Andra Bohnet, flutes & Celtic harp
Tom Morley, violin & mandolin
Jonathan Clark, viola
Barbara Gabriel, cello
with special guests Ben Harper, guitar & David Hughes, percussion
The Silverwood Quartet comes full circle in their exploration of Celtic music with the release of A Celtic Mosaic. When the group first formed over a decade ago, flutist/Celtic harpist Andra Bohnet brought in some arrangements for the group to play of music by Turloch O’Carolan, the famed blind harper (1670-1738), whose lilting Irish melodies have survived and are beloved to this day. It was the first time anyone in the quartet had heard of O’Carolan or paid much attention to Irish music in general, but it planted a seed of interest that took root and continues to grow.
The intense interest of Andra and Silverwood violinist Tom Morley in all things Irish and Celtic led them to form a spin-off group, Mithril, which has become firmly established in the genre. And over the years, Silverwood has continued to find, commission, and create its own arrangements, developing a rich repertoire of Irish and Celtic-flavored music. We’re pleased to present chamber music versions of these lovely tunes – we feel certain that many of these selections have never before been played in a quartet setting. We hope you enjoy these musical bits and pieces that comprise our Celtic mosaic.
The first three selections on this CD – Queen of the Scals, Glenveagh Castle, and Morning Gallop – pay particular tribute to recent inspiration for Silverwood by the West Ocean String Quartet (www.wosq.com), the premiere Irish chamber group to combine classical and traditional Irish music in their performances and recordings. Belfast Symphony cellist Neil Martin has written full-length orchestral works and was the subject of a recent BBC documentary. He wrote Queen of the Scals several years ago and named it for his daughter, then a young girl who was a scallywag (i.e., a little troublemaker!). Violinist Seamus McGuire is well respected by both classical and traditional players and was an original member of one of the most influential Irish traditional music groups, Buttons and Bows. His lush, moody composition Glenveagh Castle was commissioned by the Irish Minister of the Arts. Morning Gallop was written by Carl Hession, regarded as one of the finest accompanists, composers, and arrangers in traditional Irish music. He’s also known for his work with famous Irish music groups such as DeDannan and Moving Cloud. All three of these pieces were featured on the West Ocean String Quartet’s first album, Unwrapping Dreams. Silverwood is honored to be the first American chamber group to perform and record these tunes, and we thank Seamus and Neil, plus violinist Niamh Crowley and viola player Kenneth Rice for allowing us to start our album with true Irish spirit.
The Walls of Dun Formna was written by composer/arranger John Mock, a Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist who has performed with the Dixie Chicks and Maura O’Connell and has released a series of albums that mix lush string arrangements with traditional Irish melodies. John’s music was a natural for Silverwood, and he contributed this special arrangement just for us.
Star of the County Down is a traditional Irish folk ballad that has been covered by diverse artists, from Yo-Yo Ma to Van Morrison. It is usually played in common time or a waltz rhythm. Andra’s arrangement uses the latter form of the tune, with a taste of some Medieval fauxbourdon in the harmonic writing.
The Ash Grove is a traditional Welsh folk tune first published in 1802; the melody is also used for the hymn Let All Things Now Living. Ben DeVan, Music Director at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fairhope, Alabama, and good friend to Silverwood, arranged this version for us.
Mithril percussionist David Hughes is also a fine composer and arranger and has written a variety of pieces for different chamber groups throughout the Gulf Coast area. For Silverwood, David wrote the most traditional sounding of all the arrangements on the album, starting with the slow air, The Lovely Girl, followed by two famous jigs, The Cow that Ate the Blanket, and The Lark in the Strand. David rounded out the arrangement with two exciting original reels, Hide ‘n’ Seek with Helen and A Chair at Western Drive. Throughout David’s clever arrangement, you can almost hear the pints of Guinness being poured. Thanks, David!
One of the most beautiful melodies to come from Ireland is Mná na hÉireann (Women of Ireland), by Seán Ó Riada, the 20th century Irish composer who helped take traditional Irish music out of the pubs and onto the concert stage. Women of Ireland may be Ó Riada’s best-known composition, and it has been used in a number of settings, including the original production of Riverdance and the soundtrack of the 1975 movie, Barry Lyndon.
