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Music Review: Celtic Woman
by Bridget Haggerty

Captivating and compelling, Celtic Woman is a celebration of lilting Irish voices and masterful playing on the fiddle and harp. But the title may be a bit misleading. What we have here is the debut recording of the five-member collective who call themselves Celtic Woman. It doesn't mean the music is Celtic. Mind you, it's all good, but it's more new age than old Irish.

Recorded live in front of a Dublin audience last year, the polished performance is a dream come true for Sharon Browne, Managing Director of Celtic Collections - one of Ireland's most successful independent record labels.

Brilliantly guided by the talents of David Downes, musical director, conductor, composer, arranger, and former musical director of Riverdance, the group is superbly supported by the Irish Film Orchestra, Aontas Choral Group, and a host of talented musicians, including percussionists Ray Fean and Robbie Casserly.

The unique voices and styles of each of the women are spotlighted as soloists and also blended beautifully in lovely ensemble numbers. Classics include The Last Rose of Summer but it's rendered as an all too brief haunting intro; She Moved Through The Fair and Danny Boy are also here - but with all of the less-often played Irish music available, one has to wonder why these somewhat hackneyed tunes were chosen. In our humble opinion, we think the production could have been much truer to its Irish roots - and its name - if the creators had included more traditional fare like Siuil A Run - the kind of material that inspired the Irish triad: "The merciful word, the singing word, and the good word. May the power of these three holy things be in Erin for evermore!"

All of that said, we thoroughly enjoyed listening to the CD. As long as your expectations are confined to mostly contemporary tunes, you won't be disappointed. Each of the women is extremely talented and the overall production is excellent. We also think that seeing the group in concert might make a huge difference to our opinion. We understand that the group is also going to be touring in the US during 2005 and it's expected that the 90-minute show will bring audiences cheering to their feet, just as they did at the Helix Centre in Dublin.

We saw the show on public TV and it does make a difference!

It's fund-raising time on Public Broadcasting in the United States, but it was well worth the interruptions to see this performance. Now, we can't wait to order th DVD - the show was that good. We would also love to see it live, but we're in Cincinnati and, as of right now, the closest it will be playing is Peoria.

In the meantime, we'll have to be content with playing the CD and waiting for the DVD to arrive, because the difference goes beyond watching the performers - there are tunes on the DVD that aren't on the CD, including Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, My Lagan Love, Somewhere, and others.

Overall, seeing the show doesn't change our original opinion that this is more new age than old Irish, but we are proud of these talented women from Ireland and we think they will become a huge success.

We also hope there will be a sequel to Celtic Woman.

Celtic Woman

Celtic Woman

Visit their web site: Celtic Woman Show.

Link to relevant article: The Singing Word.


Fri, Nov 3, 2017

The Round Towers

The Round Towers of Ireland are remarkable among the world's ancient monuments; one author has called them 'Elegant, free-standing pencils of stone.' Today, 65 survive in part or whole. Hand-crafted in native stone and cemented with a sand, lime, horsehair and oxblood mortar - a technique imported from Roman Britain - it's said by many historians that they were built by monastic communities to thwart Viking invaders. And yet, there's reason to believe that the towers were built long before Christianity came to Ireland. Whatever their origins, monasteries did indeed flourish where the round towers existed. And why not. These imposing edifices provided a watch tower, a keep and a refuge.
Image: By kind permission of Stephen Cassidy, The Cassidy Clan.

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