Morag of Dunvegan/Where will the Young Lass Sleep?
Mrs. Maule of Panmure
Kate Dalrymple/Nancy Hanks
Bach's Minuet for Anna Magdalana
Neil Gow's Lament on the Death of His Second Wife
My Lagan Love
Mary, Queen of Scots
Bridget Cruise, Airs 3 & 4
Sweet Phyllis/ Phyllis on the New Mown Hay
A mystical, echoing voice, singing clear and true, calls the listener into this delightful collection of classic tunes celebrating the importance of the women in our lives. The choice of tunes is excellent, featuring melodies from the 1700s and 1800s, as well as a few modern tunes that fit right into the theme and overall atmosphere of the recording. From Bach's "Minuet for Anna Magdalena" to O'Carolan's "Bridget Cruise," the tunes take the listener on a musical journey, to a time when things were a bit simpler, and yet a bit more elegant as well.
Listening to this CD is like sitting in the front row of a small house concert, listening to the performers play. There is a sense of intimacy that permeates throughout, giving the listener the sense of a private audience with the musicians. Added to this is the clarity of the sound and the strength of the instrumentalists' fingers. The harp sounds distinct and clear, and there is no missing the sound of the bow moving across the fiddle's strings. This close, friendly sound gives the listener a strong connection with the performers, making the recording more inviting and compelling.
Castlebay is a collaboration between harper Julia Lane and multi-instrumentalist Fred Gosbee. Lane's harp takes center-stage throughout much of the recording, but Gosbee's fiddle and flute lines are found on many of the tunes.
Among the highlights of the recording is an original tune by Lane, "Bronwen's Dream," named for her daughter. Lane's tune has a definite courtly quality to it, making it fit perfectly with the surrounding tunes. The lilting, uplifting melody is dreamlike in quality, accented by Lane's superb playing. The addition of the Irish flute, played by Sharon Pyne, gives just the right touch to this charming tune.
There is also a beautifully rendered harp solo, "Annie Laurie," which delivers all of the emotion and passion this elegant and beautiful tune could possibly possess. The arrangement of "My Lagan Love" captures the mysterious elements of the tune, featuring ethereal harp sounds and soaring, lyricless vocals. The effect is like the wind capturing the lady's perfume and playing with it in the air before delivering it to her lover.
Gosbee's fiddle takes center stage on "Neil Gow's Lament on the Death of His 2nd Wife," drawing the bitter-sweet melody from the strings with passion, while the harp delicately backs the melody with a simple and moving accompaniment. Gosbee also plays viola, woodwinds and guitar at various points on the recording. There are also several guest instrumentalists, including Doreen Conboy on cello for "Minuet for Anna Magdalena" and George Haig featured heavily on autoharp on "Mary Queen of Scots."
The recording opens and closes in praise of different Morags. "Morag of Dunvegan" is a delightful traditional air from Scotland that successfully combines happy and sad elements in one simple melody. "Morag Henriksen" is a mournful, introspective tune by Gordon Bok, which ends the recording on a quiet note.
Overall, the choice of tunes is what makes this recording great. The playing is crisp and emotional, and the arrangements are well planned and choreographed as well, adding interest and variety to the recording.These tunes will remain with the listener for many a delightful hour.
Julia Lane has loved, sung, researched and created folk music since childhood. Fascinated by the stories embodied in the folk songs she heard, she learned to sing the evocative melodies, making up her own songs for her own entertainment. As an adolescent, she studied music theory and took guitar lessons from a lutenist specializing in Elizabethan songs. In researching the sources of the music, the wealth of lore and history recorded in musical form rekindled her interest in the music of her childhood. She became active in madrigal and Renaissance music groups as well as performing as a soloist and providing music for a children's theater group. In addition, she was inspired by the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien and his sources. She composed her first melody for one of his "songs"when she was fifteen and has since completed ten more. After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1974, her interest in English and Scottish folk music and lore led her to study in Oxford, England.
