Róisín Reimagined – Muireann Acclaimed

The remarkable voice of Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is perfectly cradled by the Irish Chamber Orchestra in this wonderful presentation of twelve classic songs as Gaeilge.

Both in its unique timbre and its extraordinary range, Nic Amhlaoibh’s natural instrument is perfect for this very sensitive collaboration between singer and ensemble as they revitalise songs from the sean nós canon.

This imaginative and epic project was undoubtedly one of the musical triumphs of a lockdown-affected 2021 when the programme was performed in front of a restricted audience at the Kilkenny Arts Festival last August (and streamed online) and again in November in the University Concert Hall in Limerick, the ICO’s home auditorium. It was subsequently televised on TG4 last Christmas.

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh with the Irish Chamber Orchestra in Kilkenny Cathedfral
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh with the Irish Chamber Orchestra in Kilkenny Cathedfral

While Nic Amhlaoibh’s voice is undoubtedly pivotal in the whole enterprise, it is sympathetically supported by the orchestra performing new arrangements of the material by six leading Irish composers – Linda Buckley, Paul Campbell, Michael Keeney, Cormac McCarthy, Sam Perkin and Niamh Varian-Barry.

Together they have provided the imagination reflected in the project’s title. The rich tones and subtle colours which characterise the new settings add further depth to Nic Amhlaoibh’s impeccable vocals.

Fusing the artistic and the technical together in synchronicity is the project’s producer, Dónal O’Connor – who seems to be at the centre of many of the most exciting musical projects that have happened recently on disc, on stream or on screen.
 
Even though the level of exposure for this ambitious venture has been somewhat  constrained by the pandemic, whenever it has been able to fund an audience, it has received an overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response. The imminent release of the album in the run-up to the St. Patrick’s Festival should consolidate that response.
While many album reviewers often highlight a stand-out track for the attention of their readers, the quality throughout the album is so high that it is difficult to elevate one above all the others. The limited airplay that has followed the project to date has tended to focus on the opening track, Róisín Dúbh, referenced in the title, which is, of course, also the key motif of Ó Ríada’s Mise Éire, which was in its time hugely influential in persuading many that Irish music deserved to be treated with the same artistic respect as European classical music. So it is appropriate given these associations that the same beautiful air should lead off a project that once again over sixty years later seeks to consider the interplay between classical and traditional music.
 
Nevertheless, having set the bar at the highest level with the opening track, the album maintains that standard throughout with a succession of wonderful performances – executed with exquisite technique and wonderful feeling by a remarkable singer at the height of her powers, exemplified by her stunning rendition of An Chuilfhionn.
 
As the pandemic restrictions begin to ease, perhaps we may now look forward to more live performances of the programme, when the logistics of assembling singer, orchestra and, of course, audience should not be so problematic. It deserves to be heard as widely as possible in person. This year’s edition of the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August – which should the return of full live audiences  – is expected to provide the first such opportunity. In the meantime, this fine recording will suffice. The album us available for pre-order at: https://www.muireann.ie/store/roisn-reimagined.
 
Track Listing:
  1. Róisín Dúbh
  2. An Rabhais ar an gCarraig
  3. Mollaí San Seoirse
  4. Bruach na Carraige Báine
  5. Cailín na nÚrla Donn
  6. ‘S ar Maidin Moch is mé ar mo Leapain Bhoig
  7. Tá mo Mhadra Medley
  8. Táím Sínte ar do Thuama
  9. Sliabh Geal gCua
  10. An tSeanbhean Bhocht
  11. Slán le Máigh
  12. An Chúilfhionn
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