Eileen Monger

The Lilting Banshee

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Eileen Monger has put together an appealing collection of traditional airs and dances for Celtic harp. Monger, who skillfully plays a harp her father crafted, is accompanied by several talented artists: Mike Billinge on the bodhran (goatskin drum), George Monger on the hammer dulcimer, and Jenny McLeod on the uilleann pipes and whistles. (Uilleann, by the way, is Irish for elbow, referring to the fact that these pipes -- much softer sounding than Highland bagpipes -- are pumped by a bellows under the elbow). The album is well balanced with tracks that range from laments to very lively reels and double jigs, with a good range of polkas, hornpipes, and other dance sets in between. The album's appeal is strengthened by the fact that some of the tracks have interesting histories. "The Wild Geese," for example, is an air that laments the departure of many in the Irish army to the continent following the surrender of Limerick in 1691. It is said that the women sang it on the shore as the men were leaving. "Give Me Your Hand" ("Tabhair Dom Do Lamh" in Irish) was composed by the aristocratic Rory Dall O'Cathain (c. 1570-1650). He dedicated it to Lady Eglinton, who insulted him when he visited her house by demanding in a peremptory manner that he play a tune. When he walked out, she learned of his rank and apologized. O'Cathain then composed the tune in her honor. The tune is sometimes mistakenly attributed to a contemporary, Turlough O'Carolan, who apparently once tried to throttle O'Cathain for slandering him at a festival. While not all of the tunes have such rich history, they do not suffer for it. Howard Jones originally composed "Hide and Seek" for the synthesizer. The instrumental version on this album makes it sound somewhat more traditional without losing the haunting quality of the original. Another altered tune is "Fingal's Cave," originally a Highland pipe lament that is here successfully performed as a march. Variety with consistency hallmarks this album and recommends it to all Celtic music fans.

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