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.