Radio Show – Episode 19 – Midwinter Day – December 18, 2016

Enjoy fun and beautiful Celtic Christmas and winter music, plus a poem in our latest show, “Midwinter Day.”
12:01: Mithril – Christmas Eve Reel / New Christmas / The Gravel Walks
12:06: Chris Newman & Maire Ni Chathasaigh – Away in a Manger
12:10: Barry Phillips and Friends – Nos Galan (Deck the Hall)
12:14: Aine Minogue – Reflections On A Scottish Christmas (spoken)
12:15: Bonnie Rideout, Maggie Sansone & Al Petteway – Christmas Carousing / Ale Is Dear / New Christmas
12:19: Silverwood and Spookytree – One Wintry Night
12:21: Enya – Christmas Secrets
12:27: Thea Gilmore – Sol Invictus
12:29: Paul McCandless – Coventry Carol
12:33: Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Kraus – The Wexford Carol
12:38: Sileas – Leanabh an Aigh
12:41: The Harpers Hall Ensemble – El Noi de la Mare
12:44: Kate Rusby – Cold Winter
12:51: Solas – Home For Christmas Day
12:56: The Chieftains – The Bells of Dublin / Christmas Eve

Listen to the latest episode here.

show19-180dpiArt by Jane Valencia

Format: “Track Title” – Artist (CD)

“Christmas Eve Reel/New Christmas/The Gravel Walks” · Mithril (Winter’s Day)
Hailing from Mobile, Alabama, Mithril delivers Celtic Music that pushes into American folk, classical, rock and World Music territory with a fun and free spirit.

“Away in a Manger” – Chris Newman & Maire Ni Chathasaigh (Christmas Lights) 
A lovely interpretation of this classic carol, with guitar, Irish harp, and flute.

“Nos Galan (Deck the Hall)” – Barry Phillips & Friends (Colonial Christmas)
Cellist Barry Phillips is joined by fiddlers Robert Evans and Deby Benton Grosjean, and double-strung harper, Jesse Autumn for this traditional Welsh tune. This may be the first time we’ve played double-strung harp on Forest Halls Celtic!

“Reflections On a Scottish Christmas” Aine Minogue & Johnny Cunningham (To Warm the Winter Night)
Reflections On a Scottish Christmas by Johnny Cunningham

The dark of winter wraps around us tight.
The lamps are fired, and flickering light
beats time to the fiddle as notes float softly down, like the years’ first snow.
While outside the window a blast of late December wind
whistles harmony to the drone of the pipes.
We push the old year back against the wall
so we can dance a jig for Christmas and welcome in the new

“Christmas Carousing / Ale Is Dear / New Christmas” · Bonnie Rideout, Maggie Sansone & Al Petteway (A Scottish Christmas)
This set features Bonnie Rideout on Scottish fiddle, Al Petteway on guitar, cittern and bodhran, Maggie Sansone on hammered dulcimer and guest Eric Rigler (the piper on the The Titantic, Braveheart soundtracks) on bagpipes.

“One Wintry Night” – Silverwood (On A Snowy Eve)
Sisters Verlene Schermer & Linnette Bommarito perform beautiful harp and flute (respectively) on this original composition.

“Christmas Secrets” – Enya (Sounds of the Season: The Enya Holiday Collection)

Underneath a winter sky,
A distant train sings out the miles.
And so I wonder can it be,
Will every mile bring you to me?
A promise made may still come true,
So I am waiting here for you.
If you don’t come, what will I do?
Who shall I tell my secrets to?

“Sol Invictus (Undefeated Sun)” –  Thea Gilmore (Strange Communion)
This song reminds us that the sun is returning.  Thea Gilmore is an
English singer-songwriter.

“Coventry Carol” – Paul McCandless (Winter Solstice III)
As a former oboist and English horn player, I always have an ear for fine playing of these instruments. Here’s a beautiful arrangement of this 16th century English carol.