The long-running and well-loved BBC hit series, Ballykissangel, follows the lives of residents of a fictional small town in the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. Shaun Davey, another of Ireland’s most popular contemporary composers, contributed music for the first three seasons of the show, including the delightful theme performed here by Silverwood. We’re quite certain that this is the first chamber music version of it ever recorded. “BallyK” fans will understand when we say that this is dedicated to Father Peter and Assumpta – you’ll always live on in our hearts (and DVDs)!
Another selection included here as a chamber music premiere is Andra’s arrangement of music from Howard Shore’s film score for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The movie trilogy is a favorite with all of us, and this suite of the charming Concerning Hobbits, the haunting In Dreams, and Enya’s ethereal May it Be lends itself well to the chamber music idiom and forms the extended centerpiece of our CD.
Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961), an Australian composer/pianist who later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, collected many folk tunes from the British Isles and used them in a series, British Folk Music Settings, for a variety of classical genres. Molly on the Shore, written in 1907, combines two traditional Irish reels, the title tune and Temple Hill, written for two fiddles, one middle fiddle, and one bass fiddle (aka a string quartet). The Silverwood version stays extremely close to Grainger’s original, but in Andra’s opinion, makes it even more interesting by providing the timbral contrast of the flute to the three remaining “fiddles.”
The next three pieces on the album come from the popular Celtic/New Age artist Loreena McKennitt. We had the opportunity to hear her in concert recently and were totally blown away by the power and beauty of her performance, which inspired Andra to arrange three tunes for this CD. Andra & Tom have played La Serinissima at many weddings, and it was fun to add the additional voices. Mithril has its own version of Santiago, a traditional melody from the Galician area of Spain, and for this new arrangement Andra and Tom’s Mithril bandmates, guitarist Ben Harper and percussionist David Hughes, join forces with Silverwood. Never-ending Road (Amhrán Duit), which fits beautifully between the other two, is the only one of these tunes with lyrics and Loreena sang it to close the concert we heard. This CD project, which has been a long journey, but a labor of love. Like the song’s refrain suggests, as musicians we hold our dreams in the palms of our hands whenever we perform. It is our gift to you!
Over the Sea to Skye (also known as The Skye Boat Song) is a traditional melody from Scotland first published in 1884. It is often sung as a lullaby, and you can hear that lilting quality in this beautiful arrangement by Wisconsin string educator/arranger Carrie Lane Gruselle.
Now for something a little different, an Irish jig with a Bluegrass flavor – although that’s not as odd as it sounds. Many of America’s folk music traditions, including Bluegrass, stem from the tunes played by Scots-Irish immigrants who flocked to this country from the 1700s on. Crossing the Briney is a new tune written by Ricky Skaggs and included on his Grammy-winning album, Instrumentals. On Ricky’s CD, the tune features a full orchestra arrangement by respected Nashville arranger Jim Gray. We commissioned Gray to arrange the tune for us; it features Tom on mandolin in a nod to Ricky Skaggs’ instrument of choice.
Ashokan Farewell is the famous, timeless melody used in the PBS series, The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns. While many listeners believe the tune is from the Civil War era, it was actually written by fiddle player Jay Ungar in the 1980s as a tribute to students at a fiddle camp in Ashokan, New York. The melody has become a staple for all fiddle players and a signature tune for Tom who has played it as a soloist with symphony orchestras, in homes, and in crowded pubs. Andra, who has frequently provided the accompaniment, wrote this new arrangement for this CD.
The CD concludes with the rousing Riverdance, the theme from the highly successful stage show that brought Irish dance and music into the spotlight for an entire new audience. Our version gives Andra an opportunity to really wail on the flute. We won’t be a bit surprised if you want to get up and dance yourself as you listen to the rousing finish!
At our website (www.silverwoodquartet.com) you can read expanded liner notes about the making of the album and the stories behind the music.