Angelo Dornan was an incredible singer whose leisurely, highly ornamented style stands side by side with the best of Ireland’s traditional
singers. His music is all the more impressive considering his story. Born in New Brunswick in the late 1800s, he learned most of his songs from his lumberman father while quite young. At the age of 13 or 14, he moved to Alberta to farm and stopped singing for all of his adult life. Still, upon
returning to his old home area in his mid-60s, he recalled 135 songs from his youth for collector Helen Creighton. He sang “Letty Lee” for her reel-to-reel recording machine in 1954.
Letty Lee—like Sheila Nee Iyer, The Cailín Rua and other women pursued in love songs of this type—is wisely cautious of the young man showering her with compliments. In the end, she is charmed enough by his florid language to let down her guard.
In the spring of the year when Flora the hills
The birds in the forest sang sweet in the morn,
The fleet-footed hare that skipped through the corn,
All nature enchanted in every degree.
As she sat by a bush so warm and cozy,
Pulling blue vines and likewise the primrosy,
Said I to myself, “You’re inclined for a posy,
To bring to your lover whoe’er he may be.”
Oh, said I, “Pretty fair maid, the fairest of lasses,
Pray when did you leave that sweet place
Had I but the wealth of the rich ruling classes,
I’d lavish the bulk of my fortune on thee.”
Oh, she said “My young man to me you’re
You may be a saint and you may be a ranger.
I don’t wish to expose myself to any danger,
And the name I go under is young Letty Lee.”
Oh, said I, “Pretty fair maid such talk you
If I am a stranger then you are another.
I pray you give over from such simple bother,
Consent to our marriage that’s plenty for me.”
“Oh, but if I get married your love may prove
You might drink all your earnings and then you’d
And if you should do so, with regret I’d be grieving,
I’ll never take a husband,” said young Letty Lee,
“And if you should do so, with regret I’d be grieving,”
Said this matchless creature called sweet Letty Lee.
“Does the cat like new milk, does the fish love
The birds the forest or the mother her daughter?
The fire that is burning can’t be any hotter,
Than your love for a husband, my sweet Letty Lee.”
Oh, she said, “My young man with your manner
You capture my heart while you baffle my reason,
So here is my hand and I think it no treason,
To marry a young man so well-learned as thee.”
Source: Angelo Dornan of Elgin, New Brunswick
from Spinning Yarns,
released March 17, 2015
Randy Gosa on guitar, Brian Miller on bouzouki, Norah Rendell on vocals, whistle and harmonium
Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Norah Rendell is a consummate musician that specializes in the traditional folk
songs and dance music of Ireland and Canada. Norah was named "Best Vocalist of the Year" by the Live Ireland Awards in 2011 and 2012 and was nominated for "Best Traditional Singer of the Year" by the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2009....more