I came across this video yesterday, and it had a curious effect on me: I cried.
The video was produced at Coláiste Lurgan, which is one of several summer schools in Ireland established to teach high school students Gaelic. (Astute readers can see where I’m heading with this.) The song itself is by Avicii, a Swedish DJ/remixer/producer, and apparently Lurgan developed a habit a couple of summers ago of doing Gaelic covers of popular songs.
This one has gone viral, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s infectious even if you don’t know the background, and the professionalism of the production is impressive. Frankly, I found it more appealing than the original.
You might reasonably suppose that it brought tears to my eyes because of my recent dismissal from GHP, but that is not entirely the case. It would have brought tears to my eyes anyway, just as each summer’s group of GHPers make me weepy the entire last week.
Here’s why: the video is an exceptionally pure example of the white-hot intensity of that kind of experience. These young people have bonded over that life-changing experience; they are a tribe in the best sense of the word. They are extremely talented—remember, this video was produced at a summer camp—and you can see the joy and commitment they bring to the project.
And I at least cannot escape the sad underlying truth that this kind of thing is so very, very impermanent. Part of the sadness stems from their youth: everything is intense, so beautiful (and let’s admit it: the lead singer is gorgeous), and it will not last. We old folk know that, and kids who live through a GHP learn it too, painfully.
Full admission: there is a small number of songs that make me cry for exactly the same reasons. Each summer, the RAs have dances for the kids on Saturday nights, and each summer they select a “last song.” It’s usually a power anthem with a rousing, heart-rending chorus, and it closes out the dance. It also becomes a symbol for the entire experience, and whenever it plays, 700 kids (and me) get misty-eyed. My lovely first wife and I were dancing at a wedding reception last fall when the DJ played one of those songs, and I just had to keep dancing with Pavlovian tears streaming down my face.
Perhaps my loss of GHP made it even more painful to grok this video than it might have been otherwise, but I don’t think so. I’ve been mourning its loss for years, right along with each generation of kids. Go raibh maith agat, daoine óga!