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Eileen Monger: The Lilting Banshee: Traditional Airs & Dances for Celtic Harp
TRADITIONAL

King of the Fairies/The Lilting Banshee [4:19]
Poll Ha penny/Pains of boyle/Cnoc na gClarach Slides [4:46]
O South Wind/Great High Wind [4:50]
The Wild Geese [4:13]
Bonny Portmore [2:07]
The Morning Dew/The Ivy Leaf [2:34]
TRADITIONAL and Rory Dall O’CATHAIN

Limerick’s Lamentation/Give Me Your Hand [3:42]
TRADITIONAL

The Drunken Sailor [2:24]
Neil GOW and Dougie MACLEAN

Neil Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife/Farewell to Craigie Dhu [4:37]
TRADITIONAL

Kerry Polkas [3:00]
Fingal’s Cave [3:03]
Morris Tunes: Orange in Bloom (Sherborne)/Step Back (Field Town)/Idbury Hill (Bledington) [3:54]
Howard JONES (b. 1955)

Hide and Seek [4:21]
Eileen Monger (Celtic harp)
Mike Billinge (bodhran)
Jenny McLeod (Uilleann pipes and whistles)
George Monger (hammer dulcimer)
rec. The Meeting House, Frenchay, Bristol, UK, dates undisclosed. DDD
SAYDISC CD-SDL 348 [47:56]

 

The Celtic harp, or folk harp, is one of those traditional instruments that has been used to great effect since, at least, the medieval period. When in an ensemble setting with pipes, whistles, dulcimers, and drums this instrument can easily transport one back in time to the Ireland or Scotland of a bygone era. This seems to be the intent here. Eileen Monger claims in the liner-notes that the harp is non-traditional in a number of respects, and that the techniques employed here are not the same as those mentioned in historic texts. That said, the pieces selected are nearly all traditional, and the instruments complement the works in their historical context.

The overall recording quality is quite good, especially as this is a reissue of a recording from 1985. The music tends toward the ethereal, with the metal-stringed harp being allowed to ring for most of the performances. This provides a nice accompaniment for the wind players when they are present. Even though this is not, strictly speaking, the "historically proper" means of performance, it makes good musical sense. The only place where it would have been better suited to damp more would have been on track 6, "The Morning Dew/The Ivy Leaf", where the reverb employed, along with the fast runs in the harp, produce a very muddied recording.

It is also worth noting that the final track on the album, "Hide and Seek", is a Howard Jones song rather than a traditional Irish or Scottish air or dance. It holds up rather nicely under the treatment by harp, pipes, and dulcimer. Were one not to know the song already, it might easily have been accepted as a four hundred year old work for harp and pipes. It is definitely an enjoyable track.

In fact, with the exception of the track 6, the album consists exclusively of well recorded and enjoyably performed tracks. Generally speaking, the only fans of folk music who wouldn’t like this album would be the serious musicologist wanting a period recreation of a sound to the best of historical knowledge. The album is overall a solid collection of performances, worth the time to listen for any fans of folk harp or Celtic music in general.

Patrick Gary




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