Monday, May 07, 2007

now playing: mother: songs celebrating mothers & motherhood

This music is traditional, from Ireland, and original, out of the lives of the three artists who created this record, Susan McKeown, Robin Spielberg, and Cathie Ryan. It is music you probably have not heard before. It’s a powerful and loving celebration of the connections and disconnections and understandings that motherhood and making all life’s transitions invites. It’s also music that allows much as much space for the listener as it does for the artists who created it.

Mother comprises fourteen songs. It works well to let the whole process of the album unfold, from McKeown’s opening remembrance of her mother, who died when the singer was fifteen, to a close with Ryan singing a song for Spielberg, one the pianist wrote wrote to welcome her own daughter into the world. In between there are lively tunes and gracious ones, simple ones and complex, ones presented with sparse accompaniment and those with intricate acoustic support. Spielberg’s exploration without words of a walk with her mother is especially fine, McKeown’s evocation of older times comes through strongly in Ancient Mother, Ryan’s Grandma's Song is a lively dance evoking the joy of both child and grandparent as the younger Cathie Ryan recalls and pays tribute to the fiddle playing grandmother for whom she was named and who gave her her love of music.

In the liner notes, each artist offers a short insight into why she chose or composed each song. These are all well worth reading, and thinking about. Each woman was a at different point in her own experience of motherhood as they worked on this project. Together and separately they’ve each added gifts of understanding to it.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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