John O'Connor,
My Ireland
(After 9, 2000)

This is an album of classic traditional tunes given the classic treatment by one of Ireland's top classical pianists. It is not a collection of would-be single hits, but it is beautiful album. The Irish Chamber Orchestra joins John O'Connor for the recording.

The track listing is like a history of well-known Irish airs. It ranges from "Haste to the Wedding" through "Danny Boy" to "Cockles and Mussels." On the livelier tunes you can almost see O'Connor's boyish grin as he gets so much pleasure from letting it rip on these happy tunes.

On a track such as "Medley of Hornpipes," he is like that pianist we all imagine in the ceilidh band in a ballroom of romance -- playing not for a fee but for love of Irish music. Not that O'Connor completely loses himself in the traditional tunes. "Fantasy on the Irish Washerwoman" is almost seven minutes of classical-meets-native as he takes that so familiar tune and makes it his own. Here, too, is "The Coulin," haunting and spiritual.

This is a CD to buy for those quiet moments when you want to recall an Ireland that is slowly passing. Close your eyes and review those warm summers of youth, blue skies, green fields and tranquil streams. O'Connor will take you to his Ireland, which is all of our Irelands of the past.

Add to the excellent music a selection of sleeve notes that are an education in themselves. It is difficult to be sure but they appear to be written by the doyen of Irish traditional music broadcasts Ciaran MacMathuna (my apologies if in error). In contrast to so many liner notes, we are not in the realm of anything over 50 years getting a convenient trad composition. These notes, though concise, are educational. For "The Last Rose of Summer" we get a potted biography of Thomas Moore, a rebuttal of his critic and a note that the tune was used in an opera. "Rocky Road to Dublin" is a slip jig (also known as a hop jig) and was used by many mothers dandling their babies. The CD is worth buying just for the information in the notes.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 16 March 2002