“Wexford Carol” – Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss (Songs of Joy and Peace)
Awesome arrangement of this Irish carol. Besides Yo-Yo’s rich cello playing and Alison Kraus’ exquisite vocals, you’ll hear Cape Breton fiddler Natalie McMaster, and player of the gaita – the Galician bagpipe — Cristana Pato.

“Leanabh an Aigh” – Sileas (File Under Christmas)
Many of us know this melody as “Morning has Broken,” a hymn made famous by Cat Stevens. That hymn was set to a melody of an older song. The Scots Gaelic lyrics “Leanabh an Aigh” (Child of Joy), were written by Mary MacDonald (Màiri Dhòmhnallach) (1789–1872) to a traditional tune.

“El Noi de la Mare (The Child of the Mother)” – The Harpers Hall Ensemble (Harpers Holiday)
Here this multi-level harp ensemble plays a traditional Catalan Christmas carol.

“Cold Winter” – Kate Rusby (The Frost Is All Over)
Lovely song by an amazing traditional English singer-songwriter.

“Home for Christmas Day” Solas (Soundcloud)
Written by Seamus Egan and Mick McAuley, this song imagines what a newly arrived immigrant to Butte might have felt facing his or her first Christmas in foreign land far from the warm embrace of family and friends.

Solas is an American musical group officially formed in 1996, playing Irish traditional music as well as original compositions that dabble in the country, rock, and americana genres. Their name comes from an Irish word meaning “light.”

“The Bells of Dublin / Christmas Eve” – The Chieftains (The Bells of Dublin)
Song performed by The Chieftains with the bell-ringers of Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin.

Radio Show – Episode 18 – Snow and Flame – December 4, 2016

It’s a beautiful sunny winter day, and here on Vashon we have the rumor that we may experience a dusting of snow in the near horizon. But in a larger sense we have already entered the season of Snow and Flame. Winter brings on the urgency of survival, and the sense of endings, but also the joy of gathering by a cheerful and comforting flame – finding it in our hearts and finding it with one another. Please enjoy this musical journey into Snow and Flame.

12:02: Aine Minogue – Jezebel Carol
12:04: Knodel and Valencia – Winter Creek
12:08: Loreena McKennitt – Snow
12:16: Cara Dillon – The Lonesome Scenes of Winter
12:20: Cara Dillon – The Huntsman
12:23: Sileas – The Snows they Melt the Soonest
12:30: 9th c. Irish poem “I have News for You”/Jane Valencia – A Luminous Sea
12:31: Enya – ‘s Fagaim Mo Bhaile
12:35: Anuna – Fionnghuala
12:39: Kazan Tatarstan Orchestra – Celtic Music for Harp Flutes Oboe Violin and Orchestra
12:44: Steve Baughman and Robin Bolluck – Breton Suite
12:49: Kim Robertson – Gaudete!
12:54: Free Range Folk Choir – Fall Down as the Rain

Listen to the latest episode here.

Format: “Track Title” – Artist (CD)

“Jezebel Carol” – Aine Minogue (Celtic Christmas – Putumayo Presents)
Irish harper and singer Aine Minogue performs a traditional holiday song from the Isle of Man.

“Winter Creek” – Knodel and Valencia/Spookytree (Masque)
A gorgeous reflective piece composed and performed by Celtic harper Debra Knodel, accompanied by Chris Caswell on piano, and myself on English horn.

“Snow” – Loreena McKennitt (A Winter Garden)
What’s not to love about winter music by Loreena McKennitt. She plays harp on this one, as well as sings.

“The Lonesome Scenes of Winter” – Cara Dillon (Cara Dillon)
“The Huntsman”  Cara Dillon (Upon a Winter’s Night)
Two pieces — first a song, then a fun instrumental — by this talented Irish singer.

“The Snows they Melt the Soonest” – Sileas (File Under Christmas)
“The Snows They Melt the Soonest” is a British folk song dating back at least as far as 1821. It was mentioned, along with the lyrics, in Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh) of that year.

Patsy Seddon sings this sad but beautiful song, with Mary MacMaster accompanying on wire-strung harp. This piece is from a very rare cassette released by Sileas in 1991.

