An Evening with Kieran Goss: Reasons to Stay
In August, 2003, Jim and I made our first trip to Ireland. My family heritage is Scots-Irish-English, but it wasn’t family history that compelled me to nag Jim relentlessly to find time away from the business to spend a week in Ireland: It was the music. I grew up with folk music, and so much of it is rooted in the Celtic tradition. I wanted to go where I could hear live music with Celtic instrumentation (traditional and contemporary) and to visit some of the places I’ve heard about in simple, tuneful, unforgettable Irish songs.
On our second visit we returned to the breathtaking Dingle Peninsula, which captivated us on our all-too-short stay in 2003. I stopped by the Dingle Record Shop to pick up some CDs and asked about any live pub sessions that evening, and I was delighted to learn that a well-respected Irish singer-songwriter, one Kieran Goss, would be playing an informal session in a church building undergoing renovation. Kieran was looking for audience feedback on songs he was considering for an upcoming CD that would be recorded in the U.S.
So at dusk we found our way to St. James Church, and I got my first listen to Kieran’s wonderful songs. On that memorable night in Dingle Town, he sang “Reasons to Leave,” the song that made me an instant fan of both his compositions and his talent as a performer.
Over the years I have played “Reasons to Leave” again and again, and I still find it remarkable that the song’s opening four-line stanza so perfectly sums up why I feel the way I do about Ireland:
Ireland’s a dream
Of hope for what the day will bring.
The land and the sea
Is what I’ve come to trust.
And yet the context in which Kieran wrote this emotional gem is so different from mine: I am drawn to Ireland as a visitor; I come to this rejuvenating land and sea to slow down the pace of my world, to visit with wonderful Irish friends, and to bring myself back to the pure love of photography. But Kieran writes about the soul-wrenching dilemma that so many generations of Irish citizens have faced in deciding whether to eek out a living in their beguiling country during impossible economic times or to leave their home and family in search of a better future.
Loving Ireland the way I do, it’s enormously sad to contemplate having to face such a devastating decision. When I’m searching online for videos of Irish musicians, I read the comments of Irish expatriates in Australia, the UK, Canada, America and elsewhere, who forthrightly express their longing for home; many say they are not quite sure where they belong, and the music is a healing bridge to their past.
In discussing the genesis of “Reasons,” Kieran explained that some of his 15 siblings made the hard decision to immigrate, and he writes about the emotional conflict of their urging him to do the same, in the face of his compulsion to remain in Ireland:
All that I am
Is telling me I should not go.
And all that I know
Is they’re telling me I must.
At the heart of this soulful song, Kieran sums up his dilemma in terms of reasons to leave and reasons to stay:
Reasons to leave
Are money and finding better work.
Reasons to stay
Are music and love.
Reasons to leave
Are fortune and fame for what it’s worth.
The reason to stay
Is heaven on earth.
Kieran’s decision to stay in Ireland has led to a solid career, with devoted fans like me all around the world. I visit his website often in hopes that I can catch a concert, either in Ireland or at home. You can sample some of Kieran’s music at this link on iTunes. If you love James Taylor, I bet you will love Kieran Goss. But first, watch his “Reasons to Leave” video below. To me it is a treasured reminder of a magical evening that was very nearly heaven on earth.
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