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Photo: Dragana Jurisic


Reimagining traditional sean nós laments: Ceara Conway

5 min read

Reimagining traditional sean nós laments: Ceara Conway

5 min read


Reimagining traditional sean nós laments: Ceara Conway

Known for her unique use of traditional song and lament in contemporary art, vocalist/artist Ceara Conway has released a new song, ‘Anach Cuain’, from her forthcoming album.

Collaborating with producer Seán Mac Erlaine (clarinet, electronics), musicians Kevin Murphy (cello), Ultan O’Brien (viola/fiddle) of Slow Moving Clouds, and Francesco Turrisi (piano), Ceara’s debut album, ‘Caoin’, is a collection of sean nós songs with contemporary musical arrangements.

Set for release on 31st March, ‘Caoin’, which was commissioned by Creative Ireland and Galway County Council, explores the beautiful sounds and sentiments of longing and loss found in traditional praise songs and lullabies, with a core emphasis on the traditional Irish ‘caoineadh’, or lament.

A renowned contemporary singer and visual artist, Ceara Conway creates experiential performance works that utilise traditional and contemporary songs, music and visual art to explore social issues such as the ecological crisis, migration and feminist concerns. Ceara has shown and performed work internationally and in Ireland, including at the Katzen Arts Centre, Washington; the Barbican, UK; Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Irish Museum of Modern Art; The National Gallery of Ireland and many more.

Ahead of the release, Ceara has shared the second single from the album, ‘Anach Cuain’, with an evocative accompanying film by Laura Sheeran.

Anach Cuain - Ceara Conway

Open Video

Ceara explains the story behind the song:

“On Thursday, 4 September 1828, 20 people travelling to Galway on the Caisleán Nua were drowned when a sheep put its foot through the floor of the boat. This tragedy later became the subject of the famous lament, Eanach Dhúin, also known now as Anach Cuain. Composed by the famous blind Irish poet, Antoine Ó Raifteiri.”

See below for an Irish and English sample of Ó Raifteiri’s poignant 1828 lyrics:

Má fhaighimse sláinte is fad-a bheas trácht ar

an mhéid a báthadh as Anach Cuan.

Mo thrua amárach gach athair is máthair

Bean is páiste atá ag sileadh súl.

A Rí na ngrásta, a cheap neamh is Párthas,

nár bheag an tábhacht dúinn beirt ná triúr?

Ach lá chomh breá leis gan gaoth gan báisteach

is lán an bháid acu a scuabadh ar shiúil.


If I am spared, I’ll be long telling                                                                                                                                

Of the number drowned out of Annaghdown.

My pity tomorrow for the fathers and mothers,

Women and children who are weeping.

Oh King of graces, who created heaven and paradise,

Oh God, two or three would have been bad enough –

But such a fine day, without wind or rain,

To sweep away a whole boat-full!

Ceara Conway

Photo: Dragana Jurisic

 ‘Anach Cuain’ is one of nine sean-nós songs that form Ceara’s forthcoming debut album ‘Caoin’. Speaking of the album, Ceara noted:

 “‘Caoin’ was born out of my love for singing Irish traditional sean nós songs that have melodies and narratives expressing feelings of loss, longing, and the sensibility of the ‘cry.’ Within ‘Caoin’ you will hear laments (caointe) alongside praise songs, love songs, and lullabies. I have a grá (a love) for singing songs from all over the world but singing sean nós holds a special place in my heart for many reasons such as my Connemara roots, my love for the Irish language, and the pure visceral experience of singing melodic ornamented lines and notes. Most of all I love singing sean nós songs for the resonance that I experience when singing them, the emotions they express feel timeless and universal.”

Ceara has gained recognition for her singing in traditional repertoires across cultures from Irish traditional sean nós, to Portuguese, Arabic and African song, and Gregorian Chant. The essence of her music is its unique hybridity, a merging of her love and respect for tradition coupled with her interest in new styles, genres and contemporary music.

The world premiere performance of ‘Caoin’ by Ceara Conway: A glór Commission, will take place at Glór Theatre, Ennis, Co.Clare, Friday 8th April 2022

For details and tickets, visit gló

Find out more about Ceara Conway at


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