Poem: “I have news for you” – 9th c. Ireland/Music: “A Luminous Sea” – Jane Valencia (RoseGarden)
As winter arrives, I pull out a bundle of poetry, tales, and music for the season. This poem is the first I bring forth. (Here’s a video in which I recite the poem and play an accompaniment on wire-strung harp)

I have news for you
The stag bells, winter snows, summer is gone.
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken, its shape is lost
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry
Cold has seized the birds’ wings
Season of ice
This is my news.
— Irish, 9th century

“S’ Fagaim Mo Bhaile” [And I Leave My Home] – Enya (Silent Night)
A beautiful, but rather sad song, with these sorts of lyrics:

Morning and the day’s beginning
And I leave my home
My heart is breaking
My youth is long past

The day is long past
When I left my home
There is no hope in my heart
There is only death

“Fionnghuala” – Anuna (from the live DVD `Celtic Origins`)
Irish musician Mícheál Ó Domhnaill from The Bothy Band collected this Scots Gaelic song from a piper in the Isle of Barra, Outer Hebrides.

Anuna’s director, Michael McGlynn arranged this piece for the choir, and himself sings the song — quite a tongue twister!

The blacksmith said, “I’ll wait”
The blacksmith said, “I’ll go”
The blacksmith said, in his confusion
Standing at the door of the barn
That he was going to go courting

Island of bothies, of bothies
Island of bothies, of bothies
Island of bothies, of bothies
Fingal’s bothies

“Celtic Music for Harp, Flutes, Oboe, Violin, and Orchestra” – Orchestra from Kazan Tatarstan Russia
Natalia Antonova (harp)
Venera Porfirieva (flutes)
Eugene Sidorov (oboe)
Lilya Akhmetova (violin)

Conductor Anna Gulishambarova

Two movements of contemporary classical music based on folk themes. The second melody is a popular An Dro.

As a former oboist, I find the oboe playing in this recording to be gorgeous!

“Breton Suite” – Steve Baughman and Robin Bolluck (Alone and Together)
Two exquisite Celtic guitarists play tunes from Brittany. This suite includes the “An Dro” included in the piece above.

“Gaudate” – Kim Robertson (The Spiral Gate)
Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin. This is a sacred carol, thought to have been composed in the 16th. Century, but as it contains medieval Latin lyrics, may date back as a monophonic (melody only) to the late medieval period. Celtic harper and singer Kim Robertson takes this ancient piece into new realms!

“Fall Down as the Rain” – Free Range Folk Choir (And When I Rise)
The Free Range Folk Choir is Vashon’s own eclectic and joyful folk music ensemble. Welcoming singers of diverse ages, backgrounds and musical experience, the choir celebrates the ways that music from around the world can lift the spirit and cultivate community.

The original song is a folk tune by Joe Crookston, which Shane Jewell, Director, composed the choral piece around.  The recording is from a live concert in Burton Church, November 2014.  The singers were in such good form, and the room had such excellent acoustics I was able to record it with a single microphone set out in the middle of the audience.

The song is based on the Buddhist idea of no birth, no death, and the ways that all life is interconnected.

Radio Show – Episode 17 – Treasures – November 27, 2016

Themed Treasures, this episode focuses on a few musical gems and threads in my basket. I love innovative music, I appreciate and enjoy historical and traditional styles, and as for Welsh music — well, my interest in Welsh history, myth, and culture led me into Celtic music in the first place. In prepping this show, I found myself picking out one “shiny and glittery” track, and then thinking: “Well, how about that one too?” or “What about this idea to pair with that?”

Consider this episode a wander through a forest in which we enjoy the earthy smells, scattered leaves, “fruiting” mushroom surprises, and radical bird song, from which we harvest treasures. I invite you to listen in with that same open senses curiosity.

