Toss the Feathers
All traditional tunes, arranged by Paul Honey & Dermot Crehan
Craith Na Cleita
Lough Erne's Shore
The Drunken Gauger
Tabhair Domh Do Laimh
Lenney's Reel
The Wild Geese
The Lark In The Morning/The Cliffs Of Moher
Were You AtThe 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), Luke Daniels (Button Accordion), Mick Sands (voice), Fiona Kelly (flute, whistles), Jean Kelly (harp), RTE Concert Orchestra/Gearoid Grant
rec. July 2007, RTE Studio 1, Dublin

This disc of Irish folk tunes arranged for traditional solo instruments and orchestra by Dermot Crehan and Paul Honey is given an exhilarating opening with the eponymous Toss the Feathers. The folk-songs have been arranged with Einaudi-like piano accompaniment, enhanced bass lines and soaring backing strings. The resulting sound is rather like one of those ultra-accessible contemporary compositions so beloved of Classic FM. Such orchestration is very effective in the opening, purely instrumental, track, but I felt that it rather detracts from Mick Sands’s appropriately characterful voice in the ensuing Lough Erne’s Shore. Even the violin solo in the Drunken Gauger (played excellently by Dermot Crehan himself) loses something, I feel, to the surrounding orchestral backing. The gentle Tabhair Domh Do Laimh (Give me your Hand) comes across as quite new-agey, but nevertheless works fairly well, and the following Lenney’s Reel is also excellent. It opens with jagged strings that swiftly build up tension and an undercurrent of menace, leading to a dramatic moment when the solo violin finally enters with the reel. The rendition here of The wild geese is atmospheric, and The Lark in the Morning/The Cliffs of Moher (the only other item featuring voice) is radiantly performed, while The rose in the heather is one of the more exciting tracks, with slightly jazzy inflections, resulting in quite a snazzy number that certainly blurs the boundaries between art-forms – great fun!

I found the audible breathing in the penultimate track Montague Mason’s (especially at the end) a little distracting – other listeners may feel, however, that it adds to the authenticity of the performances and recording.

The disc concludes with The Death of Staker Wallace, with its haunting violin line, and atmospheric harp (played by Jean Kelly) alternating with button accordion (Luke Daniels) contributing to the traditional element of the piece.

Altogether I found this a rather mixed disc – some of the orchestrations work very well indeed, whilst at other times I found that they detracted, and would really rather have heard the original folk tunes performed traditionally and without the extra trappings that are wont to obscure the beauty of the simple melodies. All the works, however, are well performed by the soloists and the RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Gearoid Grant. This is, at the very least, a pleasant and entertaining listen although more detailed notes than the few very basic pages we are presented with here would be desirable!

Em Marshall

A rather mixed disc – some of the orchestrations work very well but others detracted. A pleasant and entertaining listen.