Radio Show – Episode 12 – Last Rose of Summer – Sept. 4, 2016

The days are shifting into the long golden light of autumn, and a crispness has entered the air. Here on Vashon, the school year is about to begin, signaling the beginning of the full blown harvest that is the creative energy of fall. In today’s show we musically enjoy the “last rose of summer.”

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Show12-Last Rose-180dpi

Format: Track Title – artist (CD Title)

“The Briar and the Rose” – Niamh Parsons and The Loose Connections (Loosen Up) 
Niamh Parsons (born in Dublin, Ireland) is a singer of contemporary and traditional Irish music.Niamh Parsons started her professional career in 1990, in Belfast. Having been singing at sessions around Dublin, Niamh first joined the band Killera from 1984-89. Joining her husband Dee with his band the Loose Connections in 1990, Parsons released two CDs with this band.

“One Summer’s Morning” – Dougie MacLean (Fiddle)
Beloved Scottish songwriter and composer. Here is one of his instrumental compositions.

“Waltz of the White Lilies” -Déanta (Whisper of a Secret)
Déanta is an Irish traditional music band from Northern Ireland. The name of the band is the Irish word for done or made. The band, formed in the late 1980s in County Antrim, played together until 1997 and regrouped in 2008

This beautiful tune was written by Kate O’Brien, fiddler of Deanta.

Let’s enjoy a few harp tunes …

“Sir John Fenwick is the Flower of Them All” – Cynthia Cathcart (Alchemy of a Rose)
Cynthia Cathcart is an expert on the Clàrsach, the wire strung harp of Scotland and Ireland, based near Washington, DC,  We also thank her for serving as the columnist on the wire-strung harp, “Ringing Strings,” for many years for the ISFHC’s Folk Harp Journal.

“Captain O’Kane” – Aryeh Frankfurter (The Music of O’Carolan: O’Carolan’s Dream)
From Wikipedia: “Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) was a blind Gaelic harper, composer, and singer whose great fame is due to his gift for melodic composition. He was the last great Irish harper-composer and is considered by many to be Ireland’s most celebrated composer.  “Captain O’Kane” is said to be composed in honour of a member of “a distinguished Antrim family, a sporting Irishman, well known in his day by the name of ‘Slasher O’Kane’” [O’Sullivan]. Tune used by Robert Burns for “The Chevalier’s Lament.”

About Aryeh: Since 1994, Aryeh has been delighting audiences around the globe with his passionate, enduring and evocative music. Aryeh’s uncommon approach to the Celtic harp and folk harp repertoire, command of the unusual Swedish nyckelharpa (or keyed fiddle) and other stringed instruments. He’s based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“A Place Among the Stones” – Maire Brennan (Misty-Eyed Adventures)
Here Maire performs with three of her sisters and uilleann pipes player Davy Spillane, who I believe served as a producer for this track.

“Soundscape of Relaxing Nature Sounds – Summer in an English Meadow” –Past Tense (youtube)
Lovely nature sounds.

“Blooming Heather“ – Kate Rusby (Awkward Annie)
Kate is an English folk singer and songwriter from Penistone, Barnsley. The more I hear her, the more I love her style of singing! There’s a lovely video of Kate performing this song at the Cambridge Folk Festival that is quite moving. In it, the audience stands, holding each other, swaying, singing softly this familiar and beloved song. And Kate in the video directs the orchestra (String quartet and brass ensemble) with gentle gestures – which as a music director myself I so appreciate. After all, directing is a kind of dance of the hands!

“Inis sui” – Maire Breatnach (Voyage of Bran)
On a quest to the Otherworld, Bran pauses on his travel over the sea at the Isle of Joy ….

Máire Breatnach is one of the most prominent fiddle players in Ireland.

“ The Gold Claddagh Ring” – Andy M. Stewart, Phil Cunningham, Manus Lunny (Fire in the Glen)

From Andy M. Stewart’s website:
(Words and Music: Andy M. Stewart)
“The Claddagh ring originated in an area known as The Claddagh near Galway City in the West of Ireland. The ring has a unique design, that of a heart being encircled by a pair of delicate hands. In this song, the young man’s heart is well and truly in the hands of the girl he admires from afar. On getting to know her better, he falls falls victim to a clever  ploy.”

“Fonn” – Salsa Celtica (The Tall Islands)
Salsa Celtica are a Scottish group that plays a fusion of salsa music with traditional Scottish instruments, including elements of folk and jazz. A surprising mix!

