The Connemara Suite
Connemara is a part of the west of Ireland where land, sky, and and sea intertwine -- as they do all through the island, of course. The open spaces of this land in west Galway has a voice of its own, however, with singers such as the sean nos master Joe Heaney and the singers and musicians of the Keane family, to name but a few.
Bill Whelan, a man whose name you may know as the composer of music for the world wide sensation Riverdance, from his days playing with Planxty, or as producer for Kate Bush. also lives in Connemara. He’s composed a suite of music which has the land speak through the voices of both classical and traditional musicians, voices mainly without words, as these are instrumental compositions with just a bit of voice lilting in them.
The members of the Irish Chamber Orchestra under the direction of David Jones provide the string landscape background of sorts within which the soloists work. In the three movement of the opening piece, Inishlacken, Zoe Conway on traditional fiddle and Fionnuala Hunt on classical violin open up the composer's vision of first, rowing out to the island of Inishlacken, then the flight of birds along the water, and in the third section, idea which move from a quiet evening sunset to a community dance. It makes a lovely conversation among the the strings and evokes the landscapes, though you don’t need to know anything of Connemara to enjoy the visit.
The second section, Errisbeg, invites the listener to explore moods of a mountain near Whelan’s home, while the third section, Carna, is in three movements which travel in emotion and tone from dawn until evening, rounding off the evening with the connections and music shared in a community music session, bringing things in a bit of a circle with the ending of Inishlacken. Errisbeg features Conway again on fiddle, while Michelle Mulcahy joins in on harp. Conway is also the fiddler on Carna, and Colin Dunne adds dance percussion. All these are framed in the work of the string players of Irish Chamber Orchestra, a collaboration which adds dimension and depth to the ideas -- and it sounds as though all the musicians really enjoyed the challenges of fitting classical and traditional ideas together, as well. The music is at times lively, at times reflective, and always opening new doors in the connections of music and landscape.
you may also want to see
video of the Connemara coast at Bill Whelan’s web site
Music Road: now playing: Zoe Conway
Music Road: Sarah-Jane Summers: Nesta
Hanneke Cassel and Christopher Lewis: Calm the Raging Sea