12:02: Janet Harbison – O’Neil’s Cavalcade
12:04: Steve Baughman – Coilsfield House
12:06: Shira Kammen – Shetland Set
12:14: 4th c. Welsh Poem and Bardic Triad
12:16: Paul Dooley – Caniad y Gwyn Bibydd
12:21: Cheryl Ann Fulton – Welcome the Bee
12:24: Crasdant – Pibddans Trefynwy
12:29: Gwyneth Glyn – Cofia Fi At
12:34: Pigyn Clust – Merched
12:37: Seamus Byrne – Irish Nature Sounds
12:41: Hannah Thomas and Catrin Meek – Lisa Lan/ Fair Lisa
12:43: Solasta – The Swan Set
12:50: Spookytree (Deb Knodel & Jane Valencia) – Lochaber No More
12:51: Shira Kammen – Chi Mi Na Morbheanna

Your host is bardic harper and storyteller Jane Valencia.

Listen to the latest show on demand.

Show 17 art
Format: “Track Title” – Artist (CD Title)

“O’ Neill’s Cavalcade” – Janet Harbison (O’Neill’s Harper)
This track is from an album that is Harbison’s harp tribute to various generations of the O’Neills, who for hundreds of years the most eminent family in Ulster.

During my first harp lesson back in 1987, my teacher Chris Caswell, pointed me to a few Celtic harpers he felt had vitality and creativity in their playing and arrangements. Janet Harbison was one of them!

Janet Harbison is a multidimensional Irish artist — a harper, composer, arranger, writer, teacher and is the director of the Irish Harp Orchestra.

“Coilsfield House” – Steve Baughman (Farewell to Orkney)
Another elegant performance by my friend San Francisco Celtic guitarist, Steve Baughman. “Coilsfield House” was composed by 18th century Scottish fiddler Nathaniel Gow.

“Shetland Set” – Shira Kammen & Pam Swan (Wild Wood)
Shira Kammen who plays fiddle here is a noted early and traditional instrumentalist and vocalist. Pam Swan is an acclaimed pianist, singer, and percussionist.

I really love Pam’s piano accompaniment in this set. Her playing harkens to a traditional style but also leans into more syncopated, modern decoration too.

A fun, innovative set of music! “Spootiskerry” and “Da New Rigged Ship” — the first two in the set are among my favorite Shetland tunes.

“Caniad y Gwyn Bibydd” – Paul Dooley (Music from the Robert ap Huw Manuscript)
From Paul Dooley’s website:

The Robert ap Huw Manuscript (British Library Additional MS 14905) contains some 71 pages of Welsh Harp music. This music is part of a repertoire of over 300 pieces, catalogued in several 16th century manuscripts. The known composers of the music have been placed in a period ranging from c.1340 to c.1485. Some of the unattributed pieces may well be older, the titles of many of these have reference to pre-1320, and several pieces have reference to earlier times.

This music, known as Cerdd Dant, the music of string, belongs to the ancient bardic traditions of Wales. …

Paul plays a piece from the ap Huw Manuscript on his wire-strung harp. If you browse Paul’s website, you’ll find an article by Peter Greenhill supporting the idea that at least some early harps in Wales were metal-strung.

“Welcome the Bee” · Cheryl Ann Fulton (The Airs of Wales)
Cheryl Ann plays here on the magnificent triple harp. A triple harp has three rows of strings, with the two outer rows tuned diatonically and in unison with each other. The middle row is for accidentals. You can read more about the Welsh triple harp here.

“Pibddans Trefynwy” – Crasdant (Dwndwr/The Great Noise)
A quote:
“The group Crasdant consists of Robin Huw Bowen on triple harp, supported by Ar Log fiddler Stephen Rees, guitarist Huw Williams, and Andy McLauchlin on assorted woodwinds. They have fashioned an acoustic blend that shares many of the intricacies found in the Irish ‘ascendancy baroque’ tradition and, like Ar Log, they often incorporate percussive step-dancing into the mix.”

Robin Huw Bowen also has a nice write-up about the Welsh triple harp.

“Cofia Fi At (Remember Me To)” – Gwyneth Glyn (Wyneb Dros Dro)
‘Cofia fi at’ literally translates into ‘Remember me to’ which is basically the same as saying ‘send my regards to…’ Gwyneth is a Welsh poet and singer/songwriter.