“River of Sky” – Jami Sieber (Timeless)
From her promo:
“Electric cellist and vocalist Jami Sieber reaches inside the soul with compositions that are contemporary, timeless, lush, and powerfully evocative. An innovative musician, Jami’s music moves beyond the surface, seeking and re-seeking her truth by creating musical bridges and connections. Her life-long commitment to the environment, social justice, and the healing arts is at the heart of her music, reflecting a deep dedication to the arts as a medium of exploration and awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings.

Jami has always done something unique – employing electronics and looping techniques to create sounds never before associated with the cello she transforms her solo instrument into an orchestra of sound that opens the heart, defies the mind, and at times, sets the body dancing.”

Jami is performing on Vashon, and I’m looking forward to the concert! See and hear her:

Friday, Oct 14, 7:30 PM
Vashon High School Theater

Tickets at Vashon Intuitive Arts, Vashon Bookshop; online at Brown Paper Tickets
Sponsored by Women’s Way Red Lodge. More info: at Jami’s website.

“The Last Rose of Summer“ – Celtic Woman (Celtic Woman: A New Journey)

From Wikipedia:
“The Last Rose of Summer is a poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore, who was a friend of Byron and Shelley. He wrote it in 1805, while staying at Jenkinstown Park in County Kilkenny, Ireland, where he was said to have been inspired by a specimen of Rosa ‘Old Blush’. The poem is set to a traditional tune called “Aislean an Oigfear”, or “The Young Man’s Dream”,which was transcribed by Edward Bunting in 1792, based on a performance by harper Denis Hempson (Donnchadh Ó hÁmsaigh) at the Belfast Harp Festival.”

Méav Ní Mhaolchatha and Hayley Westenra of the group Celtic Woman sing this version.

Radio Show – Episode 7 – June 19, 2016 – Place

The theme of today’s show is “Place” — in particular, how the nature of the land and summer speak through our hearts, and we in turn give voice and expression to our experience of the land. In this show we also celebrate Father’s Day with a few songs honoring dads.

00:11 Spookytree (Deb Knodel & Jane Valencia) – Lochaber No More
01:59 Julie Fowlis and Muireann Nic Amhlaobh – Tha’m buntata mor / An Bairille / Boc liath nan gobhar
05:33 Danu – County Down
11:15 Phil Cunningham – The Palomino Waltz
18:29 Kate Wolf – The Redtail Hawk
22:20 Patrick Ball – Castle Kelly
28:21 Verlene Schermer and Kyle Wohlmut – Take 5 / Butterfly in 5
33:02 Swainsons Thrush – Squamish River Estuary
34:45 Sharlene Wallace and Kim Robertson – The Butterfly
37:28 Ffynnon – Aros Mae
41:53 Dougie Maclean – Talking With My Father
47:06 Dawn and Margie Beaton – Live at ECMA 2010
57:38  Siobhán Armstrong – Mary O’Neill

Listen to the latest show on demand.


Format: Track Title – artist (CD Title)

“Tha’m buntáta mór / An Bairille / Boc liath nan gobhar” – Julie Fowlis and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh  (dual)
Some solo singing by Julie and Muireann, and then some lovely whistle playing by them both.
dual is an album by four acclaimed Irish and Scottish musicians: Éamonn Doorley, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (both prominently of Danú), Julie Fowlis and Ross Martin.

The artists released the album in October 2008 on their official websites. The album was planned to project the similarities and differences between the Irish and Scottish Gaelic song traditions

“County Down” – Danú 
A song by Tommy Sands performed by the Irish band Danú. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (born 1978) is a musician and singer from County Kerry, Ireland. She was the lead singer from the traditional music group Danú until 2015.

“Palomino Waltz/Donna’s Waltz” – Phil Cunningham (The Palomino Waltz)

Rufous Humingbird – Squamish River Estuary – Woodfibrebirde
Music of a hummingbird you might hear in Forest Halls at this time of year.

“The Redtail Hawk (Golden Rollin’ Hills of California)” – Kate Wolf

Golden rolling hills speak to me of the hot summer sun. One of my favorite songs ever – and I think, that of my husband Andy too. Here’s a version we’re not familiar with. For you, Andy – I reckon the golden rolling hills of California will always speak to our hearts.

