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March 8, 2011

Mother Machree

By Phil Klein

Among the very most favorite songs of Irish singers (especially tenors) is the 1910 song, Mother Machree. It, like many other popular songs, was written for a theatrical production; in this case, one with the title: Barry of Baltimore. This is a type of song that allowed a wide range of emotions which (today) might be termed maudlinness. This is not meant to detract from its sincerity. (Cynics were fewer in the earlier years.


                                Mother Machree                                              

"There's a spot in my heart that no colleen may own"

(The first line in the greatest of Irish MOTHER songs!)

It must be stated at the start that a large share of popular "Irish" songs were in fact American popular songs of their era.   Mixed into the repertory of "Irish music" were, of course, ample numbers of authentic Irish songs, which originated in the British Isles.

Mother Machree involved two songwriters, whose names are frequently noted among the great American-Irish songs: Chauncey Olcott and Ernest K. Ball.   (Mother Machree's lyrics were written by a woman, Rida Johnson Young.)


I first heard this song vocalized by my own dear mother, who had an endless repertoire of the old songs.   She did it well, (although she was French-American.)   I was a little boy, and she passed her songs on to me.   I owe her!


Many years passed before I learned that "Machree" was not Mother's proper name.   Rather, it is a term which means "dearest."    I think it's important that listeners realize this, because it gives the last line, "Oh, God bless you and keep you, Mother Machree even more emotional impact.                                 


This song was written in 1910 for the show, Barry of Baltimore , and the featured soloist was the great Irish tenor, John McCormack.   It is a favorite of Irish tenors everywhere...good ones and  (unfortunately) bad ones.

The last statement makes an important point, which invites the analogy, "Never judge a book by its cover."

Listen to this beautiful song as you view its lyrics, (first verse only.)

Mother Machree


There's a spot in my heart which no colleen may own!

There's a depth in my soul never sounded or known.

There's a place in my mem'ry, my life, that you fill,

No other can take it, no one ever will!

Sure, I love the dear silver that shines in your hair,

And the brow that's all furrowed and wrinkled with care.

I kiss the dear fingers, so toil-worn for me,

Oh, God bless you, and keep you, Mother Machree!

(Scroll down; hit start button and go back to lyrics!

Authors Bio:
I have spent a long and interesting life involved in music, as a performer (piano,) educator (at every level from elementary to graduate school,) solo pianist, bandleader, composer/songwriter; entertainer, storyteller and humorist.

In my final position as a teacher, I taught functional keyboard harmony at Onondaga Community College at Syracuse, N.Y. I earned a B.S. in music education at the Crane Department of music at SUNY Potsdam and a M.S. in music education at Ithaca College.

I also had the honor of serving as president of the New York School Music Association. After retiring from music education I have performed extensively, presenting musical programs which featured stories about the great standards, coupled with performance. These performances were facilitated by my having a repertoire of over 3,000 songs, coupled with extensive knowledge of their origins, which included many humorous stories.

In the last decade, I have worked with a songwriting partner, Maria DeAngelis, a vocalist who provided lyrics and performances of our tunes. We succeeded in having many of our songs used both in movies and network television as background music.

As a bandleader, I was involved in playing with my group for over 1,500 wedding receptions. Because of this extensive experience, I was motivated to write a book WEDDING RECEPTION SECRETS, which provided much valuable and "inside" information (from the viewpoint of a bandleader) for couples who were planning their wedding. Along the way, I composed music for a syndicated children's TV series.
I was the first of four children, born to my Mom and Dad in Saranac Lake, N.Y. Both of my parents, although untrained, had wonderful musical ears. I and my siblings inherited their musical sensitivities.

One can see from the foregoing that I had ample opportunities to enjoy music from several vantage points. I am 83 years old and happy to say that I continue to be very active. I attribute much of my good health to my interest in information in the area of healthy living and care. For the past fifteen years, I have undergone EDTA chelation therapy. I believe my longevity is related to that.

In addition to the foregoing, I must add my deep concern with today's course of events in the world. I've always been interested in politics and what factors are responsible for what is happening in the world.

I sense, with deep sadness, a degradation of manners, morals and public awareness. My gut feeling is that television has been misused, and become a device that Aldous Huxley would have given a prominent role in his BRAVE NEW WORLD.

I have many favorite quotations, but the one that is most profound, in my opinion, is one by Albert Einstein: "WITH THE SPLITTING OF THE ATOM, EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED EXCEPT OUR WAY OF THINKING." *

* In the summer of 1944, I was boatboy at a private consortium of six summer homes on Lower Saranac Lake (The Knollwood.) The occupant of Cottage 6 was Albert Einstein.
I saw him several times over the course of that summer. To me (in retrospect) that was an awesome experience!

Phil Klein