She is a self-taught player of the "clarsach" or Celtic folk harp which she began in 1989. As a result of her classic guitar training, she plays in the ancient method using her fingernails which gives a bright, clean sound. Her unique style has won three international competitions. Judge/harpist Kim Robertson praised her "innovative arrangements and energetic performance" and harpist Dennis Doyle declared "she really captured the spirit of the music." Julia Lane is also an exceptional vocalist,"one the Maine coast's foremost voices," whose voice has been called "lovely, vibrant," "reminiscent of Jean Redpath," and compared favorably with Loreena McKennitt, Triona ni Dhomnhaill, and Judy Collins.
In the past fifteen years, she has toured the Eastern U.S., Ireland, England and Scotland playing at festivals, folk clubs, and arts centers, as well as on radio and television. Julia has training in early childhood education and children's theatre and has taught history and social studies through folk music in both formal and informal settings. She is currently living in coastal Maine and raising three teenage children and a garden.
Using the vehicle of her expressive, award-winning Celtic harp playing and her silken vocals, Julia Lane now gives new voice to an ancient tradition. Creating original songs reminiscent of the traditional music of her Celtic ancestors, she captures the essential beauty of coastal Maine, her native state. Through the time-honored art of meaningful songwriting, Julia Lane expresses in her words and music our fundamental connection with wind and wave, sea and sky. Her songs are an authentic expression of an intimate experience with the elemental.
Ms. Lane feels the connection between the northeastern American continent and the Celtic lands to be very strong." The most obvious link of course is that of the immigrants who settled here in the last three centuries. I feel it goes deeper than that. Many of the landscapes are strikingly similar. People naturally resonate with their physical surroundings, and the spirituality of the ancient inhabitants of both areas have common themes- a reverence for our relationship with Nature and her cycles." Much of the traditional Celtic music reflects that reverence as do Lane's original compositions. Julia Lane's family has lived in Maine for 300 years and the heritage and history of her Maine ancestors has also proved a source of inspiration.
Fred Gosbee was born and grew up in rural central Maine and has collected and performed folk music for over thirty years. His grandparents moved to Maine from New Brunswick in the 1920's and as a child he heard his older relatives singing the old woodsmen's songs and playing fiddle and accordian. He dabbled in the viola as his arms were long enough to reach. During high school, he had training in standard band instruments becoming one of the best tuba players in the state. He had experience with a wide variety of performance groups including orchestras, marching bands,and church and school choirs.When an application to join the Navy band went awry, he entered the University of Maine where he studied folklore under Sandy Ives as well as engineering. Inspired by the folk music he heard, Fred took up the banjo and guitar. His interest in woodworking led him to begin designing and building guitars and a lute.
After college, Fred Gosbee moved to the coast and became a shipfitter at Bath Ironworks. He had always been drawn to the music of sailors and seamen, and it was here that he began writing his own songs. He became involved with local theater and musical organizations. Adding to his versatility as a vocalist, he sang with madrigal groups, oratorio, musical theater, Gilbert and Sullivan and barbershop groups. Combining his theatrical experience with his knowledge of folk music, he arranged, composed, and performed incidental music for a production of "A Spoon River Anthology." The resulting sound tapestry included 56 pieces of music with songs, instrumentals and new works for voices, guitars, banjo and fiddle performed live for each show. This production led to the formation of a performing folk trio, and back to the traditional music of his childhood. He also began performing his own songs, two of which were used in the WTBS-Atlanta/Turner Broadcasting Corp. series "Portrait of America" segment about Maine.
His works have since been recorded by other artists and have garnered him invitations to international music festivals including the International Festival of the Sea in England. With Castlebay, he has recorded five albums and has toured the East coast of the US and the British Isles. He currently performs with vocalist /Celtic harpist Julia Lane singing and playing classic and 12-string guitar, 5-string viola, and woodwinds. Together, they have composed a suite for quintet of folk instruments inspired by a tour of the Scottish island of Skye. They have been commissioned by the Galloway Scotland Arts council to compose a similar suite for that region. The duo also maintains a commitment to cultural education and provides folklore and music programs for schools, museum, libraries and Elderhostels. When he is not touring, Fred Gosbee engineers and produces recordings and designs and builds Celtic harps.