Four well known trad bands on the scene- All Folk’d Up, The Whistlin’ Donkeys, Ruaile Buaile and The Tumbling Paddies- have teamed up for an Irish trad version of the Christmas favourite, Do They Know it’s Christmas? Almost 40 years after it was first recorded.
It is nearly 40 years since the million selling charity song Do they know it’s Christmas was recorded and topped the charts to combat starvation in Africa.
Written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, the recording brought together many of the world’s biggest stars to benefit the Band Aid charity.
Now four of the leading bands on the Irish folk circuit have come together under the name of Folk Aid to release the song as an Irish trad version of the 1984 number one.
All Folk’d Up, The Whistlin’ Donkeys, Ruaile Buaile and The Tumbling Paddies recently came together in a studio in Slane.
Decked out in Christmas attire; the multi-instrumentalists sang and played along with fiddles, whistles, accordion, and banjos as they laid down the emotional track to help support the Concern charity from the streaming proceeds. The song leads with vocals from Fergal McAloon (Whistlin’ Donkeys), Gareth Maguire (The Tumbling Paddies), Shane Lynam (Ruaile Buaile) & Pauric Mohan (All Folk’d Up).
Fergal McAloon, lead singer of The Whistlin’ Donkeys, told The Irish World: “It’s for people less fortunate.
“If you listen to the words of the song, that says it all.
“I suppose we take it all for granted so much but you just have to take a few minutes and think about those just so much less fortunate than ourselves.
“As I say, all you have to do is listen to the words of that song.
“It puts you in that place, it just lets you know you’re very fortunate to be where you are and there are so many people that are not blessed with the same fortune as ourselves.”
Lead singer from All Folk’d Up, Pauric Mohan, whose brainchild the idea was, came up with the idea during a session the bands had after a festival they were playing at this summer.
Pauric said: “We all started talking about Christmas and each band’s plans for the festive season and one of the lads in the group started playing jingle bells on the whistle and suddenly everyone, like all good sessions, joined in.
“At that moment, one of the festival crew couldn’t resist shouting, ‘Do you know it’s July, not Christmas?’ Little did they know that comment would become the catalyst for recording this timeless classic. With the unwavering support of our twenty talented musicians, we decided to come together in November to record both the session and the song. If we all felt the magic, we pledged to share it with the world.”
Gareth Maguire from The Tumbling Paddies said: “Adding our folk sound to this iconic song was fantastic! Also joining forces with the lads from the other 3 bands was mighty! We all had great craic together recording the song and it’s great to be doing it for a worthy cause like Concern. We hope that people can get behind our efforts to raise as much as possible this December.”
Fergal continues: “We rarely get together to perform in sessions anymore, always criss-crossing past each other across the country with our own gigs. Coming together this summer really sparked the idea for a Christmas recording session. This song was not only the perfect chance for us all to hang out together, but hearing our voices blended on the track convinced us that this would be the perfect release in support of a highly commendable cause like Concern.
“It was Pauric’s idea and when he phoned me about it, I actually thought it was a nice idea but with a lot of moving parts I suppose.
“But I thought about it then.
“I thought it seemed like a natural idea to do it. An obvious thing to try, I suppose.
“But it was Pauric’s brain child, he has to take the credit for that.”
You were familiar with the original song, of course..
“I do have memories of it playing when I was younger definitely.
“It would always have been playing in our house at Christmas, it always would have been on.”
Was it fun to get together all together in the studio for it?
Fergal said: “I have to say it was great because, as I heard one of the other lads saying as well, we meet each other at filling stations and stuff through the years on the way back and forward from gigs and maybe sometimes we’ll be on the same line up for a gig but you’re really only meeting each other on the stage or getting on or off the stage.
“Meeting here or there is about the height of it, so it was nice to go spend a day in the studio with the lads and I have to say that the recording part of it was just a brilliant day’s craic, really enjoyed it.
“It was a whole new experience being there with other singers and other vocalists and musicians and stuff.”
Shane Lynam from Tullamore based Ruaile Buaile commented: “We recorded our version of the song in November in a studio in Slane and to us it felt like Christmas day! It was an amazing experience to be in the studio with the other bands, there was a great atmosphere and camaraderie with the musicians that day. We know it’s a collective effort to raise funds for a very worthwhile charity with this rendition and we are delighted with the outcome.”
But was it strange to be talking – and singing- about Christmas in November? “It is, it’s hard to get the vibe for Christmas when you go into the studio,” Fergal says.
“Some of them might have Christmas jumpers on them and stuff, but it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
“But that goes away once you start singing the song to be honest.
“For me it did anyway.
“I have to say once you start singing the song and you’re listening to the words and stuff like that, I suppose it sort of brings you to that time and that place.”
You say you don’t see each other that much but there are close links between the bands..
“There is,” Fergal says.
“My brother used to play in Pauric’s band so I would always have known him over the years, and then the Tumbling Paddies lads, we would have sort of run about in the same circles years ago and we would have always been bumping into each other. They don’t live too far from us so we always would have met them at sessions.
“Some of the boys play a bit of trad and would have bumped into them at Fleadhs and stuff, so we all would have known each other.
“We met Ruaile Buaile at various festivals, we would have known them over the years.
“The first time we actually met them was at a festival in Germany, we had to go to Germany to meet the likes of them.
“We’d probably be a close enough circle at the same time but because we’re all doing our own thing at weekends, we would rarely ever get the chance to come together.”
The Irish World caught up with Fergal on the very day that Shane MacGowan was buried last week.
It seems wrong to talk about Christmas songs and- especially today- not mention Shane McGowan.
He was a big inspiration, wasn’t he?
Fergal said: “Shane was a massive inspiration for us.
“I went to see she Shane MacGowan playing with the Popes, I think it was one of the very first concerts I was ever, ever at.
“I was only about 14 or 15 up in the Limelight in Belfast.
“I was just I was awestruck.
“I just couldn’t believe the way he had the control, the attention he was getting in the room and how much people were just hanging on everything he did, sang and said.
“The Pogues would always be playing in our house.
“I had older brothers and they would have always been playing the Pogues and stuff at home whenever I was younger, you know?”
There probably were no bigger inspirations for you than the Pogues, were there?
“Not really, no,” Fergal says.
“I’m a big Christy Moore fan, I would have seen him a lot at concerts over the years, but those two and obviously the Dubliners, Luke Kelly and the lads too.
“For me, that’s it.
“Some other lads in my band would have other inspirations and stuff too, but that’s basically where mine all came from.
“I’m not sure I’d be here today if I hadn’t grown up listening to that stuff.”
Is it something you could do again, even become an annual thing that you get together and do a charity single?
“We probably could, aye,” Fergal says.
“I don’t know how many other Christmas singles you could do but it’s definitely something I would be up for doing again, even throughout the year or maybe once a year at different times and picking different songs. I would definitely be up for it. I really enjoyed working with all the boys and getting together and just doing something different.
“It was a real breath of fresh air.
“If it was something we could make work again, definitely.
“I’m sure the other lads would be the same, would be up for it as well.
“It’s nice to give a wee bit back or do what we can when we can.”
Do they know it’s Christmas? by Folk Aid is out now and available to stream and download.