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Author Topic: Hibernia, a disc full of gems!  (Read 654 times)
Moscapoet
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« on: January 09, 2017, 06:09:18 PM »

  Hibernia is the ancient name for Ireland. It is what Máiréad chose to name her new album of gems and it suits the contents perfectly. She comes from an ancient place within an ancient land. Nearby to her home is Cashel, site of the last unified Irish King, Brian. He fought the Vikings at the battle of Clontarf, which is near Dublin. The hill of Cashel  overlooks a vast area called The Golden Vale as well as nearby mountain ranges and the town of Cashel itself. On that hill later on a monastic site was built which Cromwell later sacked with great loss of life. I have visited there a few times and you can still feel the spirits there. That is typical of the ancient places throughout the country. The town itself is delightful and it is a nice walk from there up the hill to the ruins. Weather there, like the mood of the Irish themselves, is ever changing, from sun to rain and clouds at times within brief minutes. And so the album reflects all of this.

   We have waited a long time for a new album from Máiréad. It was not going to happen while she was with Celtic Woman. In fact, none of the front row artists have done solo albums while with Celtic Woman. Lynn did two but both were prior to or in between performing with the ensemble. It appears that two of the current girls will be doing that which may mean the contracts have changed and they would actually get something from the sales of them. Hard to say as I don’t have a copy of the contracts from the past or present. Regardless, we now have Hibernia. Apologies for not using fadas except for the fiddler herself as I don’t have those on the computer and need to copy and paste to get them in.

   The album is backed by well known and top drawer musicianship from that country, including several members of Máiréad’s own family. Most prevalent among her family on this album, as in her first one, is brother Karl, a multi-gifted musician with creds in his own right. The guy has chops in many instruments. Her dad and mom, John and Kathleen, are on here, as well as another brother, Sean. Nick Bailey, former CW drummer, is also on here.  The orchestra is provided by The Orchestra Of Ireland and conducted by Liam Bates. Much of the creative endeavor, along with Máiréad herself, comes from a marvelous artistic mind named Colm O’Foghlu. I had the honor of meeting him back in 2013 at The Helix prior to the second Celtic Woman Christmas recording. I have heard a couple of his Christmas symphony creations that include Lynn Hillary in them and they are gorgeous. So, I knew this would be a special album long before it was ever publicly announced.  The album itself is a fold open item with a disc in one sleeve and the booklet in another. It came signed by the artist. The booklet opens to the set list specifics and the thanks and acknowledgements along with more photos and art work. Design goes to Caroline Nesbitt who is married to one of M’s brothers. She has long been the designer for the various Celtic Woman products including the tour programs. She does great work. The album itself is broken into suites which is typical of orchestral offerings. The following is a set list and brief commentary on the tunes and what I visualize as I listen to them. Some clearly evoke the titles, and others not as much. I wish Tinker Bell Suite had been included but there may be copyright issues involved with that.

   Opening up the album is the Invasion Suite. In it is a tune called Hallowed Fire which is a waltz that I can clearly see a video of with folks waltzing around a campfire. In the notes it says it was inspired by a painting done by Evie Hone. I’ll have to go look it up. It is a nice way to open. This is followed by a tune called The First Sheaf. It is a faster paced tune also inspired by a painting, this one by Norah McGuinness. It evokes a scene of people at harvest in my mind. I’m not certain whether the invasion in the suite title pertains to a particular invasion or a generic one or if it is an invasion OF Ireland or FROM Ireland. The tune that wraps up this suite is called Becoming. Perhaps it is the becoming of Ireland or the becoming of the diaspora overseas. It may be the latter as it includes Karl playing the didjeridoo. That is an Australian aboriginal instrument and one of my favorites. You need to have a particular gift in circular breathing in order to play it. It’s something that amazes me about Karl is that he plays strings, wind, and percussion. Truly a musical virtuoso and one I hope she includes when she starts doing live performances.  This final tune in the suite is also inspired by a painting, this by Alice Maher. Certainly makes me want to look up all these Irish painters!

   The next suite is the Hibernia Suite itself. It is more original work, which I love about this album. There are no covers here. It is pure Máiréad. This is a four tune suite that begins with a tune called Sean O Duibhir An Ghleanna. I’m not sure what that means or how it is pronounced but it is a slower and more calming piece that to me evokes scenes of Ireland. It has some lovely cello and piano in it. Next in the suite is the Ballydesmond Polka. One does not think Ireland when you say the word polka. That is more German and Czech but this is where her family comes in to play. Her dad, John, is quite the accordion player. This also includes dancers. Here is where I really start seeing this album as having great potential for a touring show. Fiddler Lindsey Sterling has dancers in her show and she was in part inspired by  Máiréad. Lindsey has played twice now to full house crowds at Red Rocks. So, add a bit of dancing, some vocals, and the finest fiddler on the planet and you have quite the spectacular. And we know she knows someone who can do the lights! In any case, this tune certainly has the polka flair. The next tune in the suite is a duel one, Belles of Tipperary and Star of Munster. Well we certainly know one belle of Tipp, don’t we?! It’s a real toe tapper and would get the crowd clapping along! The suite wraps up with another duel tune, Merrily Kiss The Quaker and Denis Murphy’s Slide. Hmmm, do they have Quakers in Ireland? And a slide is a particular type of tune like a reel or a jig would be. It is a classification that someone who has more technical knowledge could explain. It finishes off what seems to be a journey through Ireland in musical notes.

