ALBUM REVIEW: Celtic Harp: A Tribute to Edward Bunting
RCA/BMG, 1993 | 09026-61490-2
by Sarah Adams
In this tribute to Edward Bunting, who 1792 held a festival to document the music of the last of the intinerant harpers. This album as recorded by the Chieftains showcases some of the pieces that were rescued from extinction by Bunting's determination to save the music as played by these harpers.
The music on this album is hauntingly beautiful and well packaged. The tracks seem to blend together easily demonstrating their beauty and simplicity. The addition of the Belfast Harp Orchestra on several tracks helped to strengthen several of the tracks by adding depth and counter melody to the piece as it allowed the Chieftains to explore its texture. This album also features Derek Bell on both the metal and gut-strung harps. As given the name of this album, the harp and its inclusion in traditional music is the true star.
A number of tracks on this strong album stand out for further note. Matt Molloy's breathless playing on Parting of Friends/Kerry Fling is haunting and has an almost pagan feeling. One can truly imagine freinds leaving on a journey far away and the pain it might invoke but tinged with bittersweet memories. His fine flute playing is also evident on Wild Geese. Derek Bell shines impressively on the Bunting pieces and on a harp solo with a Carolan composition, Madame Cole. The solos tendered by Kevin Conneff and Paddy Moloney were brilliantly done. Conneff's solo also add another dimension to the tradition of the itinerant harpers for some harpers also added lyrics to their composition. Moloney's solo on pipes is poignant and showcases the talent and depth he has a piper.
The Chieftains never cease to amaze me with the different interpretations they come up with for Carolan's Concerto. It is a testament to their growing sound and exploration of the music since their early days with Ceoltoiri Cualann. The addition of the Belfast Harp Orchestra adds a different dimension to the song by adding another platform for the Chieftains to play off and the of marriage of the different sounds and textures worked wonderfully together. Tribute to Bunting and Planxty Bunting showcase a number of the pieces that Bunting collected at the festivals he held in 1792.
All in all this is a great album to listen to those who love irish music and especially to those who love the angelic beauty of the harp. The harp truly does shine on his album and would be a great listen to anyone who loves it. It intertwines the beauty of classical playing and interpretation with the primitive beauty of Irish traditional music. This album was richly rewarded for its beauty when it received a Grammy in 1993.