Album Review - Clannad / Christ Church Cathedral

The reason I fell in love with Celtic music was because of a Clannad. The band consists of Ciarán, Moya and Pól of the family Brennan and their uncles, Pádraig and Noel Duggan. There sound is legendary.

In 1985 I used to watch TV with a signal provided by a fourteen foot satellite dish and back then all the movie channels were available. One night I was watching Showtime and a program called Robin of Sherwood (Robin Hood) came on. I loved it. It was not the colorful characters or the medieval costumes that got my attention however, it was the music. This glorious sound of human voice and unique instruments that made musical poetry mesmerized me. I discovered Clannad. I had to hear more. Off I went to the record stores of Nashville and I was rewarded with several prizes. I was hooked on Clannad and my Celtic journey began and frankly, I hope it will never end.

Fast forward to 2013, fifteen albums later and a new album, Christ Church Cathedral make a landmark appearance. Recorded live in Dublin, the legendary Irish folk/Celtic sensation makes new musical history with the event. The harmonies are as tight as ever, the music sharp and clear and the incredible passion that the band has built up in these last forty years is as strong as ever. Christ Church Cathedral is a brilliant mix of Celtic and Irish Traditional music blended with many well known movie themes, a combination that has garnered the band millions of fans worldwide and fostered the genre known as “Clannad music”.

In keeping with the reverence of the surroundings, the recording opens with several tunes from Clannad’s Irish Traditional catalogue and includes their first recorded tune Thios choi na tra dohm, a sweet ballad of sea dreams, the dancing song Dtigeas a damhsa, and Na buachaili a lain (The Lads were Beautiful).

After wowing the crowd with the melodious instrumental Eleanor Plunkette they launched into familiar territory with their notable themes from Robin of Sherwood, The Last of the Mohicans and the title song from Harry’s Game. All were crowd pleasers, but they really captured the audience with more crossover/Celtic fare including In A Lifetime and the all time favorite Dualman which they made into quite a production number.

After performing the beloved standard Down By The Sally Gardens they closed with some incredible vocals on Nil se ina la with a flute backing that would have made Ian Anderson proud and Teidhir abhaile riu, a wonderful rondeau between and Irish beauty and a piper and we all know how that ends. She marries the piper.

Although I reviewed the CD only, Christ Church Cathedral is available as a live DVD recording from the ARC Music catalogue and contains two bonus tracks. I judged the recording by the timbre of Moya Brennan’s voice. Instruments, acoustic or electronic, can be tuned accordingly, but the sound of the voice is all revealing. Frankly, I have never heard her in better tune. All you have to do is listen to the first line of Harry’s Game. The quality and purity of her vocal is remarkable considering she has been pleasing fans for four decades. The band as well has not lost a step and has added delightful nuances to their performances. I was happy to see that this band still sets the standard for the genre. It makes me want to go out and learn Gaelic… almost.

Rating: Excellent

Christ Church Cathedral
ARC Music

Lofty Notes Heard on High

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