at the world-famous Grouse Lodge, which has seen artists like Muse and Shirley Bassey before her – takes its name from the tradition known as “Tomhas Ghobnatan”. or “Gobnaits Maß” in English.
“You can’t visit Ballyvourney without following in the footsteps of so many others: across the bridge over the River Súlán, up the hill to Gobnait’s Well, Gobnait’s Tree and Gobnait’s Monastery – it’s a truly beautiful, spiritual experience,” The Limerick Songwriter said .
Although not particularly associated with organized religion, the singer-songwriter was fascinated by the frequency of the saint’s appearances in the countryside. She learned that Gobnait is the patron saint of bees and blacksmithing, and was credited with many miracles protecting Ballyvourney from attack and disease.
Gobnait is the Irish translation of the Hebrew name Abigail, and Langford chose to include it in the song’s title to make the track more accessible to non-Irish speakers, but did not remove the Irish language entirely, saying “it became over in the Gaeltacht.” created a woman who made her home there, she would have spoken the language.”
Worshipers of the saint who visit Ballyvourney on 11 February for Gobnait Day refer to the ribbon as Tomhas Ghobnatan because they measure it along the length, around the feet and around the neck of a medieval wooden statue of the saint. They then take their blessed ribbon to Gobnait’s tree and place it there as an offering, give it to a person in need of healing, or attach it to their own rearview mirror for safety.
Upon hearing about the tradition, the musician said she thought of a person’s “measure”:
“How we judge each other; how women in Ireland have historically been judged and punished on the basis of criteria set by people claiming to be good and righteous; and how if we lived life right there would be more room for redemption, openness, forgiveness, kindness. Gobnait is an abomination to the ingrained cruelty experienced by so many in this land.”
Emma Langford’s new release has been described as a “non-sacred prayer” to the saint or goddess and a celebration of the virtues she represents for the artist.
The song plays out as a love song, a song of adoration for the people in the artist’s life who embody those qualities.
“I was inspired by the stories of Gobnait, the local devotion to her and the idea of Gobnait’s Measure to write this love song style track for a woman who embodies the virtues of kindness, healing and forgiveness. The listener can ignore any religious context if they wish, for this is truly a love song in the traditional sense.”
The track features Hannah Nic Gearailt, a collaborator on the song, at the piano. Also featured are longtime bandmates Lucia Mac Partlin on violin and Clare Martyn on drums, newcomer Heather Nash on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Ailbhe Dunne on bass. It was recorded, mixed and produced by Alex Borwick of Grouse Lodge.
Learn more about Emma Langford.