"Silver" is our celebration of IONA’s 25th anniversary with Barbara Ryan (vocals, bouzouki, bodhran, pieds), Bernard Argent (wooden flute, whistles, doumbek), Chuck Lawhorn (bass), Jim Queen (fiddle, banjo) and Kathleen Larrick (dance). Our journey has been one of adventure, discovery, great companionship and joy!
IONA was perhaps the first pan-Celtic band to mix and match songs, tunes and dances from all the Celtic influences, and one of the most long lived. In 11 tracks and almost an hour of music we blend a total of 32 songs and dances from 13 different traditions (Appalachian, Bolivian, Breton, Cajun, Cornish, French, Galician, Manx, Irish, Québécois, Scottish, Shetland, Welsh), and Barbara sings in 5 different languages. All these varied Celtic threads are woven into a single tapestry.
This project was funded by the generosity of friends, family and fans through our Kickstarter funding platform (www.kickstarter.com): we feel blessed indeed to have you all in our lives. And to have this incredible, inspiring music...
1. Les Mardi Gras/Reuben’s Train/Le Reel Béatrice -trad.Cajun/Appalachian/Québécois
Bouzouki queen from New Orleans, Beth Patterson, taught Barbara not only this song, but the unique foot pattern called “pieds”, used by Québécois fiddlers and singers, and “bottine souriante” by Cajuns accompanying mouth music that you’ll hear on our recording. Mardi Gras revelers would travel from house to house on horseback, led by “le capitain” begging for food for “le gumbo” that would be made for the celebration. Jim adds an Appalachian tune that ties in well, and finishes off with a great reel from Québec to which Kathleen does some Québécois clogging. 4:23
2. Willie’s Auld Trews/Fionnghuala [Fingal’s bothy] /Tam Lin -trad.Scottish
A tune celebrating the lifting of the ban on kilts imposed by the English leads in to a puirt-a-beul song. Using mnemonics to capture and remember tunes is an ancient Hebridean tradition, mostly performed by women. We end up with a wild interpretation of a tune commemorating Robert Burns’ faery epic: onstage, Kathleen and Jim take off on fiddle and feet. 6:22
3. Morwnad yr Ehedydd [Death of the Lark] /Titrwm Tatrwm [Pitter Patter] /Abergenni -trad.Welsh
We were struck by the interpretation of this tune of an old folk song by Anne Marie Summers and Helen Wilding, and intertwine our version with the song by David Thomas (Dafydd Ddu Eryri, l759-l822). Black David of Snowdon was a famous poet who established literary societies, teaching the traditional meters. Collected by Playford, Abergenni is from the unusual Welsh stately/courtly realm. 4:28
4. Volviendo al Valle [Returning to the Valley] (Gerardo Arias) /Chouteira/Get You a Copper Kettle (A.F. Beddoe) - Bolivian/Galician/Bluegrass
While listening to traditional Bolivian music provided by our dear friend, Martha Chavez, Barbara noticed its marked similarity to Galician/Asturian tunes. Considering that many of the sailors that embarked on Spanish and Portuguese voyages of discovery in the 15-18th centuries were most likely of Celtic descent (from the Atlantic coastal regions), this should be no surprise! Many sailors intermarried with local Indians and contributed their own musical traditions. To that end, we play this flowing Bolivian melody, followed by a Galician dance tune. Apropos of nothing, we decide to journey back to the New World, and throw in some bluegrass – just to trace yet another Celtic strain...
Get You a Copper Kettle was written by Albert Frank Beddoe and made popular by Joan Baez. Pete Seeger's account dates the song to 1946, mentioning its probable folk origin,while in a 1962 Time readers column A. F. Beddoe says that the song was written by him in 1953 as part of the folk opera Go Lightly, Stranger. 8:37
5. Tail Toddle (Robert Burns)/The Morning Dew/The Ale is Dear -trad.Scottish/Irish
We launch into this sprightly set with one of Burns’ bawdier songs, a rather explicit description of intimacy in Lowland Scots dialect (translation on our website). The tunes that follow are both popular session tunes. 2:59
6. Seán Bháin/Chloë’s Passion (Dr. Angus MacDonald) - Irish/Scottish
We combine this quite suggestive Irish song (translation on our website) played in jig time with a lovely Scottish slip jig. 3:54
7. Les Poules Huppées [Crested Hens] (Gilles Chabenat)/Ton Bal Eured/Tumbledown (James O’Grady) - French/Breton/Irish
We combine a lovely French bourrée with a Breton dance and an Irish jig. On stage, Kathleen has choreographed a gaceful modern dance interpretation with Irish dance overtones. 5:58
8. Pachipi/Dans les Prisons de Nantes/Johnny’s Gone to France -trad.Breton/Irish
We introduce this popular Breton/Gallo song which probably originated in the 17th century, with a Breton dance tune. There is a prisoner in Nantes, the historical capital of Brittany, situated on the Loire River. Condemned to be hung, he is only visited by the jailer’s daughter. He inveigles her to untie his feet and immediately leaps into the Loire and swims to the other side. From there, he bids farewell to the women of Nantes, declaring he’ll marry the jailer’s daughter if he returns. The last verse repeats that there is a prisoner in Nantes, followed by Jim’s contribution of the Irish tune, “Johnny Came to France”, suggesting that perhaps the prisoner did return... Because this is also sung in Canada, Barbara accompanies with “pieds”. 4:53
9. The Trooper and the Fair Maid/Toddy MacPherson’s -trad.Scottish
Since the band currently sports some good singers, we tackled this rousing Scottish ballad, which is probably from an English broadside. A version appears in the Skene Manuscript which dates to the first half of the seventeenth century telling a tale of seduction, impregnation and desertion – one of your less violent Scottish ballads! We segué into a tune that no one we know can identify. We first heard it played by the Tannahill Weavers, but they don’t know either! Bernard gave it this working title, then Kathleen invented a drink of mead and Irish whiskey by the same name and gave it validity... 4:43
10. Moirney ny Cainle/Arrane y Guilley Hesheree [The Ploughboy’s Song] /St. Ives Fer Moh [Big Fair] -trad.Manx/Cornish
These Manx tunes have a going to the fair quality that blends well with this rollicking song about the big fair in St. Ives which attracts the whole family. Chuck orchestrated our vocal harmonies so is responsible for the interesting B minor 9 chord of the finale. 4:08
11. Shetland reels: Spootiskerry (Ian Burns)/Sleep Soond i’ da Moarnin’/Faroe Rum/Willafjord -trad.Scottish
We close out the album with a "live" recording from the concert we played for JAM Inc. at In Your Ear Music in Richmond on Jan 22, 2010. The great Shetland collector Tom Anderson said that there were fiddlers from many countries employed in the whaling industries. Shetland was an important participant in those industries in the 19th century, and benefited musically both from Shetland sailors visiting other ports of call, and foreign sailors bringing their traditions to Shetland. The syncopated rhythms associated with the Shetland fiddling styles can be found from Norway to Cape Breton, and these tunes are all session favorites. 3:58