Bill Whelan (of Riverdance fame) scored the film adaptation of Brian Friel's play Dancing at Lughnasa. His score is a mix of Celtic themes and light classical arrangements, with more than a little of new age's mellowness. Several lovely, patient melodies appear throughout the 19 tracks collected here, many of which clock in at under two minutes. The sum effect is of a ghost half-glimpsed or a welling of warm feelings too soon subdued. Flute and oboe often take the lead role, simply stating the melody while the strings rise and fall in a series of sighs. Rather than functioning as a single piece of music, the score to Dancing at Lughnasa appears as a series of short musical vignettes. As a result, it's difficult to pay close attention to this music and remain engaged -- listeners will tend to lend the music half an ear by the third track, and may find themselves only momentarily roused during the course of the score by pieces that have the most distinctive personalities (e.g., "The Lughnasa Fires" and "Dancing at Lughnasa"). Although released on the Sony Classical label, the score owes as much to Windham Hill as Claude Debussy or Modest Moussourgsky. As for the Celtic element, listeners would be better-served saving their green for the Chieftains or Clannad. Still, Bill Whelan deserves much credit for creating film music that is instantly evocative. Short pieces like "The Gander" and "Don't Leave Me Yet" afford a window into the internal workings of the characters and the emotions they feel. The closing "Down by the Salley Gardens," which combines a traditional melody with the William Butler Yeats poem, ends the score on a note not of sadness, but of resolve.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly