Acallam na Senórach: An Irish Colloquy
Sung in Middle Irish and English, the medieval frame-tale of the meeting of Saint Patrick and associates of Finn mac Cumaill comes to life on Paul Hillier’s latest recording, Tarik O’Regan Acallam na Senórach: An Irish Colloquy. And what a splendid recording this is, with soprano vocals that sail through the glass ceiling and blend seamlessly with a mixed choir’s polyphony. Opening with bodhrán the choral work takes on a mysterious quality. The drumbeats prepare listeners to enter the realm of enchantment and to take a journey to Ireland’s medieval past. And the story portrayed on the recording represents the meeting of pagan and Christian cultures, and communication from spiritual realms.
Besides the ethereal polyphonic vocals, we are treated to Stewart French’s classical guitar such as on Guitar Interlude 1, 2, and 3. Listening to pagan and Christian worlds meeting in a musical realm reminds me of James DeMars’ opera Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Roses, another work that tells a story where Catholicism meets an indigenous people. Instead of combining Mexican, indigenous, and European music idioms, Paul Hillier’s project, focuses on Ireland of a pre-Christian era when the tides were just beginning to change.
But this isn’t a story about the strong arm of the Catholic Church converting Irish people by sword, but a story of prophecy and warrior legends. We stand on the crossroads of the sacred and thoughtful exchange between cultures. Overall, this musical work possesses a positive message performed by a passionate choir and supporting musicians. The bodhrán and guitar interludes in themselves offer listeners a contemplative experience then the choir takes us straight into the heart of the human spirit.
I highly recommend this contemplative recording. Listen to it in the 'tween times and definitely before bedtime.