When I think of Ireland I think of the obvious postcard pictures: The rugged coastlines, the misty moors, the ancient ruins, the monks that travelled to all the corners of the medieval world. I think of foggy greens, rainy blues, and cloudy greys. I think of mystery and adventure. And I think of the ambient sounds of Clannad and Enya , the first introduction to Celtic music I heard on the radio as a young lad, many years ago. Well, now I also think of M'ANAM , for the music they make, the music Michael McGlynn (the artistic leader of ANÚNA) wrote for this collaboration with members of the Dutch a capella singing group The Olga Vocal Ensemble and the male voices of ANÚNA , takes my heart to ancient Eire. The times when the Tuatha Dé Danann could still be seen as shadows in the mist. The days when the footsteps of the great hero Cúchulainn still shook the earth. The times when the Morrigan was still flying over the dark battlefields and the dark nights when the druids were still leading their ceremonies within the ancient standing stone circles, waiting for the solstice sun to arise. But also to medieval times, when the Irish monks spread over the known world and shared the knowledge of the antique world that was almost gone. With their deep full voices, M'ANAM takes me with them to those long-gone days, in a more than stunning way.
You would think there is no way I could do a review about M'ANAM without mentioning Micheal McGlynn, the founder, composer and artistic leader of ANÚNA since 1987. Michael is named as the artistic leader of M'ANAM, he co-produced the album, he contributed to almost every song, so it would be easy to think M'ANAM is just another Michael McGlynn project. But it is NOT!!! To use Michael's own words: "M'ANAM is very different. It's a band of brothers! It's a true band - like any other - and they act like a band. My role in M'ANAM is that I am a composer and someone who inspires others to create for themselves. Nothing more." Talking to Michael McGlynn about M'ANAM it became very clear to me he doesn't want to be the leader of them. He wants them to shine and wants to help them with ideas and their talents in any way he can. M'ANAM is a true band… Read More
A harp is a beautiful instrument. It can be imposing like the sea, it can sparkle like a waterfall, it can dance like a butterfly or it can be sad as the rain on a grey morning. On A La Source , the first song of Whispering Woods , it is caressing my ears, flowing and sparkling through them like a young stream over small rocks on an early spring morning, the sky full of pastel colours, relaxing yet energising every single ounce of my being. It's only one harp I hear, nothing more, she is delicate and soothing, yet she has the power to take me away to those happy moments I've spent hiding in the morning mist with my camera, the sun starting to turn the water into diamonds, a wren defiantly hopping around me, closer and closer, as I was waiting for a kingfisher to flash by. This, dear readers, is the beauty of a harp.
I'm listening to Whispering Woods
, the ninth album of harpist and singer Nadia Birkenstock
. Whispering Woods is a title well chosen for this solo harp CD, as the delicate tones of this lovely album indeed take me away to the woods my girlfriend spent hours in during her youth. The place I've also learned to love. A place not far from the birthplace of Nadia actually. A small stream flowing through the forests surrounding the Scharpenacker in the hills above Wuppertal and magically called the Murmelbach.
Nadia Birkenstock herself was born in Solingen, Germany a town quite nearby. She started playing the piano at 5 and she started singing with various choirs and vocal ensembles during her teenage years. She first discovered the harp during a concert of the legendary Scottish harp duo Sileas
formed by Patsy Seddon
and Mary McMaster. At the age of 16, she started to play the harp herself, first teaching herself, later taking lessons with classically trained teachers including masterclasses with Kim Robertson
in the USA and Scottish harp player Bill Taylor
. Nadia earned herself a one-year scholarship in the USA and got her first vocal training during her stay at the Westover College
in Connecticut. She continued her vocal training at the music conservatory
in Düsseldorf, Germany. During her vocal studies, Nadia created her first solo performance for Celtic harp and voice and she never looked back, touring the world, playing festivals like the Southeastern harp weekend… Read More
Twigs & Twine started as a good excuse for a group of friends to play music together, but it quickly grew into a fully-fledged folk-pop band with original material. ' Never was the first sentence of a biography as spot-on as this first line written by Twigs & Twine . Somewhere further in the bio the band state: ' For our music, we use a huge variety of instruments as well as different languages, but most importantly, lots of humor, even in songs that are really about death and tragedy. ' Again so, so true. Twigs & Twine's debut album is oozing with good vibes, humor, and positive energy which make it a joy to listen to. So let's get acquainted with this fun bunch of young musicians.
Twigs & Twine's story started when five friends: -Eef - vocals, piano, and bodhrán -Iris – vocals, cajon, djembe, bodhrán -Lian- vocals, piano, autoharp, violin -Luca – vocals, ukelele, lute guitar, mouth organ -Marijke – vocals, low whistle, tin whistle came together under the name twibv, short for 'Tot We Iets Beters Vinden' (‘till we find something better’), to play Irish folk together. Soon they started incorporating their own material in their music, with lyrics influenced by mythology, old manuscripts, poems, nature, and their own experiences. In 2015 their first EP, Snippets, came out. In 2017 they won a Dutch street music festival called 'De Gouden pet'
(the golden cap) and they played the major Dutch festivals: The Midwinter Fair
. In 2019 the band found their way into the studio to record their debut CD. So here we have it, Long Story Short
, the first album by Twigs & Twine and I have to say this is a charming CD. It contains13 fun songs that the band wrote and arranged themselves, carving out their own little niche in folk music I would call theater folk. All members of Twigs & Twine have a healthy sense of humor and the best example of Twigs & Twines' sense of humor comes straight away with the first song, Nehalennia
. When I first heard it I thought it was an old text put to music, just as it is common in the Medieval/pagan folk scene to do, but I couldn't be more wrong. The band wrote a song about the ultimate climax between two lovers, and then translated that into Latin! And the best thing about it? it is not a cheese gimmick; it’s really well written. The… Read More
The last months we started a new series of reviews that we call the CeltCast Classics. In this series, we feature older albums that we feel deserve to be in the spotlight one more time either because of their importance, their influence on the scene, or just because they are stunningly beautiful. Now the collective CeltCast record collection will be quite enough to keep us going for a good while, but we felt it would be way more interesting if we would ask well-known people from the scene to nominate a CeltCast classic. The very first we asked to do so was no other then Vana
's creative director and one of the masterminds behind Castlefest
, Mark van der Stelt. His answer came swiftly:” I've narrowed it down to 3 options, The Corrs , Back of the Moon or Loreena Mckennitt . It's gonna be Luminosity by Back of the Moon, that's the album I play the most. The first time I heard this CD I knew I wanted to invite this band on one of our podia. The music comes together perfectly. Delightful timing, and the voice of the singer is brilliant. Sadly they split up. It would be really something if they would be willing to grace Keltfest for a one-time reunion concert!