    Next up is a stand alone piece not part of a suite. This is the only vocal piece on the album. It’s called To Bring Them Home, and is sung by Nathan Pacheco.  It comes from something called The Heroes Of The Helen Blake. I had never heard of Nathan prior to Máiréad working with him. But she recently did a beautiful video with him of my favorite Advent tune, O Come O Come Emmanuel. I so wish they had done all the verses to that song but it was a marvelous creation and I hope spurs her on to doing more video creations. The song is slower and has a rather majestic feel to it. Again, as with the dancers, this helps lay foundations for live performances. In fact, this entire album is a foundation for such a thing. Of course, to do a two hour show would involve additional pieces but she is perfectly capable of doing that. After all, this would not be the first show she has helped produce. In fact, that first show, in between her time with Lord Of The Dance and Celtic Woman, was called Irish Invasion. She worked on that with a man from Hungary and perhaps the opening suite was part of that. I don’t know as only a short snippet, in the form of a trailer, of that show survives today. In any case, this song is lovely and a nice addition to the album.
   The next suite is the Raining Up suite. She did say she would reprise some tunes from her first album and this is where those show up. They are reworked and have a richer and deeper sound to them with the full orchestration. They are familiar tunes to most of us who have listened to the Raining Up album many times in the past decade. On this suite here we begin with Captain H. I have always loved that tune and the tune certainly evokes nautical scenes. It is followed by the more sedate Bovaglies Plaid, the longest tune in this suite. It wraps up with the tune for which perhaps  Máiréad is best known while with Celtic Woman, The Butterfly. This is a more dramatic Butterfly. It is like a field of Monarchs rather than a single one flitting around a field. Of course, this has always gotten the crowd going and would again in a live show. In fact, one’s hands would be very sore after a show based on this album!

    The next stand alone tune is one that many have said is their favorite off her first album. I first saw her do this tune on video with Celtic Tenors in Germany. I’m not certain why it is stand alone and not part of the Raining Up suite, but it is. It is four minutes of exceptional slow air. While I love her fast tunes, I dearly love her slow airs. In those her soul speaks. In those I personally drew my largest numbers of poetic inspirations form her. In fact this tune is the only one I ever wrote words to. That is a difficult task to do when one does not read or write music. Of course I’m talking about There Is No Night.

   The album wraps up with a three tune suite called The Dusk & The Dark & The Dawn. In it are tunes, appropriately enough called, The Dusk, The Dark, and The Dawn. We all know the opener for CW called The Sky, The Dawn, and The Sun. Well, this suite evokes that a bit but is far longer with the three separate pieces. The Dusk is a brisk entry to evening as the critters get their feeding done before settling down to night. The Dark is quiet and lilting but with bursts of activity as the nocturnal animals come to life. The Dawn starts off gently and then wakes up to the full light of day. It is a nice series and a good way to end the album.

    This is a must have album for any Máiréad fan or for fans of Celtic Woman. It is an essential part of your library. In this album we get the full gamut of both fast airs and slow ones. As I have said throughout, this is a marvelous foundation for live shows. Whether she uses it for that will be up to her as will how much if any touring she may do. It is up to us, her long time fans, to encourage and support that as well as bring new fans into the fold. Of course, her music and presence do that pretty well by themselves! I have purchased every album former Celtic Woman artists have done. There was no doubt I would do that here. I only regret only being able to afford the $50 package. Those who did more got their names in the booklet of this album. But that is not the main reason for me. The main reason is I want to support her to the maximum possible. Had this happened a few years ago that maximum would have been far greater. Each of us within our means can do our part to help Máiréad make the most of her new solo career. Pass along this album to all you know who may enjoy it and direct them to her website and social pages. She has earned that support through her musical gifts and her kindness to her fans. Thank you, Máiréad, for this little disc of gems!
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An fidléir's mínealaíne i sprite iomlán sin
CWazyTom
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2017, 02:36:03 AM »

Ever since I heard this album, I've been trying to express just how diverse and lovely it was, but the words have been eluding me. Here at last in your review are the words that do this album justice.

Thank you Scott. I think you may have inspired me to write what I've been wanting to for the past several weeks.

Rather than re-writing my review, I'll simply elaborate on a few points and hopefully express them better than I did before.

 Smiley

The album has a tremendous amount of variety. There's a style and song for everyone, as though Máiréad is relating all her wonderful experiences travelling the world and echoing the people she's profoundly touched along the way.

In Hibernia, there is life: growth, humor, turmoil, beauty, passion, exhilaration, loss, and happiness.

Many moments had me clapping and cheering. Some were so deeply moving they had me fighting back tears. Sometimes, I experienced both those emotional states at once. Wink This album truly swept me away.

The last 4 songs on the album, starting with There Is No Night, were my absolute favorites. The blend of sweeping melodies and exhilarating tunes, supported by strong orchestral arrangements, were truly overwhelming.

I think my favorite was The Dawn. The first half of the song evoked for me a sense both of a bittersweet ending as well as a new beginning. Personally, I visualized the last piece on the album as Máiréad's farewell to Celtic Woman and The Dawn of this exciting new chapter in her career. It is one of the most beautiful and epic conclusions I have ever enjoyed.

Thank you Máiréad, for your wonderful album Hibernia.


- Tom
« Last Edit: January 13, 2017, 11:34:17 PM by CWazyTom » Logged
Ron
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2017, 03:58:36 PM »

Excellent review, Scott! I just posted a follow up.
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jturbitt
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2017, 08:49:14 AM »

A in-depth Hibernia review to say the least Scott. Good Job & thanks for posting.
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Moscapoet
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« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2017, 06:17:50 PM »

Thanks, everyone. Nice to have something to review here!
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An fidléir's mínealaíne i sprite iomlán sin
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