Celtic Voices is a collection of songs by four women singers - Mary McLaughlin,
Connie Dover, Mairéid Sullivan and Emma Christian - brought out by
Narada records, a label known for its sumptuous
celtic music samplers.
Like those samplers, this album presents a modern, highly-produced and accessible side of celtic music, with modern innovations, but still keeping a distinctive traditional-influenced style. All the tracks are reissues or remixes of original recordings which were brought out on small labels with limited distribution, and with the exception of Connie Dover, none of these singers has had major exposure up until now.
Born in Omagh, in Northern Ireland, McLaughlin learned the Irish language and singing in Donegal, before moving to London, where she now lives. She has played with Martin Simpson, and Stéafán Hannigan and now sings solo.
This is a beautiful combination of Yundah, an Hebridean chant learned by Mary from Frankie Armstrong, and Sealwoman, a song she wrote herself about the selkies - mythological creatures which can change from the form of a seal to that of a woman. Above the repetitive chorus of Yundah, her voice soars out in a rich wave of sound, reminiscent of Enya's singing style.
Bring the Peace
You Saw His Eyes
Both of these songs are self-penned, with multi-tracked vocals and full instrumental accompaniment. Both are good showcases for her voice, and owe little to traditional origins apart from the instrumentation.
Hailing from Kansas City, Connie Dover is well known in America as the singer with celtic band Scartaglen (featured on Narada's Celtic Odyssey), as well as from her two solo albums.
This is without a doubt my favourite song from her. At six minutes, it is the longest piece on the album and has an impact to match. Based on latin plainsong, this piece crosses from Latin to Irish and English, chronicling the birth and death of Jesus from the view of his mother Mary. Phil Cunningham provides a sensitive accompaniment on keyboards and tin whistle.
The Wishing Well
This is a slow piece by Dover, giving rein to her slow, expressive singing. To be honest, it's a bit too nasal and ponderous for my liking, but I know of many who find this the best aspect of her singing.
In Aimsir Bhaint an Fhéir
This traditional Irish tunes livens up the pace, with Dover bouncing through the song, backed by an all-star band playing a suspiciously Capercaillie-like backing. (blame that on Manus Lunny who provides bouzouki).
Siúil a Rúin
This song has haunted me ever since I first heard it on Clannad's Dulamán, and it still does throught this quite different treatment. It has Dover's trademark nasal voice wrapping itself around a lament for an absent lover.
This Australian, and now Californian-based singer was born near Bantry, Ireland and spent her teens in San Francisco before moving down under. Despite her peregrenations, her singing maintains much of the Cork style on the two traditional songs here as well as her own composition Colour Me.
A modern song, with little sign of the traditional style, it still gives good reign to her voice.
She Moved Through the Fair
Sullivan brings a ghostly aura to this popular traditional song mourning the death of the writer's bethrothed. The lyrics are by Padraig Colum, familiar to generations of Irish schoolchildren, and Donal Lunny's hand is evident in the arrangement.
Another traditional song, in a quite traditional style
The Isle of Man is a small island of 70,000 inhabitants, between England and Ireland. It has it's own celtic language and music style. Singer, harpist and recorder player, Emma Christian the the best known exponent of the Manx style of music. She learned harping from Charles Guard, (the previous best-known Manx musician) and sings in the Manx language. She divides her time between touring and performing, and studying the role of the medieval church in Man and the Western Isles for her doctorate. She released the album Beneath the Twilight in 1994 and I believe another one is in the works.
Ushag Veg Ruy/Little Red Bird
This Manx lullaby shows off Christian's crystal clear voice, backed by her own simple accompaniment on harp
Oikan Anys Bethlehem/Birth in Bethlehem
A Manx religious poem (carval) set to a traditional melody. A slow song, with synthesizer background brings this less to a New Age sound than to a quietly religious atmosphere.
O Kirree, Thou Wilt Leave Me
She plays this short traditional piece on recorder, in the style of a fife.
Arrane Oie Vie/The Goodnight Song
The album closes with this lullaby, used in Manx gatherings to show the guests to the door and close up for the night.
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