Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gushing like a little fangirl

My sister first heard of the Celtic Woman three years ago, and caught the January showing of the Celtic Woman concert on our local PBS station. We caught and recorded much of the concert again the next go-round. I was elated when I discovered that Celtic Woman was releasing two new albums. I learned of the fact when I searched the group on Wikipedia, after reading an article written by Michelle Malkin on Free Republic about about the rise and fall of an artist named Charlotte Church. (Hint: She used to be a good singer. She went slutty.)

I hoped that I would be able to retain the Celtic Woman as a gift, but I knew it was not a good idea to give a Christmas music CD to someone for Christmas, as it is just like giving someone a ticket to an exhibit that was ending that very day. So it was an early gift.

We bought the Celtic Woman: A New Journey CD on the day of its release. And I just now compiled and submitted my review to about the group. I haven't written any reviews for a while, but music can often inspire people to write, and I wanted to advertise their music on Amazon if at all possible. (As if they needed it.)

Well, I probably came off like a gushing fanboy, but I swear I'm not. It's just that I can appreciate good looks and great music when it comes along.

So anyway, here's what I wrote. In the possible event that Amazon filters out all those neat (and accurate) accents that I included, they should all be intact here.

Celtic Woman is back in a refreshing new album, rivaling, if not surpassing, their previous work. Once again, recurring themes of nature, destiny, history, heritage and love are infused with Celtic melodies to make this music timeless and classic. And don’t discount the fantastic arrangement by David Downes. His genius is clearly exhibited in the orchestral and choral background for the songs, as well as song selection.

Describing this music is a hopeless task; if the words were sufficient, we wouldn’t need the music. But I’ll try.

1. The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun:
Begins with the lush, evocative strains of mystery and exotic nostalgia as only Celtic styles can weave. The music is enriched as the five vocals (Chloë, Órla, Lisa, Méav and newcomer Hayley) join their voices into a spectacular blossoming melody of morning and dawn, of newness and awakening.

In a musical interlude, the wondrous violinist Máiréad takes charge with her rapturous performance. To listen to her is not enough. To fully understand her talent (indeed, the talent of the entire group) you have to buy the DVD or catch a viewing on PBS. Máiréad is a fleet-footed fairy similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s character Tinuviel. She dances and darts about the stage, bounding from one end to the other, flinging her flaxen hair to and fro, kicking up her heels. All the while she is playing, her hands moving almost faster than the human eye can follow, sawing the bow across the strings, eliciting fast-paced melodies beyond the scope of human imagination. There is almost a devilish glint of innocent mischief in her eyes and smile as she dances.

In short, the first song is the perfect opening track to reintroduce us to the Celtic Woman reverie.

2. The Prayer
A song that fits its name; a simple prayer for guidance and aid. Chloë’s voice has clearly matured since the previous album.

3. Newgrange
As with “Harry’s Game” from the previous album, the mystical, foreboding songs are entrusted to Órla’s voice, the deepest of the group. In this case, the song is of a secret place filled with the memory of heroic kings and druids.

4. Over The Rainbow
The classic song is given a unique “a cappella” interpretation by all of the vocals sans Lisa. I’ve never been particularly fond of the piece, but the group does an excellent, almost lullaby-like rendition of the song, worth repeating.

5. Granuaile's Dance
A solo performance by Máiréad that is half traditional Irish music, half lively dancing music.

6. The Blessing
Solo by Lisa, a soft, simple song of love and devotion, blessings imparted to one’s significant other.

7. Dúlaman
A song dominated by percussion and something we haven’t heard much of before, male-dominant background vocals and even a brief male solo. Otherwise, the song is a solo by Méav in Gaelic. The translation has something to do with Irish seaweed and courtship. Don’t expect to make much sense of it; just sit back and enjoy.

8. Beyond The Sea
A far more ethereal rendition of the song frequently appearing in movies such as Finding Nemo or Apollo 13. Possibly the best version I’ve yet heard, speaking to future love and rest from one’s weary travels.

9. The Last Rose of Summer
Hayley’s first solo, this is Thomas Moore’s poem set to music. The arrangement is more operatic and classical than Celtic.

10. Caledonia
One of the top three on the CD. It is another solo from Lisa, and there is just something about this song you just can’t put your finger on. It is filled with warmth, love and romance, and the higher calling of “Caledonia” (the romanticized name for Scotland).

11. Laschia Ch'io Pianga
Another operatic solo from Hayley, the song is somewhat repetitive and the melody is monotonous. (Blame Handel.) Probably one of the more uninteresting tracks. It does not even correspond to the sadness that the translated lyrics suggest. It’s still good, just not phenomenal.

12. Carrickfergus
A quiet ballad from Órla (accompanying herself on the harp), a nostalgic song of bygone days in the Irish town of Carrickfergus.

13. Vivaldi's Rain
Another very classical piece sung by Chloë. The song is translated as a prayer to the Lord for guidance, but this time because the singer has fallen in love.

14. The Voice
One of the most hauntingly beautiful, fast-paced tracks of the CD, “The Voice” speaks to the past of Ireland. Transcending time, “the voice” is of nature, of history, of both past, present and future, with all the sadness and glories of both. Hence, the song is both promising and melancholy. With the mournful violin and the harsh percussion mixed with Lisa’s crystal clear voice, there’s no denying this is one of the top songs of the album.

15. Scarborough Fair
A decidedly unhappy song, it is the third solo exceptionally performed by Hayley. She has clearly earned her place in the group. The song is abbreviated from the original, which is a woebegone tale of sundered lovers.

16. Mo Ghile Mear
“Now the time has come to leave / Keep the flame and still believe / Know that love will shine through darkness / One bright star to light the wave.”

An excellent closing song performed by the entire group, consisting of both English and Gaelic lyrics, a song of happy farewell much resembling “The Soft Goodbye” from the previous album.

In closing, let me just say, there’s a reason this group has spent more than a year on the top of the world record charts. Their music transcends individual styles. The arrangements are appealing. In the performers, talent is manifested in celestial voices and radiant countenance. You’re out of excuses. Buy the album. Or the deluxe. Still further, buy the DVD.

The review required a few consultations of a good thesaurus, I admit it. And I had to abbreviate one or two things to make the "1,000 words or less" requirement. But I think this accurately sums up the high quality of the music, and perhaps will inspire you, the reader, to check out the music. And if you think about it, hop over to Amazon and give me a "helpful" vote.

** A note on pronunciation**

Ya never know with these Irish names, and I found a video clip that included the pronunciations from the gals themselves. Méav is pronounced "Mave" like "Dave" with an M. Máiréad is pronounced "Maraid" with the "raid" pronounced like "maid" with an R. The M is barely pronounced, so it's more like "M'raid." Chloë, Órla and Lisa ought to be easy enough.


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