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Celtic Reflections
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]

On this CD we hear the brilliant Barry Douglas in light-hearted mood, presenting us with his own arrangements of 18 pieces of Irish folk music, ranging from melodies first heard in the 1700s right through to some more modern compositions. Several of the earlier pieces were collected by Edward Bunting, Francis O’Neill, James Hardiman and Jane Ross. Three tracks feature the Irish flute, played by Eimear McGeown, and she includes two of her own pieces, Inis and The Mushroom Tree. As you would expect, we are also treated to some well-known Irish pot-boilers such as Danny Boy and Carrickfergus but that is only to be expected – and welcomed – on a disc called Celtic Reflections.

Barry Douglas was brought up in Northern Ireland and just like another of his famous compatriots, James Galway, it is evident that he has a real love of his country’s musical roots and traditions. His arrangements are full of variety, generally understated in their approach and played with taste and refinement. Much of the music is indeed reflective in nature. The reflective mood never becomes dull or glutinous and there are some more felicitous, fleet-footed moments that change the atmosphere of the disc and move the music along. The addition of the flute further enhances the beauty of the music and adds much welcomed variety to the proceedings.

The opening track, She moved through the Fair, with its initial presentation of the tune on unaccompanied flute sets the atmosphere for the majority of the music that follows. This is soulful, yearning and mystic and I enjoyed it very much. The Coolin has a Bach-like opening with immaculate ornamentation followed by a clever set of variations. The piece reminds me of one of Gottschalk’s creations. Open the Door Softly is a short spirited jig and Planxty Dillon is a super romp of a piece, dashed off with great élan. The Last Rose of Summer is a great tune, immortalised for many by its use in the classic Ealing Studios comedy film The Lady Killers. One of my personal favourites is The Mushroom Tree showcasing as it does the talents of Eimear McGeown in a very special two minute span of Celtic magic. The disc finishes with a moving but not too sugary rendition of Danny Boy and very good it is too.

Barry Douglas is to be applauded for these arrangements and his direct communication skills. This music means a lot to him and that shows in his performances. In terms of a pigeon hole I suppose this is in the category of 'Easy Listening' but so be it. The playing, recording (clear and immediate) and musical content are all first class. It was probably a refreshing change for Mr Douglas to move out of the highbrow arena for a short while and record something different from his usual fare. This is a lovely disc.

John Whitmore

Previous review: 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]