Along with the first Chieftains album, this is the most easily available example of Sean Ó Riada's work, but it doesn't necessarily qualify as folk music, at least not directly, but that's where it is categorized because of its sources. In 1959, the movie Mise Eire was released, featuring a full orchestral score by Ó Riada. It proved a landmark in movie music and Irish folk music, drawing upon sources as ancient as Ireland itself and casting them in an orchestral setting that proved viable on its own, separate from the film itself. This collection includes Ó Riada's music for that movie and two others, Saoirse! ("Freedom") (1960) and An Tine Bheo ("The Living Fire") (1966), conducted by the composer. This is one of the most beautiful adaptations of Irish folk music in an orchestral setting that one is ever likely to find, and the comparisons with Sibelius, in particular, are apt (so are comparisons with Sir William Walton's Shakespearean film scores, and Sir Arnold Bax's music from Oliver Twist). Although he uses a full orchestra, much of what is here does cross paths with the work of the Chieftains, and no concert harp was ever used in so warm and intimate a way as it is here.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder