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Lord Gallaway's Delight - An Excellent Collection of Dances & Gaelic Laments
Full track listing below.
Les Witches (Claire Michon (soprano/tenor/alto flute, bamboo flute, three-holed flute, psalterium), Freddy Eichelberger (harpsichord, clavicytherium, cittern), Pascal Boquet (lute, gittern), Sylvie Moquet (treble/bass viola da gamba), Odile Edouard (violin))
Siobhán Armstrong (early Irish harp)
rec. La Courroie, Entraigues sur la Sorgue, France, 20-23 March 2012. DDD
ALPHA 534 [77:51] 

Nobody's Jig - Mr Playford's English Dancing Master

Full track listing below.
Les Witches (Claire Michon (flutes), Freddy Eichelberger (harpsichord, cittern), Pascal Boquet (lute, guitar), Sylvie Moquet (viola da gamba), Odile Edouard (violin))
rec. Saint Rémi church, Sérigny, October 2001. DDD
OUTHERE REW503 [72:01] 

These recordings by French ensemble Les Witches are both recent releases by Outhere. 'Lord Gallaway's Lamentation' appears under its Alpha Productions brand. 'Nobody's Jig' is a reissue as part of its 'Rewind Collection', originally released with a different cover on Alpha in 2002 (909). 

As the respective titles strongly suggest, both discs offer the listener a collection of English, Irish and Scottish traditional music from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The pieces are performed by Les Witches on a variety of period instruments with elegance and decorum, underlining the closeness of this genre to art music - some items are indeed by bona fide composers. The instrumentarium, harmonies and rhythms they have chosen enhance this impression, especially when applied with such thoroughgoing professionalism. Individual members of the ensemble have impressive pedigrees, needless to say: violinist Odile Edouard, for example, has played with Les Arts Florissants, Ensemble 415 and Les Musiciens du Louvre. The group's claim in the notes that their reading "steers a middle course between the cerebral approach if historical research and the spontaneity of traditional practice" is true only to a degree: fans of modern folk combos will likely be disappointed by the sheer 'correctness' of these performances. 

Both recitals are of what is essentially Gebrauchsmusik: with 'Nobody's Jig' drawn mainly from John Playford's celebrated 'Dancing Master' (1651-c.1728), and the other from the Gaelic ceòl beag tradition, this is primarily music intended for dancing to, with emphasis always on melodic line and rhythm. Some tracks are unforgettable: The Beggar Boy, with its long, dramatic crescendo; Wallom Green, with its surprisingly modern-sounding 'vibe'; Argiers - known to Playford as 'Bravade', and elsewhere as 'The Wanton Wife' - a real 'earworm' tune given a driving rhythm by Les Witches; Schottisch Tanz, with its bagpipe imitation; the almost hillbilly Jenny's Whim; the startlingly cheery Siege of Limerick; the heartfelt regret of Mc Donoghs Lamentation. 

The 'Nobody's Jig' booklet gives no information on individual pieces, but does discuss Playford's 'Dancing Master' as well as the rationale behind Les Witches' musical choices - the footnoted references a further indication of the scholarly approach the ensemble take to such projects. Reflecting the CD's higher price, the booklet for 'Lord Gallaway's Lamentation' is much more detailed. As well as providing some background on the pieces themselves, not always easy to come by elsewhere, Siobhán Armstrong and Claire Michon write at some length on the Irish harp.
 
The track-listings use some original/archaic spellings and punctuation (or lack of it). 'Gallaway' is most obviously 'wrong', being neither Galway nor Galloway - though given the tune's shrouded origins, it could conceivably be either. Sound quality is excellent. Both discs run to well over seventy minutes, and so give good value in that respect too. In its reissued form 'Nobody's Jig' can be found for little over half the price of the Alpha series, and with the slightly more interesting and varied music, must be the better place to start an exploration of Les Witches' growing and fascinating discography.
 
Byzantion
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
 
Full track listings: 
Lord Gallaway's Delight - An Excellent Collection of Dances & Gaelic Laments
She Rose and Leit Me in [5:21]
The Ragg Set by a Gentlemen (Irish Rag) [3:55]
Lord Gallaways Lamentation [6:06]
Sir Ulick Burk [4:32]
Mary O'Neill [3:43]
On the Cold Ground [3:08]
Bellamira [3:57]
Molly Halfpenny (Molly O’Hailpin) [3:45]
Limbrick's Lamentation [5:57]
I Loved Thee Once [5:23]
Siege of Limerick [3:17]
Counsellor Mc Donogh's Lamentation [8:11]
Jenny's Whim - Role The Rumple Sawny [2:24]
Lads Of Leight [2:59]
Johney Cock Thy Beaver (A Scotch Tune To A Ground) [3:54]
King's Hornpipe - Newcastle [2:58]
Miss Hamilton [4:15]
Da Mihi Manum (Tabair Dom Do Lámh) [4:06]

Nobody's Jig - Mr Playford's English Dancing Master

Nobody's Jig - Mr Lane's Maggott - Black and Grey [5:49]
Stingo [2:56]
Virgin Queen - Bobbing Joe [3:53]
Daphne [4:54]
Paul's Steeple [3:17]
Prince Rupert March - Prins Robbert Masco [3:11]
Shepherd's Holiday [2:04]
Confess his Tune [1:21]
An Italian Rant [2:19]
Stanes Morris [1:05]
A Health to Betty [2:31]
A Mask, no.6 [4:33]
Drive the Cold Winter Away - The Beggar Boy [5:37]
A Division on a Ground [6:15]
Woodycock [5:31]
Wallom Green [2:13]
Argiers (Bravade) [3:46]
A Piece Without Title [3:32]
Hey to the Camp - Schottisch Tanz [3:37]
Rights of a Man [3:37]

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