Story of the Song – Song of Awen

Story of the Song – Song of Awen

I was watching a new documentary on Apple TV+ last night called Becoming You – all about what changes during the first 2000 days of human life. It’s a fabulous show and thoroughly recommended. As they looked at the psychology of growing children one of the things they looked at was childhood obsessions and how, for some time, it looks like the child has found their life-long interest, but then suddenly it’s gone, and they onto the Next Big Thing.

When I found my life-long obsession it never left me. It was music. I fell in love at a very young age and then badgered my parents for a guitar until I got one when I was 8. They were right to hold off. My hands weren’t really big enough to play the guitar, and I found playing the G chord so frustrating that I almost gave up a number of times. But I persevered.

Why am I telling you this?

Sometimes, when we have dreams, we can be paralysed with a fear that they won’t come true. Sometimes it can feel better that the dream remains a dream, rather than trying and failing. I had a dream to make music my job. I’d had that dream all my life, but like many people, I’d fallen into that trap of being happy to just have the dream. When I look back there are two distinct moments when my dream of becoming a professional musician overtook my fear and writing the Song of Awen was the first of the two (I’ll tell the second another time).

It was the first song I wrote specifically for the album that would become Herne’s Apprentice. I had always been a huge fan of John Denver. His lyrics about his love of the natural world made my own heart sing, and I guess with Song of Awen I was trying to somehow emulate that but through the eyes of a Pagan.

What I wanted the lyrics to say was that Deity/Spirit show their form through the wonders of Nature. From the sun on the mountaintop to the song of the wind through trees, the leaping salmon, and the first breath of a new-born child. And with that comes the knowledge, the deep, deep knowledge, that we aren’t separate from Nature, but a part of it. That the same Spirit flows through all life, from the obvious mammals, fish and birds, to the very rocks, stones, and weather, and out into the further Universe.

There is no separation, you are part of me…

The song opened the door to what would be my first album, and was also the very first chords many would hear from this bloke called Damh the Bard. I recorded the album in a tiny room at the front of our house and when it came out there was no real internet, just Pagan magazines. So I sent it for review, holding my breath, and the reviews were very positive, and thus that dreamt-of musical career began to take root. The Song of Awen still has a very dear place in my heart, and hearing an audience join me for ‘your Spirit will fllllyyyyyyy’ is a joy.

I’m very much looking forward to the time I can hear you all sing again!

6 responses to “Story of the Song – Song of Awen”

  1. I loved this song from the first time I heard it – it’s uplifting, inspirational and heartbreaking (in a good way). It will always be a favourite of mine, thank you for sharing it with the world!

  2. About ten years ago, I discovered your music on YouTube and “Song of Awen” was the first tune I heard and though I’ve listened to and purchased virtually EVERY Damh song and enjoyed them all. This is still my favorite. In 2002, I began to study Druidism with a British Druid in Florida, but the instructor (Lady Hawk) wanted me to learn Gaelic first. I found this too difficult and time-consuming and so I joined a Celtic Wiccan coven instead. To this day, I’ve regretted that choice because the pagan beliefs of Neo-Druidism and the Bardic path fits better my lifestyle. Blessed Be the Goddess and Horned God and Thank you, Damh, for being my guide and bringing peace and joy to my wild soul through your music. I’m also a big fan of Omnia and SJ Tucker for the best in pagan music.

  3. Lovely words Dave and Song of Awen was the first of your songs that I really connected with, so much so that I wrote to you for the chords so I could perform if for my then wife Kathy who loved the song too. It’s a brilliant song but until your last home concert I never realised the John Denver connection, despite having performed his songs for 40 years! Now you say it it sounds so obvious! Hoping to see you perform again in person in the new year. Blessed be.

  4. I am soooooo grateful that you allowed yourself to be a conduit to the magic and beauty of Awen. “Caldron Born” is a life changer. “Grimspound” and “Down in the Garden” are prayers. “Sabbat” and “Life and Death of the Corn King” are rockin road trip sing at the top of your lungs songs. Your music has become the soundtrack of my life. There is a DtB inspired song sung at every grove ritual. You are my John Denver. ;-). (Candle lit – warm wishes sent to you and Miss C every day).

  5. I love this song very much. One of my favourites. I, too, have loved the nature appreciation songs of John Denver. I hadn’t realised you loved them too. Now listening again I can hear that! I love singing along with you at concerts. Let’s hope it isn’t long before we can do that again!

  6. Hello Damh, I’m feeling the similar fear and frustration that you must have felt early-on, and this post has been able to put into words exactly why I’m not already playing your songs to anyone seen or unseen who will listen! I hadn’t realised before, but that’s what it is: In my head I “could” relearn the guitar and “could” perhaps sing along eventually, but it’s far safer for that to remain a dream than to try, and either fail or have to work hard at it!

    I learned the piano when I was a child. I wasn’t outstanding but I could play relatively well. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, up to Grade 5. Later, as a teen, I attempted to teach myself the guitar, but of course the lack of an instructor guiding you (and kicking you in the rear when you get lazy) makes progress slow. Then of course, life gets in the way and I sadly haven’t played or sung a note properly on either instrument in just over 20 years.

    I picked up a guitar recently, and although I can still remember the theory of music, my brain is not used to it anymore. It’s slow and rusty. This must be similar to what dementia patents experience in the early stages. I can’t remember how to form the simplest of chords. I sat at a keyboard too, and although I can remember the notes, my brain no longer allows me to play with both hands at the same time. If we add singing into that mix, then the sheer effort of multitasking causes it to reach even headier heights of impossibility!

    Of course, for me, it’s not dementia. So I’ve no excuse. It’s a simple case of “use it or lose it” and I lost it, so will have to expend all that effort over again.

    The mountain to climb is huge.

    In my head I’m still that little kid who can play with both hands, and perhaps even sing a bit at the same time. The reality is now very different, and the sheer effort to get halfway to that modest level, is terrifying.

    It’s safer for it to stay a dream. But your post is crystalising my thoughts and desires, and is perhaps the first baby-step in galvanising me into action.

    I’d love to be at a bushmoot or festival one day, just quietly playing away to myself in the evening, and have someone familiar with your work (including you of course) accidentally stumble across it and join in.

    I first discovered your music at Witchfest (Fairfield Halls, Croydon). It was the very gig that eventually became your “As nature intended” album. I think you’d just released your 3rd album by that point. To say it was life-changing is an understatement. From the opening chords of the first song in your set, you instantly shot to the top spot of my favourite musicians and bands, and I’ve probably listened to something from one of your albums every single day that’s passed since then.

    Moments and events like that are a gift. I’d guess it’s time for me to make sure that gift doesn’t go to waste! I wouldn’t be so daring as to hope to be a professional musician myself, but my goal would simply be to develop sufficient skills to play in front of another human being – or even have someone ask me to play something. In my own way I’d then be helping to share that gift with others.

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