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Celtic Christmas
Emma Christian (vocal, celtic harp), Arthur Cormack (vocal), Colin McAllister (vocal, bodhran), Julie Murphy (vocal), Robin Huw Bowen (welsh triple harp), Pete Cooper (fiddle, viola), Steafan Hannigan (irish pipes, bodhran, flute), Ceri Rhys Matthews (welsh and breton bagpipes, cittern, chanter), Dougie Pincock (scottish highland pipes, scottish small pipes, bodhran), Dave Townsend (concertina, accordion, vocal).
rec. Valley Recordings, Littleton-on-Severn, November 1995/March 1996
SAYDISC CD-SDL 417 [73:41]

Experience Classicsonline


Calennig [2:31]
Taladh Chriosda (Christ Child’s Lullaby) [4:08]
The Wren Hornpipe / The Christmas Eve / Winter Apples [4:45]
Oikan Ayns Bethlehem (Baby in Bethlehem) [4:07]
Hunting the Wren [5:11]
The King
Can Hela’r Dryw (Hunting the Wren)
Shelg Y Drean (Hunting the Wren)
The Wren-Boys of Dun /The Wren Boys: Song
Kanomp Nouel (Sing, Nowell) [3:24]
Dublin Tune [2:43]
Mari Lwyd: Can y Far! Lwyd / Cariad Cywir (Processional Tune) [4:01]
Da Day Dawns / Christmas Day i da Moarnin/ Papa Stour Sword Dance [4:10]
The Tree of Life [2:49]
Carval ny drogh vraane (Carval on base women) [4:14]
The Gower Wassail [3:51]
Plygain’ Wei dyma’r borau gorau i gyd [3:50]
Arise and Hail the Glorious Star [4:49]
The Seven Rejoices of Mary [7:38]
Ffarwel Gwyr Aberffraw (The Farewell of the Men of Aberffraw) [4:06]
Leanabh an aigh (Blessed Child) [2:05]
Highland Pipe Medley: Ho! Fill Your Glass/We’re No’
Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’ / Happy We’ve Been a’thegither/Highland Whisky/The Christmas Carousal/If I’d Get A Dram I’d Take It
[3:44]

 

This disc draws together music for the winter season from Celtic parts of the British Isles (Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man) and from Brittany. The choice focuses on the three elements of wassailing traditions, religious customs and rituals, and seasonal merry-making. The group – comprising specialists within their particular musical fields – have carefully chosen voices and instruments appropriate to each song and its place of origin. The opening Calennig from Gwynedd - Calennig being a New Year’s Day custom of receiving money or food in return for going round singing verses at doors - is accompanied by the Welsh triple Harp. The ensuing hymn Taladh Chriosda - from the Isle of Barra in Western Isles of Scotland - is sung to the drone of the Scottish Highland Pipes. The third track, a set of jaunty Irish tunes, features the Irish Pipes and fiddle. These are followed by an extremely haunting song Oikan Ayns Bethlehem (Baby in Bethlehem) from the Isle of Man. The fifth track uses songs from Pembrokeshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, the Isle of Man and Ireland, all of which describe the same tradition of catching a wren on St Stephen’s Day. It’s fascinating to hear different takes on the same custom. Other pieces featured include a Breton Noel song and dance and traditional Christmas songs from Ireland - the singer putting a very strong and laboured emphasis on the rhythm. There’s also a Welsh processional tune describing the Twelfth Night ceremony of decorating a horse’s skull and taking it from house to house (this track - Mari Lwyd – is slightly dreary). There are Scottish sword-dances, verses from a sixteenth century Cornish Mystery Play, a Manx Carval (long religious poem sung on Christmas Eve), a Welsh wassail – again, just slightly tedious and a Welsh Plygain (the tradition of carol-singing during the Christmas Day service). I was interested by Leanabh an aigh, a Scottish hymn that was translated into English as the familiar “Child in a Manager”. The melody will also be well-known to listeners as Morning Has Broken - yet it is an original Scottish hymn tune by the name of Bunessan. The other very familiar work here is the Cornish carol Arise and Hail the Glorious Star, which the group performs riotously, making a pleasingly lively contrast to the preceding tracks. The disc concludes with a “medley” of Highland Pipe tunes. In general, the performances are good, and there is variety in the melodies – yet I found it just slightly hard-going – not quite enough light, joy and delight in both music and performance.

Em Marshall
 

 

 

 

 

 


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