From Galway to Galicia:
The Celtic Shores

(Dorian, 2002)

Altramar sees the talents and interests of four musicians combine to form an unforgettable sound. We are transported back in time in both music and words, and the matched set of medieval instruments made and recreated by luthier Timothy G. Johnson adds greatly to the originality and authenticity of sound produced by Altramar. Jann Cosart plays vielle and crwth; Angela Mariani plays medieval harp, Celtic harp and cruit; Chris Smith plays percussion, gittern, and cruit; David Stattleman sings, as does Angela Mariani, and Chris Smith provides a reciting voice.

The 30-page CD cover booklet is a fascinating insight into both the history of the Celtic influence and the blending of pagan and Christian beliefs, as well as the painstaking detail to which the group adheres in trying to recreate the sounds of an age long gone. It also gives pictures and descriptions of the instruments they play, and the original words in Irish, Latin, Old French and Old English, together with English translations of the Cantigas, songs and lyric poems they perform, with a brief history of the inspiration and original work.

If you enjoy the sort of atmosphere that pervades when Celtic music or Gregorian chants are played, you will enjoy From Galway to Galicia -- there are no Gregorian chants, but several songs have a Christian background that is reminiscent of church music, yet far removed from hymns and psalms all the same. The recitation is almost hypnotic, and the listener can well imagine the power of the Celtic bards, a hushed hall where every ear attended the epic story being unfolded in the true verbal tradition. This scholarly presentation is pleasing to the ear, and is not too "heavy" to listen to at home, for all it would admirably suit the ambiance of a fine restaurant set within a converted chapel.

By chance, I had seen another of Altramar's productions in a local shop prior to reviewing this CD: their Iberian Garden: Jewish, Christina & Moorish Music in Medieval Spain. I hesitated about buying it blind, but now having heard this album, I am off to see if it is still in stock....

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 17 April 2004

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