Cló Iar-Chonnacht CICD 189
1. Reels: Martin Wynne's No. 2 / Humours of Lissadell / The Duke of Leinster; 2. Jigs: The Battering Ram / Winnie Hayes’ / The Cordal Jig; 3. Hornpipes: The Galway Bay I The Peacock's Feather No. 2; 4. Air: Amhrán Mhainse; 5. Jigs: Castletown Connors / Father Quinn's / Tell Her I Am; 6. Reels: Micho's Mason's Apron / Jackson's / Cathair Rua; 7. O'Carolan's Cup; 8. Jigs: Mary Shore / Brid Harpers /The Luachrachán; 9. Reels: The Morning Star / Paddy Fahy’s / The Shallow; 10. Air: An Bhuatais; 11. Hornpipes: Miss Calvin's / May Bán; 12. March: The Karen March; 13. Reels: Mick O'Connor's / Lad O'Beirne's / Matt Peoples'; 14. Jigs: O'Sullivan's March / Celia's Jig / Whelan's Old Sow.One of several CDs launched at this year's Willie Clancy Summer School, and translating as quietness or tranquility, Suaimhneas is a CD of solo harp music from multi-instrumentalist Michelle Mulcahy. Michelle will be familiar to anybody interested in Irish music through the three CDs of the family group with her father Mick and sister Louise.
The harp has come a long way from the prim and gentile image associated with Mary O'Hara; and to show that the harp is well suited to playing things other than slow airs and Carolan pieces, Michelle opens the CD with a set of three reels associated with fiddle players. There are three slower pieces on the CD but most of the 14 tracks are the sort of thing you'd find on any other instrumental CD. There are old favourites as well as more recent compositions. Michelle has included two of her own compositions that do not sound out of place amongst the older pieces.
Michelle follows modern convention and plays with the balls of her fingers and vamps along to provide her own accompaniment. The playing is very smooth with a steady pulse rather than an out and out driving rhythm. Technically, the execution is of a very high standard and the triplets and rolls are all crisp and the balance between left and right hands is well judged. The ornamentation is very similar to the tricks available to a piano player, triplets and fingered rolls or trills. The result is a very pleasant sound but the style of playing is so smoothed out that the tunes sometimes lack definition and the listener needs some familiarity with the tune to appreciate what Michelle is doing. There are no short silences or long notes to break the tune up and emphasise the beat. The left hand vamping puts a modern syncopated beat into the tune that seems to characterise younger musicians' style, but it does also make the tunes all sound a bit similar. The hornpipes work really well and that particular rhythm seems to fit more comfortably with Michelle's style on the harp than some of the other tunes.
There is a well presented set of notes in the accompanying booklet in English and Irish, offering alternative tune titles and sources for all the music.
This is a CD that you need a quiet half hour to sit and concentrate on it but it will reward repeated listening. It's available from the Clo Iar Chonnachta website.
Ken Ricketts & Marya Parker - 3.8.12
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