Getting Into the St. Patrick's Day Spirit Head Butler Jesse Kornbluth has a suggestion on getting into the proper Irish spirit for St. Patrick's Day. He recommends listening to the devotional singer Noirin Ni Riain, who records her haunting chants with the monks of Ireland's Glenstal Abbey.
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Getting Into the St. Patrick's Day Spirit

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Getting Into the St. Patrick's Day Spirit

Getting Into the St. Patrick's Day Spirit

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We go now from the ridiculous to the sublime to close this St. Patrick's Day show. And our cultural concierge, Jesse Kornbluth is with us again. And he's brought us some soaring Irish spirit. Hi there, Jesse.


LYDEN: Happy St. Patrick's Day, she said.

KORNBLUTH: And to you.

LYDEN: What could we be listening to on this fine Irish day?

KORNBLUTH: Well, not the thump of "River Dance," not the sweet sympathy of "Danny Boy," but something much deeper.

LYDEN: Yes. Yes.

KORNBLUTH: The rich Celtic mysticism or Noirin Ni Riain.


KORNBLUTH: Born in Limerick, raised on music, she learned a thousand songs as a kid. And then in 1979 she began to record with the Benedictine monks of Glenstal Abbey. And it's not correct to say she has a career because the monks didn't exactly push the records. I mean they filled orders. And also the nature of what she's doing isn't really so much singing as really about prayer. The CD I'm so crazy about is called "Vox de Nube: Voice from the Cloud." And the idea here is that God is behind the cloud of unknowing but prayer can pierce that cloud and this is music that is so incredibly sincere, so totally holy that it gives you chills to hear it and you actually, you know, believe that this is a woman making deep soul contact.


LYDEN: She has a beautiful voice. It's really striking. It's interesting to think of her with the monks. I mean they must have embraced her. There would have been a time when a woman could never have sung in an abbey like that.

KORNBLUTH: Well, the thing is, it's not performance, it's really an offering. And she has actually a PhD in theology. She, you know, sings for the Dalai Lama. She's learned to play harmonium and she's learned Indian songs. She appears really at peace gatherings and you know, she's never going to fill Carnegie Hall because she's never going to play Carnegie Hall.

LYDEN: Now you mentioned her PhD in theology. Could you talk a little bit about a philosophy that she is proposing?

KORNBLUTH: At the University of Limerick, she wrote about theosony, which is a theology that's really about deep listening to spirit. I mean it's the sort of thing you sometimes would read about in the work of say, the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh. It's about really becoming one with what is heard. And what is heard here is the sincere desire for union with God.

LYDEN: So a theology of listening?

KORNBLUTH: A theology of listening and then, you know, it's also there's this style of Irish singing, which is extremely unadorned because it's the sincerity that pierces the veil between this world and the next. And so, you know, I think the reason why I get all gooey and, you know, the hair on my neck goes up and I get all teary when I hear her music is it's holy at a level that's beyond holy music.


LYDEN: Who is she singing with here?

KORNBLUTH: She's singing with the monks. But, you know, you have to remember this is not - I don't want to make her sound humorless of the thing we'll hear in a moment says I'd like to give a lake of beer to God. I'd love for the heavenly host to be tippling there for all eternity. I mean, not exactly stuffy. So there's, I think, also what you Jacki would know as a kind of vibrant Irish quality.

LYDEN: I think it's - look it's St. Patrick's Day, we have to have something fun.

KORNBLUTH: So yes, this is probably, I think, today she would be drinking green beer and serving God green beer.


I'd like to give a lake of beer to God. I'd love the heavenly host to be tippling there for all eternity. I'd love the men of heaven to live with me, to dance and sing. I'd like the people of heaven to gather from all the parishes around. I'd give a special welcome to the women, the three Mary's of great renown. I'd sit with the men, the women of God, there by the lake of beer. We'd be drinking good health forever. And every drop would be a prayer.

LYDEN: She's so inclusive and welcoming. It's a perfect spirit for today, isn't it?

KORNBLUTH: Well she'd like to buy the world a Coke.

LYDEN: You know I was thinking that. No, a beer Jesse, a beer. She'd like to buy the world a beer. I was thinking that it's about inclusion and not penance. And that's a new interpretation, I think of gospel in Ireland.

KORNBLUTH: Right. There's no politics. There's no violence. There's no poverty. There's no immigration. It's just, you know, you and your Lord.

LYDEN: Right. So it's a delightful discovery. Thank you so much for bringing her our way.

KORNBLUTH: A total pleasure.

LYDEN: The singer is Noirin Ni Riain and her album is called "Vox de Nube." Our head butler is, of course, the only and only Jesse Kornbluth. You can see more of his recommendations at his web site, Jesse, thanks for joining us and a happy St. Patty's Day to you Jesse.

KORNBLUTH: A great pleasure. Thank you.


LYDEN: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. A happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone here at home and in Ireland.

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