It’s not easy to escape musical immersion when you’ve lived in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, for 40 years. It’s even more difficult when two of your siblings, Christy and Barry Moore (Luka Bloom), are household names in Irish music. But Anne Rynne has only recently started to perform.
“Both my parents were fantastic singers,” she says. “My dad died when we were very young, but I remember him singing in the car going to visit granny. My mother, Nancy, had a beautiful soprano voice. She was the keeper of music in our house, and encouraged us all.”
One might imagine that Anne was reared in a traditional-music household, because of Christy’s repertoire of folk songs and ballads. But that wasn’t the case. “Mammy was very big into musicals, like ‘Mikado’, ‘Oklahoma’, and ‘South Pacific’. We’d sing at the top of our voices. Then, I was into the Beatles, as a teenager. I adored them, and still do.”
Anne took piano lessons when she was young, but gave up music as she grew. She married at 19 and had five children. Whenever she was called on to sing, she would “die with nerves about performing”.
But she had one moment in the spotlight, 30 years ago. Christy asked his three sisters, Eilish, Terry, and Anne, to do backing vocals on the album, Unfinished Revolution. He also invited them to perform for a week with him in the National Concert Hall.
“I will never forget the fright of walking out the first night on that stage. By the time the last night came, I was loving it,” she says.
Yet, Anne “got on with life”, until six years ago. Her son, Davog, asked her to learn a few songs, and come and sing with his song circle, near Lyon, France. She did. Next up was Luka, who moved to Co. Clare about five years ago.
“I was talking to him about being nervous performing, and he gave me great advice. ‘Remove yourself personally from the song, and just deliver your message’. That was the catalyst for me. I got over myself with that sentence.”
If Luka provided the inspiration, he also provided the instrument. “One day, I said to him on the phone, ‘I fancy being a funky granny. I’m going to buy a ukulele and learn to play it.’ There was dead silence on the other end of the phone,” she laughs. The next time Luka called to the house, he gave her a guitar.
“I am not giving you this. I am loaning you this for the next 50 years, on the condition that you play it every day,” he said to her. “I did and I do,” she says. “It has utterly changed my life.” She was 65-years-old.
Her friend, Doutsen Roelofs, became her teacher. “We did a barter. I’d bring dinner once a week, and we’d have a guitar lesson. I found it very hard, at the beginning, but I really wanted to do it. It was time for the plunge,” she says.
The album was Luka’s idea. The emphasis was on Anne and the guitar, with “no frills or flounces”, and Luka performed harmony on a few tracks.
“I was trying to be really blasé, at 68 years of age. It was only when I was sitting in the studio, in front of the microphone, that I nearly had a meltdown. I was thrilled and terrified”.
Afterwards, she sat in the car, listening to it for about three hours, crying and laughing.
“I couldn’t believe the sound of my voice.”
The self-titled album was launched at Doolin Folk Festival in 2016, and includes songs from Neil Young and Tom Waits. Clare woman Catherine Talty, who died last year at the age of 100, gave her the song, ‘The Hills of Coore’, which was written in 1941.
Anne’s musical influences include Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, and Liam Clancy. She’s also been inspired by Christy and Luka, but it had never previously occurred to her that performing was something she should be doing. People have expectations of her, because of them. “They have this notion that I was dreaming about it all my life. I wasn’t. I’m a late bloomer.”
With singer/songwriters Claire Watts and Shona Blake, Anne performs as 3 Women Sing. She has done solo house gigs in Cork, and performed with Luka last year in Derry and in Newbridge. This summer, she’ll play in Ballydehob, and next month she’ll travel to the Sunflower Club, in Belfast.
“It’s the first folk club Luka ever played and I’ll start with his song, ‘Be Still Now’. I always do, as it calms me down. It’s a beautiful song.”
Anne says music has the ability to comfort people, to heal, and to help people escape whatever they are experiencing in life. “I have a son who’s seriously ill, and I find that music and songs help me to cope. I like nothing better than sitting by his bed and singing for him. I think he likes it, too. It’s like a meditation.”
So are the nerves gone? “No, but they’re under control.”
Before a song night in Dublin recently, Christy asked her a question, but didn’t understand her answer. “Don’t mind me”, she said. “I’m not making sense. I’m just a little bit nervous before I go on”.
He whispered to her, “Just say ‘Nancy [their late mother], where are you? Will you come up and sing a few songs with me tonight?’ Anne now does that all the time. “It’s beautiful. I can almost feel her arm around my shoulder.”
Personally, as well as musically, her brothers have had a huge influence on her, and she’s very proud of them. Luka, she says, has been so kind and generous. She loves Christy’s handle on life, and his passion for justice and fairness.
Husband Davoc Rynne, a tin whistle player, has been hugely supportive, as have her sisters and her Cork-based estate agent brother, Andy. “The whole family have been very encouraging. My children can’t quite believe what I am doing, and I can’t believe it, either!”
Occasionally, Anne puts up a post on her Facebook page, encouraging others. “I know three women who’ve bought guitars and who are now playing. It’s about sharing your experience,” she says.
A reluctant starter, she’s now fully submerged in musical waters. “There’s safety at my age,” she laughs. It sounds like there’s no need for a life buoy.