Peter Horan & Gerry Harrington,
Fortune Favours the Merry
(Clo Iar-Chonnachta, 2005)

This offering pairs the tempered flute work of longtime master Peter Horan with the fiery fiddling of Gerry Harrington. In the course of their 17-song set, their ongoing debt to and reverence for the music of Irish fiddle master Michael Coleman is regularly invoked. They are joined on this musical journey by the measured piano accomplaniment of Ollie Ross. The program weaves its way through a diverse selection of jigs, reels and hornpipes, with a polka and an air added to leaven the mix.

The first spirited turn on Fortune Favours the Merry is the fusing of the reels "Pigeon on the Gate/Trim the Velvet," in which a classic tune is married to a lesser known reel. Further along, the skirling Scottish reel "Lord Gordon" unfolds, starting slowly and building to a more satisfying conclusion -- although here, as in other places, the inherant spontaneity of the music is somewhat undone by the exceptionally measured piano accompaniment, which threatens to subvert the energy of these rousing dance tunes.

A polka set, framed around "Corkin Cross," the air "Lakes of Sligo" and "Memories of Ballymote," is one of the high points of the disc, carrying the listener into the flute-driven "Jackson's 1 & 2 Reels." Eventually, we are delivered to the stately fiddle reel "O'Connell's Farewell to Dublin/Anthony Frawley's/Trip to Killarney." In the transition into "Frawley's," the players are actually aided by Ross's uptempo piano, which helps deliver a brighter step to the piece.

The two closers are a strong finish. The best performance of the disc can be found in the slow air "She Sailed from Dublin," in which Horan's flute finds full, evocative expression; the solo here is extraordinary. This is followed by the quick-step reels "Flogging Reel/Mountain Top," which deliver the listener to the peak of the set and demonstrate the full range of what these traditional masters can offer to those who have stayed the course, and receive their final aural reward. In these final tunes, we find that, indeed, Fortune has favoured the merry.

by Gilbert Head
8 July 2006