“Castle Kelly” – Patrick Ball (Fiona)
A lovely arrangement that well-showcases the ring and tones of the wire-strung harp. I believe the album this song is on, Fiona, is named for his then new daughter (back in 1993).

“Take 5/Butterfly in 5 (Paul Desmond/Trad.)” – Verlene Schermer and Kyle Wohlmut

Two good friends of mine, who have coincidently or not – been up to Vashon at separate times to visit. Verlene is a harper and singer/songwriter in the SF Bay Area. She also plays the Scandinavian Nickel-harpe … I’ll have to play some of that for you sometime. Kyle Wolmut is a Bay Area harper who has been living overseas for some time now. I believe he’s currently based in Germany. How does he bend the notes? Possibly with his tuning key pressed against his string and sliding against it. I don’t have the nerve to try that on my wire-strung harps. The tension seems too tight on them, and my newest wire-strung harp is still breaking a few too many strings in the upper couple of octaves …

Regarding the “bending note” question, here is a note that I received from Verlene after the airing of this show:

“I can shed light on his bending notes. He actually used pitch change pedals to do that.  So it’s electronic!”

Thanks for solving that mystery for me, Verlene!

“Greetings to you, sun of the seasons” (Alexander Carmichael, new trans. Kenneth Jackson)

Words after Scottish-Gaelic – traditional folk prayer:

Greetings to you, sun of the seasons, as you travel the skies on high, with your strong steps on the wing of the heights; you are the happy mother of stars.

You sink down in the perilous ocean without harm and without hurt, you rise up on the quiet wave like a young queen in flower.
Kenneth Jackson, A Celtic Miscellany
Alexander Carmichael Carmina Gadelica vol III p 311

“Carmina Gadelica is a compendium of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, literary-folkloric poems and songs, proverbs, lexical items, historical anecdotes, natural history observations, and miscellaneous lore gathered in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909. The material was recorded, translated, and reworked by the exciseman and folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912).”

Swainson’s Thrush – Squamish River Estuary – Woodfibrebirder (Youtube)
Here on Vashon Island, the Swainson’s Thrush is the quintessential herald of summer for many of us. When we hear that upward-spiraling flute-like song, we know that summer has arrived. We only hear that song for a short time – so be sure to get outside and enjoy that symphony.

“The Butterfly” Sharlene Wallace and Kim Robertson (Q & A )
Extraordinary Celtic harpers from Canada and America respectively play their version of this favorite Irish slip jig.

“Aros Mae” – Ffynnon (Celtic Music from Wales)
Acapella with beautiful vocals of Lynne Denman
A setting of the poem by the 19th century bard Ceiriog. The poem describes the wind roaring across the mountains and the flowers appearing each year. Although many things come and go some are unchanging, amongst these, the old language and the old tunes remain.

Aros mae’r mynyddau mawr
Rhuo trostynt mae y gwynt ….

 “Walking with my Father” – Dougie Maclean (Till Tomorrow w/ Royal Scottish National Orchestra)
It was hard to choose between this version of “Walking with my Father”, and the earlier, on the album Who Am I.  But, as a former oboist, I have a soft spot for lovely orchestration that includes an oboe solo — and, even more, it’s the kind of accompaniment my dad enjoys. I’m playing this song in honor of my dad.

Dougie Maclean is Scottish singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and record producer.

“Dougie MacLean needs no introduction; as a singer, songwriter, composer and instrumentalist, no artist captures the soul of Scotland with more authenticity or emotion. ‘Till Tomorrow’ features a hand-picked selection of songs

“Originally famed for writing the song Caledonia, Dougie has teamed up with conductor John Logan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra to bring a new and beautiful symphonic dimension to his best-loved songs …”

“Secluded Beach” – Seamus Byrne (Just Before Dawn
Recorded in Co. Wicklow, Ireland in Spring, this very early morning dawn chorus quietly and delicately announces the day as the first birds begin their song, even as the sun is still below horizon.

Dawn and Margie Beaton – Live @ ECMA 2010 – Celtic Colours Festival Club Stage
Musicians playing Patrick Gillis (guitar), Dawn Beaton (fiddle), Margie Beaton (fiddle), Jason Roach (keyboard)
Dawn and Margie Beaton, sisters, are
Cape Breton fiddlers, here performing a set of tunes at the Celtic Colours Festival, which is an annual festival of music and Celtic culture held on Cape Breton Island.

