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CD: Crotchet

Toss the Feathers
Music for Irish soloists and orchestra arranged by Dermot Crehan and Paul Honey
Craith Na Cleita (Toss The Feathers); Lough Erne’s Shore; The Drunken Gauger; Tabhair Domh Do Laimh (Give Me Your Hand); Lenney’s Reel; The Wild Geese; The Lark in the Morning/The Cliffs of Moher; Were You at the Rock?; The Rose in the Heather/The Pipe on the Hob; The Enchanted Valley; Montague Mason’s; The Death of Staker Wallace
Dermot Crehan (violin); Paul Honey (piano); Mick Sands (voice); Luke Daniels (button accordion); Fiona Kelly (flutes); Jean Kelly (harp)
RTE Concert Orchestra/Gearoid Grant
rec. July 2007, RTE Studio, Dublin. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

This sequence of arrangements by Crehan and Honey has the Irish-Celtic voice speaking over and through a yielding and responsive orchestral fabric. Most of the tracks are instrumental – just a handful with the sharkskin satin roughness of the voice of Mick Sands. The dominant presence is the ‘speaking’ violin of Dermot Crehan with its gamut of affect and passion. Flutes, accordion and harp are there, right enough, but tactfully supportive and not getting into Crehan’s limelight.
The arrangements are tasteful, soft focus overall but not lacking in a gutsy bass emphasis for the orchestral signature. You can hear the punch in the orchestral sound in the title track and in the Herrmann-like Atlantic threat of Lenney’s Reel (tr. 5). The arrangements are no strangers to the slurring curvature, the lilt and swoon of the violin line which veers into the dewy melancholy of the instrumental writing in Ken Burns’ Civil War epic, the Ashokan Lament and Chieftains’ heart-stopping Women of Ireland. You can hear this in Tabhair Domh Do Laimh and in many of the other tracks.
As a single piece this may not be as striking as Granuaile; then again there is no real narrative just a confident, emotive and well weighted sequence of arrangements. Where would be without moist-eyed sentimentality in such music? It’s there to be heard in The Wild Geese with its tender loving-kindness. There the emotionalism works like a dream. Only one  track seems to fall flat and that is The Rose in the Heather where there is clearly moonshine in the mash and the mix but it’s just repetitive and lacking in intrinsic magnetism. OK, it’s a bit Riverdance at times but there is no harm in that; none whatsoever. Indeed a number of the instrumentalists here have been part of the Riverdance band.
I detect other influences or at least similarities which may also help some of you ‘place’ the music – the classical voices of the British-Irish composer Patrick Hadley in his Symphonic-Ballad The Trees So High, RVW’s The Lark Ascending and along the Field and the work of French composer and folksong arranger, Joseph Canteloube.
The premiere was given at St Martin-In-The-Fields and has been repeated there and at the Maidstone Proms In The Park and at a concert for the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund at the Royal Opera House.
The final elegiac track, The Death of Staker Wallace,  serves to show the well-placed confidence of the arranger-composers. It ends on a breathing down-beat as the horns gently bell and toll into silence. If we think of a pastoral lark it’s an Irish one with a blessing in its wing-beat.
Rob Barnett


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