Traditional Irish Music
"Resonance" is the debut CD by the newly-formed duo, Amala: Reidun Schlesinger (harp) and Paul de Grae (guitar). The album features music from several centuries, in original arrangements. The emphasis is on Irish music, though not exclusively.
There are several tracks of traditional Irish tunes as well as pieces from the Irish harp repertoire. There are also traditional tunes from Reidun's native Belgium and from Sweden, France and America; a set of tunes from Playford's 17th century collections; a jazz piece by Dave Brubeck; and two of our own (rather jazz-tinged) compositions.
In a recent review, Siobhan Long of The Irish Times described the album as a “fine collection...full of glorious barrier-breaking music.” That glorious music music comes from two musicians who have travelled a long road to this point.
Belgian-born Reidun Schlesinger has played Irish Harp since 1989, and cross-strung chromatic harp since 1999. She received Classical Harp training in Liege, Belgium, and Musical Education studies at Musikhochschule Aachen, Germany. Since 2008 she lives in Kerry where she teaches harp and traditional music for the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann schools project, at Killarney School of Music, and to private students. She regularly plays in various locations around Kerry with other musicians as well as a soloist.
Paul de Grae is a Dublin-born guitarist and occasional singer, living in Kerry for many years. He has recorded with Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch, The Smoky Chimney, Aoife Ní Chaoimh & Paudie O'Connor, Eoin Duignan and others. He has a particular interest in the music of Sliabh Luachra, plays regularly at sessions, concerts and festivals throughout Ireland (particularly in Kerry, Cork and Clare) and teaches guitar workshops in Ireland, the USA and France.
As always we feature a sample track from the album. This is the final track called ‘Count Me Out’. This composition arose from a riff that Paul came up with while imagining an African soukous guitarist playing a polka - in 7/8, 4/4 and 9/8. Reidun came up with the second part, and the third section is a spontaneous duo improvisation that came out of nowhere according to Paul. “We like when that happens” he said. There is a hidden track so play til the end.
“We bring our own aesthetic to the interpretation of these diverse kinds of music, and that's what makes it work as an album, rather than just a succession of unrelated tracks.” according to Reidun and Paul.
“All traditional music is a balancing act between conservation and innovation, between individual expression and communal acceptance. Both ends of the spectrum are needed. For ourselves, while we admire those who strive for authenticity, we aim more for a personal approach, one based on respect for tradition but not bound by it.”
“An example of this approach is our version of "Miss Hamilton", a composition of the Kerry harper Cornelius Lyons (1680-1750). As well as composing original music, Lyons was famous in his day for his variations on existing airs such as "The Coolin". So in homage to his experimental spirit, we play some improvised variations of our own – but only after we've played a pretty faithful rendition of the original "Miss Hamilton", as collected by Bunting in 1802 from harper Patrick Linden and published in his "A Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland" (1840).”
Similarly, in their settings of two French mazurkas from the Auvergne region, they have some fun by adding some jazzy improvisations to the first one, and tweaking the second one to play it in 5/8. “Again, the ‘traditional’ version comes first, then we put our own spin on it,” they say.
“Our ‘Blackbird three ways’ features three different settings of this fine traditional air – two from opposite ends of Ireland (the song air as collected by PW Joyce in County Limerick in the early 19th century, and a mid-20th century reel setting by Donegal fiddler John Doherty), and in between, a setting from the American Appalachian tradition.”
On the recording process they say that “it was important to us to record this album completely live – no overdubs, no guest musicians, just ourselves. So, what you hear on the album is what you'll hear when you come to a gig.”
They chose to record in Garry O Briain's studio on the edge of The Burren in County Clare. “An inspirational man and an inspirational location” they say.
“Garry understood exactly what we wanted, and set us up in a natural playing situation, with just a low sound baffle between us and a careful microphone placing, producing a true "Amala sound".
The album is now on release and can be purchased from www.cdbaby.com/cd/amala
The album is also available as a free download for broadcasters that are part of our Download Centre. ( You need to be logged in to Tradconnect to access this link)
Reidun Schlesinger, harps.
Paul de Grae, guitar.
Recorded live in Creg na Vagabones Studio, New Quay, County Clare, December 2015 and March 2016.
Engineered and mixed by Garry O Briain.
Mastered by Kenny Ralph at Sun Street Studio, Tuam, County Galway.
Produced by Reidun Schlesinger, Paul de Grae and Garry O Briain.
Sleeve design by Reidun Schlesinger, Paul de Grae and Eoin Ó Riabhaigh.
Photography: Amala by Barry Lynch, instruments by Reidun Schlesinger.
Thanks to Barry Lynch, Dee Sullivan, Garry O Briain, Eoin Ó Riabhaigh, Matt Cranitch, The Arts Council, and The North Kerry Traditional Music Archive.
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