Radio Show – Episode 6 – June 5, 2016 – Ancient Forests

AncientForest-webWe make a slight detour into the musical realm of “Ambient Celtic” in this show devoted to the Ancient Forests.

Click here for the latest Forest Halls Celtic show on demand

12:00: Spookytree (Deb Knodel & Jane Valencia) – Lochaber No More
12:02: The Poozies – The Bay Tree Waltz/Faca Sibh/Jig Jazz
12:07: Loreena McKennitt – Bonny Portmore
12:15: Paul Bonghez – Forest Inn
12:16: Bay Area Youth Harp Ensemble – Moonshadows
12:23: Damh the Bard – Greenwood Grove
12:28: Clannad – Robin The Hooded Man
12:31: Clannad – Lady Marian
12:34: Mara Freeman – A Tree Blessing Poem
12:38: Tim Olisker – Celtic Dawn
12:44: Jon Parmentier – Brown Creek Trail
12:48: Alison Kinnaird – Cumha Eachainn Ruaidh Nan Cath
12:56: Spookytree (Deb Knodel & Jane Valencia) – Lochaber No More
12:58: Jon Parmentier – Forest Phoenix

Format: Track Title – artist (CD Title)

“The Bay Tree Waltz/Faca Sibh/Jig Jazz” – The Poozies (Dansoozies)
The Poozies are an all-woman band who draw heavily from English and Scottish traditional music. Until a few years ago, both members of the Scottish harp duo, Sileas, were part of this group. You can hear Mary MacMaster here playing electro-harp, and Patsy Seddon starting with fiddle, and switching to gut-strung harp later in the set.

“Bonny Portmore” – Loreena McKennitt (The Visit)

“Bonny Portmore” is an Irish traditional folk song which laments the demise of Ireland’s old oak forests, specifically the Great Oak of Portmore or the Portmore Ornament Tree, which fell in a windstorm in 1760 and was subsequently used for shipbuilding and other purposes.

Visit for more detailed information about this tree and of the castle of Bonny Portmore.

“Forest Inn ” – Paul Bonghez (Soundcloud)
Paul Bonghez is a dedicated composer, freelance guitarist, and music teacher who divides his professional career between touring with top Romanian artists and composing for video games. Specializing in cinematic music, Paul writes in a variety of styles: Epic & Sci-Fi, Celtic & Medieval, Fantasy, Action, Dramatic. This piece features several Celtic instruments, including the harp.

“Moonshadows” Bay Area Youth Harp Ensemble (Innisheer)
We featured music by this group of young harpers in Show 4. Their Kickstarter campaign has been successful in helping them reach their goal to tour the Ancient Redwoods to play music among and for the trees, and to help raise funds for conserving these magnificent trees.

Let’s head out to the mythic forest. This next song is basically a listing of the sacred trees and their qualities of the Celts according to the ogham – or “tree alphabet” – of at least the modern-day Druids.

“Greenwood Grove” – Damh the Bard (The Hills They are Hollow)

This song presents wisdom as encoded and expressed by the trees.

I am the Birch of the new beginnings,
The Rowan star with magic guarding,
Alder sight the future showing,
Sweet Willow sees her Moon arising,
Ash the three realms he is touching,


Ogham (which means ‘language’ and is pronounced o’um, or och’um) … consists of twenty-five simple strokes centred on or branching off a central line. It is similar in purpose, but separate in origin from the Nordic runes. The Ogham characters were inscribed on stones and probably on staves of wood.

Its origins are lost in the mists of time, and most of the existing inscriptions have only been dated to the fifth and sixth centuries, but whether originally Celtic or pre-Celtic, we may sense that it carries with it some of the very earliest of Druid wisdom. Amongst our sources of information about its use, we have from Ireland the twelfth century Book of Leinster, the fourteenth century Book of Ballymote, and O’Flaherty’s Ogygia (published in 1793). And from Scotland, transcribed from the oral tradition in the seventeenth century, we have The Scholar’s Primer. But it was the poet Robert Graves who, following in his grandfather’s footsteps as an Ogham expert, brought this arcane system into public awareness once again, with his publication of The White Goddess in 1948.

We’ll follow with some music composed about the legendary Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest.

“Robin (The Hooded Man)” and “Lady Marion” Clannad (Legend)
Legend is a 1984 soundtrack album for the ITV television series Robin of Sherwood, by the Irish folk group Clannad. The Robin Hood series was much loved on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Tree Blessing Poem” – Mara Freeman (from her book Kindling the Celtic Spirit)
A field recording of Mara reading her poem.

