Gypsyfire has been presenting traditional Celtic and original story/songs in the Celtic tradition since 1994. The composition of the band has changed and morphed over the years depending on where we were playing and the project in process. Charles Stacey and his partner in crime and life have been the "hub on the wheel" of this creative endeavor. The original pieces are all authored or co-authored by Charlie. While many of the songs draw from either traditional stories or at least are located in the present but in the confines of the old Celtic nations (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, and the Isle of Mann) many are in the tradition and structure of the old ballads but come from Charlie's 23 years of travels as a photojournalist and then 20 plus years of travel as an itinerant folk singer. Charlie and Cynthia have played an eclectic collection of venues from their long time base in Houston, Texas through Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and up through the Mid-Atlantic. They base now in New Mexico and spend their time in the four corners region encompassing Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. The stories in the songs often use the tradition of the Shanache/Troubadour/Bard to tell of special people and places in the land and their relationship to each other. They also tend to see the world from "the other side" often with irony and humor. As an example, "Samhain Song" in this project is in effect a ghost story from the ghosts point of view as they are having to return to living person's side of "the veil" on All Hallows Eve or what is know by the Gaelic folk at Samhain (pronounced "Sow-In"). Charlie also works as a psychotherapist so many of the songs use his hypnotic skills in weaving a web to pull the listener into the story. But all the songs share in common that they are about the story and they invite the listener to participate in what can become a musical conversation.
Joining Charlie in this incarnation of Gypsyfire isSteven Sprague, John Cater and Susan Levin. Steve has many years of playing guitar in styles from the blues, jazz to rock and roll. Steve now puts his distinctive sensibility to the contemporary folk/Celtic sensibilty and brings a fresh new twist that is true to the acoustic traditions and yet with a special spice. Steve also brought in his talents on bass and ended up co-producing the disc. John Cater took time from his work as an archeologist and from his duties with the Celtic Band "Mad Haggis" to play bodhran, congas, percussion and his new passion, the didgeridoo. Susan Levin provided the hearbeat of the project with her Djembe and shakers.
The idea behind "Time's Mandala" is best described in the liner notes from New Mexico playwright and collaborator, Debbie Doggett: "Ancient rhythms beat an echo deep within our souls, reminding us we are part of an ever-turning Wheel of Life. We are connected to the world around us and to each other by the seasons represented by that Wheel. The dance of Life blurs the rigid edges of time and space that we long to construct to mark our passage as it moves us through times of silence and despair back to hope again. That is the Celtic Calendar. In the words and rhythms of these songs you will hear the echo of tribal stories combined with the technology of contemporary music. Both serve as a reminder that we move on, turned and changed by the Wheel of Life. It is a journey of hope, of knowing that joy returns as surely as the seasons change."
The music on this project will eventually provide a soundtrack for a larger performance art/theatrical piece coming to a theater near you.