Saturday, February 9, 2008

In Review--Aine Minogue's Celtic Pilgrimage

Aine Minogue
Celtic Pilgrimage
Sounds True

Mesmerizing soprano vocals and shimmering notes of a Celtic harp float off of Aine Minogue's lastest recording, Celtic Pilgrimage. The contemporary Celtic harp and vocals find themselves embedded in a lush sound scape of cello, bansuri flute, drum & percussion, guitar, keyboards, bass, piano, overtone singing and chanting. And the main focus is the process of a spiritual pilgrimage starting with the call to the quest, the home sickness one feels on route, blistered feet, and the redemption at the end of the journey. All of this captured in compelling music.

I have taken inner pilgrimages, but never one in the physical world. Yet, thousands of people each year embark on one spiritual pilgrimage or another in various parts of the world. Most of the major religions, if not all of them, have some sort of pilgrimage. These can be found in Europe, Asia, the Americas and beyond with each pilgrimage testing the body, mind, and soul. Sometimes healing on deep level takes place, and other times, a change of heart is the reward.

Aine captures the essence of a pilgrimage through a collection of songs. The opening track, The Gathering possesses a Medieval atmosphere with its pounding drum and minor chords. Later on, Alchemy which arrives midway through the recording, overtone vocals and chants join with wind instruments and bass. Then on the last track, those haunting overtone vocals return closing out the journey. The traveller who departed not too long ago has now arrived back home a transformed person.

Whether listeners entertain the ideal of a pilgrimage or not, will immensely enjoy Aine's musical offering. The liner notes further highlight the timeliness of this recording. Its lush acoustic arrangements are appreciated by this reviewer. This wondeful recording also assists with deep meditation or relaxation at the end of a long day.

Friday, February 8, 2008

In Review---International Guitar Night

International Guitar Night

Lincoln Theatre

Mount Vernon, Washington

February 3, 2008

I thought of including a short review for the International Guitar Night concert, led by San Francisco based guitarist Brian Gore with flamenco guitarist Miguel de la Bastide, Malagasy guitarist D'Gary and English folk-blues guitarist Clive Carroll. The 4 extremely talented guitarists found the perfect venue to share their diverse guitar styles in the historic Lincoln Theatre's intimate setting. Brian had mentioned that he enjoyed returning to the theatre and felt that the audience was like a family. Indeed, it did feel cozy throughout the length of the concert. And the musicians comradery and playful humor contributed to the light atmosphere.

Each guitarist performed solo work before teaming up in duets, trios and an amazing quartet. I almost fell out of my chair a few times due to the dazzling digital dexterity of these guitarists, who made playing guitar look like a cake walk--which I can assure you is not. I had erroneously thought that the pieces Torrecillo del Leal (Miguel de la Bastide) and I Miss My Family (D'Gary) were solo pieces when playing the CD, International Guitar Night II on my radio show. However, the first piece was a duet with Clive Carroll launching into flamenco on a steel string (?) guitar--if you can imagine. The Malagasy piece by D'Gary was performed as a quartet.

This is amazing because to play flamenco well, one needs to study with those flamenco masters and often in Spain. Clive's guitar talent is extraordinary. He is not just mimicking guitar styles, but seemingly playing them from the inside out. And he puts his entire body into his playing. At one point, he asked the audience to choose between a new composition he had just written or one that involved his entire body, almost vaudville. The audience chose the piece that makes use of the entire body. Clive obliged, but only after a few British quips delivered in his charming English accent.

The Malasy piece played by the entire quarted also amazed me because D'Gary who composed the piece in his own unique style, also uses a secret open tuning for his guitar. Yet, the other guitarists had no problem keeping their guitars in sync with D'Gary. They also seemed so casual up on stage, as if sitting on a porch in the deep American South strumming away on guitars. And despite the virtuoso talent that appeared on the stage, these guys did present a casual atmosphere in which the audience could feel like long-time friends.

The musicians were just here for a visit so we could all catch up on life--or so it seemed. But even so, the chemistry between the musicians, the top flight playing that we witnessed and this extraordinary event in which 4 guitarists from different parts of the world come together and exchange musical languages should never be taken for granted. What took place on the night of February 3, 2008 at the Lincoln Theatre was in fact, a historical event--at least in the realm of music and friendship building.