“Celtic Dawn” – Tim Olisker (Pianissimo on Soundcloud)
Tim is a 27-year-old software engineer and amateur composer living in Seattle who very recently started composing. He writes:

I focus on composing atmospheric, evocative ethnic pieces that take my listeners on a journey through both time and space. I’m obsessed with medieval sounds, but also love Celtic/Northern European, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Far Eastern ethnic vibes. … Every piece you hear on my cloud is 100% original music that is composed, recorded (using VSTs), and produced by myself. No remixes, no covers. I don’t use loops. Nor do I use prerecorded “musical phrases” of any kind. I manually compose and record every single note of every instrument you hear …

“Brown Creek Trail” – Jon Parmentier (youtube)
As a backdrop to David Whyte’s poem and the nature news update, we have nature sounds recorded in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California.

“Sometimes” – David Whyte (River Flow: New and Selected Poems)

Poet David Whyte grew up with a strong, imaginative influence from his Irish mother among the hills and valleys of his father’s Yorkshire. He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The poem begins:

if you move carefully
through the forest,
like the ones
in the old stories,
who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,
you come
to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere …

Ancient Forest news report:
from the article: Ancient Celtic Forest Bought by Woodland Trust

An ancient forest in Snowdonia has been bought by the Woodland Trust after a campaign raised £750,000. The 220-hectare forest of Llennyrch – also known as the Celtic Rainforest – is a unique habitat of unspoilt atlantic oakwood and Woodland pasture. It included lichen that doesn’t grow anywhere else in Wales.

“Cumha Eachainn Ruaidh Nan Cath (Lament for Red Hector of the Battles)”  – Alison Kinnaird (The Silver String)
Here Alison Kinnaird plays piobaireachd on the wire-strung harp.

From the Piobaireachd Society website:

… What emerged was the instrument we know today as the Great Highland Bagpipe, and a form of music, piobaireachd, which is unique to the instrument.  It is a very stylized form of music. There is freedom in the theme or “ground” of the piobaireachd to express joy, sadness, or sometimes in the “gathering” tunes , a peremptory warning or call to arms.

The word “piobaireachd” literally means pipe playing or pipe music, but is now used to describe the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. Another name for it is “Ceol Mor” meaning the Big Music, which separates piobaireachd from all other forms of pipe music (marches, reels, jigs etc. ) which are referred to as “Ceol Beag” – the Little Music.
To describe a piobaireachd is not easy. It consists of a theme or “ground”, with variations (which vary in number and complexity ) that follow the theme. The theme is often very slow, and the general effect of the whole piece of music is slow – slowness being a characteristic of Highland music.

From The Early Gaelic Harp website:

Ceòl mór (big music), or pìobaireachd (piping) or pibroch, is the formal art music of the Scottish highland bagpipes1. However, in previous centuries, similar music was also played on fiddle and on the early clàrsach (early Gaelic harp)2, and many scholars have suggested that the modern living pipe tradition has its origins in the lost medieval Gaelic harp traditions. This music was also played on the fiddle in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I think that it is a mistake to think of the familiar living bagpipe tradition as primary – fiddle pibroch is often included under a general heading of ‘imitative music’3. To me it seems clear that that both pipes and fiddle independently took up the ceòl mór style and idiom from the much older harp traditions, which date back to medieval times in Ireland and Scotland.

We don’t have very much concrete information about Gaelic harp ceòl mór. It would have been an older strand of the Gaelic harp tradition, more complex and idiomatic than the ports or vocal music which were notated in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. I am only aware of one example of Gaelic harp ceòl mór noted from the playing of one of the old harpers.

Alison Kinnaird is recognised as one of the foremost proponents of traditional Scottish harp music. She plays both gut and wire-strung harps. She has been researching the repertoire of the harp in Scotland for more than twenty-five years, written several books of harp music, and co-authored the first published history of the harp in Scotland The Tree of Strings.

We close our show today with a piece that is not Celtic, but which is inspired by the majestic old growth redwood.

“Forest Phoenix” – Jon Parmentier (Music for Redwoods).
Jon Parmentier is a guitarist who is much inspired and influenced by the nature of the northern California coast and the Coastal Redwoods.

Diolch yn fawr —Thank you for joining me!