Firedance: Songs for Winter Solstice offers a respite from the hectic commercialism of modern-day Christmas. These songs invite us to celebrate Yule in the old-fashioned way: by ritually observing the turning of the year, by acknowledging our part in the patterns of nature, and by feasting, dancing, and making merry!
Feedback from Listeners
** " I believe Firedance will gain a favorite place among my early seasonal music with artists like Robin Petrie, Brenda Hunter, Maggie Sansone (all hammered dulcimer), vocalists like Loreena McKennitt and ensembles like Anonymous 4, and the Medieval Babes." J. Rosolowsky - New Jersey, USA
** Looking for some music that will help pull you and the Earth mother out of the deep slumber of winter? This CD might be just what the doctor ordered. It has an interesting combination of traditional Celtic songs, ale drinking encouragement from Merry Olde England and original tunes - of which a relatively light airy instrumental called "The Turning Tide" is especially pleasing.
There is nothing shy or tentative about the use of voice and instruments (mostly harp, accordion and pennywhistle) throughout the whole CD. This powerful energy works to unify the diverse range of music artfully presented here.
Pick up Firedance and I guarantee you that your collection of tired old seasonal music will soon get pushed to the back of the shelf to make room for this uplifting invitation to celebrate the company of friends, the awakening of the earth and the return of the sun.
Briarpatch Magazine, Canada 2004
** "Talk about refreshing! Jaiya jumps off the charts, providing a pulsing, primal instinct and heavenly harmonies. The chemistry yields the gold standard in folk / new age / early music / world music excitement" ...
Carol Swanson, Christmasreviews.com, 2004
(see full review at bottom)
** "Firedance has freshness, style and clarity, it seems
given freely with conviction and passion!" Peter Togni, host of "Weekender," CBC Radio 2, Canada
** "There is something strangely stirring about this music, something hopeful and affirming. It's music from the hills, from far away, and from home, all at the same time.
However Jaiya does it - whether it's the jazzy accordion, the pennywhistle, the harp or those beautiful voices - what results is a deep and unshakeable certainly that the clouds will part, the auld moon will rise again, everything is going to be alright, after all." Terry Glavin, Transmontanus Press, Vancouver, B.C.
** "Thanks for the CD. We're lovin it here at CBC Maritimes Weekend Mornings..." Doug Barron, CBC Radio 1, Canada
** "I enjoyed your CD, "Firedance," very much. The haunting lyrical harmonies, clever word crafting, enduring melodies, and piquant sounds of the accordion have come together in a very compelling way.
I find myself feeling a kind of internal peace and tranquility. You should know that I was playing your CD in my office, when several people expressed how charmed they were by your music. Thus, this order for 4 CD's." Cynthia F-S.
** "I thoroughly enjoyed this CD. Lael Whitehead, Miranda Brown, Kim Darwin are three very talented musicians." Danielle Charbonneau, Music for Awhile, CBC Radio, Canada
** "Talk about refreshing! Jaiya jumps off the charts, providing a pulsing, primal instinct and heavenly harmonies. This is Early Music at its finest--earthy tones, early instruments, and spot-on vocals.
Jaiya consists of two vocalists (Miranda Brown and Lael Whitehead) and an accordion player (Kim Darwin). The chemistry yields the gold standard in folk/new age/early music/world music excitement.
As you might have guessed, "Firedance" is not your ordinary Christmas offering; for that reason, the CD is easily playable year 'round. This album is all about the winter solstice, and the songs range from good-natured party and tavern tunes to tender ballads.
At the darkest time of the year, when lost in the deep folds of December, throw open the heavy blankets and set the candles ablaze. Celebrate! This album will stir your soul as you strive for the year's warmer, brighter moments.
The musical selections are precious cargo. Among the ten songs are six originals, and the whole package flows seamlessly from start to finish. Brown and Whitehead have voices that perfectly complement each other, creating melting harmonies of such clarity and buoyancy that they raised goose bumps on my arms time and time again.
Two huge bonuses are Brown's excellent harp, which is used to good measure throughout the disc, and Darwin's folksy accordion, which is a steady companion on almost every cut.
Although it is virtually impossible to choose favorites among these strong selections, I would note the impressive contrasts between "Gaia's Lullaby," a sweet baby's breath across the cheek, and "Bring Us In Good Ale," a cheeky and rowdy drinking number. Regardless of tone, the musicianship is stellar.
Fans of early music vocal ensembles will find themselves wiping tears from their eyes as "Firedance" casts its spell. Magnificent." Carol Swanson,Christmasreviews.com, 2004
About the Music
The album consists of five original songs and five rare traditional tunes. All original pieces and musical arrangements are written by band members.
Songs range from lively good-natured party tunes, such as To Drive the Cold Winter Away, and the quirky 15th C English tavern ditty, Bring Us in Good Ale, to tender ballads such as Gaia's Lullaby, with its yearning for communion with the earth.
The album's title track, Firedance, is a slowly-building dervish, with modal, arabic flavours. Swirling accordion riffs and hypnotic vocals invite us to " Cast the old year into the flame." The instrumental jig, The Turning Tide, poignantly conveys the transition from old year to new.
A highlight of the album, Yule is Come, literally turns historical precedent on its ear. In this exuberant piece, a haunting fragment of medieval plainsong chant, "Gaudete, Christus est Natus" (Christ is born) is abducted and transformed into a timeless call to celebrate Yule.
Firedance speaks of the cycles of life and death, the return of the light after the darkest day, and the joy and rebirth that follow.
"We were drawn to making an album for Winter Solstice because of its inclusive and universal themes.
In today's world people can easily become isolated.
Creating ritual and celebration brings people together.
It's a wonderful opportunity for connection and healing."
- band member Miranda Brown.
Jaiya is comprised of three musicians combining strong backgrounds in Jazz, Classical, Celtic and Folk music.
Miranda Brown is an expert harpist, with a rich, powerful voice, and an instinct for song writing and arranging;
Lael Whitehead possesses a haunting lyric voice, plays drum, guitar and penny whistle, and also writes lyrics and music.
Both musicians enjoy alternating between singing lead and supporting each other with backup vocals. Their skill with harmony and blend comes from years of vocal and choral training.
The third member, Kim Darwin is a composer, pianist, and world-class accordion player. His inspired improvisational style takes the music in exciting and unexpected directions.
All three members of Jaiya reside on Mayne Island in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada, where they draw inspiration from the natural beauty surrounding them.