Lyrics / Translation:
Remember me to my friends,
Remember me to the fair.
Remember me to the snow that fell when I was three.
Remember me to the fairies and the blackbird.

Remember me, remember me,
Remember me to you. ….

La la la la la la
The winter is longer than the summer.
La la la la la
The summer is older than the winter.

“Merched” – Pigyn Clust (Rough Guide to the Music of Wales)
A folk band from Northwest Wales. Here is a write-up about this track from the CD:

The melody is normally associated with a political song concerning a fallen Welsh military hero, while the words are from a vast corpus of traditional floating verses, which are set to whatever melody the singer chooses. There is a recent tendency within contemporary bands in Wales to juxtapose traditional melodies, rhythms and verses in a startling new way, and this improvisation by Pigyn Clust is based on two Welsh verse traditions, canu penillion and ymryson canu tribabbau. The musical collage is used to great effect in this son, in which the hero is now a young mother.

“Lisa Lân/Fair Lisa” – Catrin Meek & Hannah Thomas (Welsh Music Exchange Youtube channel)
The Welsh Music Exchange is a collaboration between Welsh cellist Hannah Thomas and an array of musicians musicians from different backgrounds to promote the beautiful melodies and tunes originating in Wales.

Here, Hannah teams up with harpist Catrin Meeks to perform this traditional Welsh tune.

Catrin Meeks graduated from the Royal College of Music, London, and is now an MA Student at Royal Academy of Music. Originating from South Wales she is fluent in the Welsh language and won Outstanding Young Musician of the Valleys. In 2015 she went on to win the prestigious Nansi Richards Scholarship. Her previous teacher, Claire Jones is the Former Official Harpist to HRH Prince Charles. Catrin has been privileged to play for The Queen on her diamond jubilee tour and has played for HRH Prince Charles on several occasions. Twitter: @catkinerina

Catrin and Hannah are playing in the London Musical Theatre Orchestra at the Lyceum Theatre London 19th December ‘A Christmas Carol’ concert 7:30pm.

Hannah Thomas is a London-based cellist and teacher. She is a multifaceted musician who enjoys exploring different musical genres from classical and baroque to folk. She studies cello with Naomi Butterworth at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, baroque cello with Sue Sheppard, bass viola da gamba with Alison Crumb and has had various coaching on folk cello including Natalie Haas. She performs regularly with the early music group Bellot Ensemble and Trinity Laban baroque music ensembles for the Royal Greenwich Early Music Festival and London Handel Festival. She is a founding member of the exciting up and coming folk trio Solasta with Elisabeth Flett and Jamie Leeming. Twitter: @HannahTCello Facebook: @hannahthomascello

“The Swan Set” – Solasta (Solasta)
Solasta is a folk trio of cellist Hannah Thomas, award-winning fiddler Elisabeth Flett and guitarist Jamie Leeming who unite youthful vitality with training and experience across diverse musical worlds, including jazz, classical and early music, in freshly inventive arrangements of trad-based folk material. Facebook:@solastaband

This is imaginative and energetic music indeed!

Tunes in this set are:
1. Swan LK243 (by harpist Catriona McKay)
2. Tam Lin (Arthur)
3. Catharsis (Cann)

Solasta are performing at the Jamboree in Limehouse London 14th December.

“Chi Mi Na Morbheanna” – Shira Kammen & Pam Swan (Wild Wood)
We finish with Shira and Pam’s acappella rendition of this famous song.

From Wikipedia:

“Chì mi na mòrbheanna” is a Scottish song that was written in 1856 by Highlander John Cameron (Iain Camshroin), a native of Ballachulish, and known locally in the Gaelic fashion as Iain Rob and Iain Òg Ruaidh He worked in the slate quarries before moving to Glasgow where he was engaged as a ship’s broker. He became the Bard of the Glasgow Ossianic Society and also Bard to Clan Cameron.

This song is often called in English, “The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home”