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Celtic Reflections
see end of review for track listing
Barry Douglas (piano)
*Eimear McGeown (Irish Flute)
rec. Curtis Auditorium and Recording Suite, CIT Cork School of Music, Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland, 28-29 September 2013
CHANDOS CHAN10821 [60:00]

I enjoyed listening to this disc a lot, partly, I am sure, because, like Douglas himself, I grew up in Northern Ireland and this was the folk music that I knew from an early age. Not all of these airs were familiar to me when I listened to this disc, but they all felt familiar, be it in the familiar cadences or the colour of the melodies, and Douglas clearly has this music in his bones. You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy it, though, and anyone who enjoys music with a Celtic tinge will like it very much.

All the arrangements are by Douglas himself and he does a good job, combining both variety and pattern. The Coolin is a pleasant, rippling set of variations, while in most of the other settings, such as Down by the Salley Gardens and My Lagan Love, he adopts a simple strophic setting with variations in the accompaniment to keep things interesting. Sometimes he will play around the theme and engage with it after only a while, most successfully in Carrickfergus, and in some he plays it straight, such as Danny Boy, which makes a beautifully straightforward conclusion to the disc.

His playing is predominantly thoughtful and introspective, as befits the “Reflective” element in the disc’s title, though he gets an injection of energy when it’s required, such as in the dance-like Planxty Dillon. Eimear McGeown’s Irish Flute makes a very colourful and very welcome addition to several of the numbers, most impressively in The Mushroom Tree and The Kid on the Mountain, which are lovely. She also plays her own composition in Inis, a hauntingly beautiful use of the instrument, with perfect interplay with the piano and an evocative sense of mythology in its tone.

Some might quibble that this isn’t a great outlet for Douglas’ musical talents, but it’s clearly a project close to his heart, so why shouldn’t he have the chance to record it? Let’s not forget that he is currently engaged in a pretty large-scale Brahms series for Chandos (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2), so who could begrudge him the change to kick back with this? There may not be anything on this disc to frighten the horses, but there is a huge amount to enjoy and I found it nostalgic, evocative and (whisper it) very relaxing.

Simon Thompson
Track listing
1 She Moved through the Fair* [4:10 ]
2 The Coolin (An Chúilfhionn) [7:17]
3 Down by the Salley Gardens [3:30]
4 The Cliffs of Dooneen [2:54]
5 Inis* [7:11]
6 Open the Door Softly (Oscail an Doras Go Ciúin) [0:45]
7 The Pleasant Rocks (Na Creaga Áille) [2:36]
8 The Mushroom Tree* [2:07]
9 The Kid on the Mountain* [1:19]
10 My Lagan Love [4:21]
11 Carrickfergus [4:58]
12 Planxty Dillon (Plancstaí Uí Dhiolúin) [1:15]
13 The Lamentation of Eoin O’Neill (Caoineadh Eoin Uí Néill) [2:20]
14 An Irish Lullaby (Suantraí Gaelach) [3:15]
15 The Last Rose of Summer [2:53]
16 Home Away from Home [4:10]
17 The Raggle Taggle Gypsy [1:04]
18 Danny Boy [3:10]