Joe Ross & Janet Naylor,
The Harper's Reverie:
Irish Music of Turlough O'Carolan

(Zephyr, 2000)

This CD features some of the best music written in Ireland in the late 17th century. It is played by a group of very good, accomplished musicians. But, while I loved the music and I loved the quality of the playing, the spark is sadly not there.

The Harper's Reverie is a collection of the tunes composed by the blind harper Turlough O'Carolan, who lived in Ireland from 1670. He was a strolling player who visited the great houses of the time, where he literally played for his supper. He composed tunes dedicated to the master or mistress of the house and for this was afforded board and lodgings.

In this collection there is hardly a tune that is not familiar. Perhaps best known is "O'Carolan's Concerto," which has been played by almost every combination of instruments including "mouth music." "Lord Inchiquinn"and "Si Beag, Si Mor" (here listed as "Shebeg Sheemore") are two other very familiar tunes.

The range of instruments expertly played here are extensive and often very authentic to the music. They include Celtic harp, upright bass, mandolin, recorders, flute, violins and concertina.

The press release states that "There have not been many albums that just feature O'Carolan's music," and that may be the only fault with this album. It is ideal for the O'Carolan aficionado but is perhaps overkill for the general listener. No matter how good a composer he was or how adept the players featured here, they are up against a sameness that ultimately damages the overall album.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 8 July 2001

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