So the research began. Who were Back of the Moon? What did their music sound like? What are the band members up to nowadays? And most importantly, can we still get a hold of their music? Well, Back of the Moon are a Scottish band that formed in 2000, first under the name Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon. The founding band members were Gillian Frame (fiddle, vocals), Simon McKerrell (border pipes, uillean pipes, whistle, vocals) and Hamish Napier, (piano, vocals). In 2001 Findlay Napier (guitar, vocals) was asked to join the band and with that line-up, the band released their first album Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon
on the Foot Stompin'Records label
. In 2003 their second record Fortune's Road
came out. A lovely Scottish folk album, mixing Scottish instrumental folk songs with traditional sounding vocal songs. At that point, they shortened the band name to Back of the Moon. Fortune's Road
won the band their first accolades, winning Best Up and Coming Act at the Scots Trad Music awards
back in 2003 and Best Celtic Group" at Festival Interceltique de Lorient
. After that… Read More
This is going to be a review that is very, very dear my heart. It all started in 2018 when Rose Avalon - who had already left Cuélebre at that moment- and Belenosa Alba - a flutist and horn player Rose met the previous year- gave me, among others, a 3 track demo with the request to give some honest feedback. On that demo were three acoustic tribal pagan folk songs with some amazing vocals from Rose. So my feedback was short and sweet. 'Rose, I love this!' Over the next one and a half years, Rose and Belenosa kept sending me updates that kept whetting my appetite. At this year's summer Castlefest I finally got the full demo version of The Path Of Druids . And although still not in it's final mix, the music blew me away. 'This can't get any better.' I thought. But listening to the finished album I realize how wrong I was. It CAN, and it DID! And the best thing about it? I can FINALLY break the silence!!! Everybody!! Rose Avalon has a new pagan folk CD out! It's called The Path Of Druids !! And it sounds A-MA-ZING!!!!!
Of course we know Rose Avalon as the lady who replaced Marta Gálves as the lead singer of the Spanish pagan folk band Cuélebre. A band she joined because she wanted to express her love for folk music and her passion for nature. But Rose has been making music her whole life. At the age of 18, she recorded her first pop-rock demo under the name Equivocada Humanidas. She studied drama and acting and did some cinematic work in Barcelona, having one of the lead roles in the movie Pactar con el gato
for instance. She even wrote a vampire novel called Nocturne Para Violín - Nocturne For Violin
that is still easily available as eBook. In the last seven years, she has been making progressive folk metal with her band Rose Avalon
, recording a first album called Northern Strengths that came out in 2014. During those metal years, her desire to make pagan folk became bigger and bigger, so a wish came true when she was allowed to join Cuélebre as their second lead singer.
In September 2017 Rose left Cuelebre again to focus on her own music as a singer and bagpipe player and formed Ritual Duir
, together with somebody who crossed her roads, who had an… Read More
It is June the 30th, in the year of our Lord 1717. Under the black shroud of a storm-swept night, a dark ship creeps into an unknown harbor of a forgotten town, somewhere deeply hidden on a jagged coast. Her dark, battered sails are flapping in the stormy winds. Her black flags all down, mourning the loss of all those who were left behind; in the treacherous waves of Cape Horn; the deep seas of the Pacific and the distant shores of far-away Georgia. As the ship, loaded with the bounty it seized in the last two years of her travels, finally moors for a well-deserved rest, her crew, pockets filled to the brim with gold and pearls, sneak off the gangboard into the dark alleys surrounding the old wharfs of this godforsaken place. Silently we follow suit. Making sure we hide in the shadows of the old houses in this dark side of town. Nothing moves in the relentless rain. All sounds are muffled in the gusts of wind that shriek through the broken windows of abandoned buildings. A big rat slips into a gutter as we see the crew disappear in a black alley.
We wait until the gusts of rain die down for a brief moment. From the alley comes the soft sound of laughter and music. At the end of it, a bright light pours under an old crooked, wooden door. A black cat, jumping into the window opposite of it, pushes open some filthy rags that once were curtains. For a brief second, it reveals a huge figure, using a huge knife to tickle a poor sailor's neck. As we near the door, it suddenly cracks open, as the poor sailor is thrown into the cold night, his head is soon to follow, rolling down the alley till it stops in front of our feet. Through the - now open - door we can see a busty lady singing on top of a dirty bar, holding a big bottle of rum. Around her are the locals, their mugs raised as they roar along with her song. Amongst them are the crew. Their eyes already red from the smoke of pipes, the many pints of beer and the sight of the ladies sitting there on their laps. The ladies' eyes are firmly fixed on the filled purses of the men, whose cheeks they are now kissing. As one… Read More