Washington Area Folk Harp
Society, with Heather Yule,
The Song of the Selkie
(Triharpskel, 2000)

Recorded live in May 2000 at a benefit concert for the Washington Area Folk Harp Society, The Song of the Selkie blends harp music and storytelling with wondrous effects.

Written by harper and producer Jo Morrison, the story tells of Sandy, a selkie named for the sandy-golden shade of her pelt. Drawn to human music, and herself possessing a beautiful singing voice, Sandy can resist the music's pull no longer, and she joins a group of young musicians who gather on the beach for a nightly session.

But one of the musicians, a rival singer, is overcome with jealousy and steals Sandy's sealskin. Without it, Sandy is forced to rely on her newfound friends, her music and the power of the harp her friend Donald teaches her to play, both to survive and to try to win back her sealskin. More than a simple story based on selkie legends, The Song of the Selkie is about trust, friendship and forgiveness, as well as the rewards of being open to life's many possibilities. By the bittersweet ending, the lives of all the characters have been enriched.

Scottish storyteller Heather Yule narrates the story with an appealing and expressive voice. She evokes the images with enthusiasm and gives them a life which comes across well in the recorded medium. Although the story is a literary tale, Yule does not read the text, nor does she appear to be reciting it verbatim. Rather, she tells it in a way that makes her sound as if she is spinning the tale spontaneously. By making the story her own, Yule takes it to a personal level and gives it dimension.

The story is interspersed with harp selections played by members of the Washington Area Folk Harp Society, both solo and in ensemble. The first (and last) musical track in "Bonnie Dundee," performed by all the harpers, and it is a perfect choice. The sprightly music sets the tone at the beginning and brings it full circle to closure at the end.

Most of the pieces are traditional tunes with the exception of "Aisling" by Sue Richards and "Neach Neamhshaolta" by Lily. The music weaves in and out of the narrative, balancing and complementing it and meshing beautifully. Highlights include -- but are by no means limited to -- "O Chi, Chi Mi Na Morbheanna" played and sung by Ellen James, "Aisling" performed by Sue Richards, "Bressay Lullaby" performed and sung by Jo Morrison, and "The Mermaid's Song" played by Jennifer Kubina.

This is a recording of a live performance with minimal corrective editing, and as such, is not as "polished" as a studio recording might be. Yet this element enhances the performance, rooting both story and music in their folk traditions. The overall sound is warm and smooth, with plenty of heart. My children listened to this CD with me, and we were all enraptured. The Song of the Selkie is destined to be a family favorite.

To learn more about the Washington Area Folk Harp Society and The Song of the Selkie, visit Jo Morrison's website.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]