Altan: 25th Anniversary Collection
Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration
Lough Altan is what some would call a mysterious lake, near Mount Errigal in Donegal in the far northwest of Ireland. For twenty five years the members of the band Altan, who decided to take their name from the lake, have done their fair share of taking the mystery, joy, and individuality of the music of Donegal to the rest of the world. Fiddles. bouzouki, guitar, whistles, accordion, and the outstanding voice of Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh are elements of the band’s sound, elements which they turn and tumble and weave and twine through songs of the Donegal tradition, original compositions, music from other parts of Ireland, American folk music, and on occasion the music of Bob Dylan.
To mark their two and a half decade celebration, the group decided to pursue a project they’d been considering for some time: making a recording with an orchestra. Though they’d played live in orchestra settings before, they’d not recorded that way.
The result, a collaboration with the RTE Concert Orchestra, conducted by David Brophy, proves to be an engaging way to add new colors to the band’s work. The arrangements by Fiachra Trench respect both the orchestral side and the hills of Donegal side of things, so the musicians and encouraged and challenged each to do what they do best. It really works.
The fifteen tracks are favorites with the band (and listeners over the years). Cití na gCuman, A Tune for Frankie, Is The Big Man Within? / Tilly Finn's Reel, and Dún Do Shúil are especially worth noting, and the whole program works very well together from start to finish, too. It proves a fine celebration to start Altan into, perhaps, their next twenty five years.
Side note: I had the chance to see Altan play with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra while they were putting together this recording. The recording itself was not done before a live audience, but every bit of the beauty and excitement of live performance comes through. It was clear that night that conductor Brophy, the band members, and the orchestra players were all having fine time challenging themselves together with this collaboration, and that must have been true of these recording sessions also.
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Music Road: music of Donegal: Altan
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