"Song for the Mira" | The Canadian Encyclopedia


"Song for the Mira"

“Song for the Mira” is a contemporary folk song in the Celtic style, written in 1973 by Allister MacGillivray. Its lyrics speak of a longing for, and eventual return to, the serenity of the Mira River region of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Brought to international attention by Anne Murray and covered more than 300 times, the song has become a standard in the Celtic repertoire and something of an anthem in Nova Scotia.

Recordings and Translations

“Song for the Mira” has been recorded more than 300 times and has been translated into Scots Gaelic, Italian, French, Dutch, Mi'kmaq and Japanese. The song, published by Cabot Trail Music, was sung by John Allan Cameron on his 1976 album Weddings, Wakes & Other Things (repackaged as Song For the Mira, Glencoe GMI-003). In 1979, “Song for the Mira” was the title piece of a folio of MacGillivray songs issued by New Dawn Enterprises of Sydney. A version released in 1980 by the Garrison Brothers on the LP Songs and Stories (Boot BOS-7214) proved to be the definitive interpretation locally, establishing the measured quality that has made the song something of an anthem in Nova Scotia.

The song has been sung widely in Ireland, Great Britain, Australia and the United States, and, as arranged by Stuart Calvert for the Elmer Iseler Choral Series (Thompson 1985), by more than 800 choirs internationally. (A Dutch version of the Calvert arrangement is titled “Toch moet er een uitweg bestaan.”)

Recordings by Brendan Grace and Brendan Shine were hits in Ireland in 1983. Versions have been released by several other Irish singers including Phil Coulter, Foster & Allen, Daniel O’Donnell, Celtic Thunder, Tommy Makem, Mary O'Hara, and Frank Patterson.

Choral recordings have been made by the British Columbia Boys Choir, Canadian Orpheus Male Choir, Cantabile Chorale, Centennial Choir of Cornwall, Chor Leoni Men's Chorus, Gerald Fagan Singers, Men of the Deeps, Men of Note, and the Toronto Children's Chorus.

Other Canadian artists and groups that have recorded MacGillivray’s "Song for the Mira" include Denny Doherty, The Tenors (formerly The Canadian Tenors), Matthew Byrne, Clary Croft, Terry Kelly, the flute and harp duo Jubal's Daughters, John McDermott, the group McGinty, Matt Minglewood, and Anne Murray, who first brought the song to attention outside Canada.

Selected Discography

  • The Hottest Night of the Year. Anne Murray. 1982. Capitol ST 12225
  • The 1983 Juno Awards Collection. 1983. Radio Canada International RCI 571/WRC1-3107
  • The Men of the Deeps III. Men of the Deeps. 1983. Waterloo Music WR4-8026
  • On the Move. Terry Kelly. 1984. Gun Records TKP 8391/WRC1-3710
  • Reminiscing. Foster and Allen. 1987. Quality Special Products RSP 134
  • The Star Princess and the Waterlilies. Toronto Children's Chorus. 1987. Toronto Children's Chorus TCCD004/WRC4-5505
  • Cantabile Sings MacGillivray's "Away from the Roll of the Sea." Cantabile Chorale. 1988. Cantabile Chorale WRC4-5962
  • Live at Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. Clary Croft. 1991. Telltale Productions 007
  • Atlantic Favourites. McGinty. 1993. Rocky Coast Music RCMI-5
  • Spirit. British Columbia Boys Choir. 1998. British Columbia Boys Choir BCBC-00198
  • Sweet Melodies. Centennial Choir of Cornwall. 1998. Centennial Choir of Cornwall CCC1098CS
  • Canadian Safari. Chor Leoni Men's Chorus. 1998. Skylark 9801
  • Songs Abroad. Gerald Fagan Singers. 1998? Gerald Fagan Singers WRC8-7251
  • Song for the Mira. Various artists. 1999? Sea-Cape Music SCMCS-002
  • Dancing Doll. Jubal's Daughters. 2000? Jubal's Daughters JDCD-2000-1
  • A Day to Myself. John McDermott. 2001. EMI Music Canada 7 2435 29332 2 8/A Time to Remember. (2002). Angel 7243 5 36565 2 2
  • Let All Men Sing! Men of Note. 2001. Men of Note dbs-737
  • Kaleidoscope. Canadian Orpheus Male Choir. 2004? Crescendo Records CRES CD 9031