Mudcat Café message #3785646 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3785646
Posted By: keberoxu
16-Apr-16 - 02:48 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
I have almost finished listening on my CD player to the Gael Linn anthology, "Amhráin Ghrá." Have now heard all eight of the women singers. The emphasis is very much on singers and (love) songs. Barely half of the tracks have harp accompaniment.

In fact, there is piano accompaniment on a handful of songs. Two or three songs have guitar accompaniment. And finally there are songs with unaccompanied voice. As a long-time choral singer myself, dear Lord! I would be scared to DEATH to sing unaccompanied in a recording studio. Any artist who does so is braver than I!

Here are the artists on the album who accompany themselves on the harp:

Deirdre Ní Fhlóinn
Kathleen Watkins
Gráinne Yeats
Mary O'Hara

Fionnuala Mac Lochlainn is accompanied, on all three of her songs, by a man playing guitar. Her recordings come from the 1960's. Interesting to listen to this artist. This is a singer who obviously knows the business, knows how to put a lyric across and how to phrase with skill and charm. She could hold an audience anywhere, I think. However her voice is not over-polished, aggressive, or shaped by classical singing technique into an operatic instrument: there are a couple of cabaret singers on this album of whom those features are true, but Ms. Mac Lochlainn is not one of them. Her singing sounds conversational, unforced, natural. With experience I am discovering that to sing that naturally, while not showing off your technical prowess, is an art in itself.

I am delighted with Gráinne Yeats too, even though she is at the other end of the axis from Fionnuala Mac Lochlainn. My background is classical, so I feel right at home with Mrs. Yeats, because this is a masterful demonstration of classical soprano singing: she could teach that kind of singing, and teach it well.

Máire Ní Scolaí is not the same as Gráinne Yeats, yet there are some telling things in common with these two women. Ní Scolaí has got classical vocal technique, and she too is masterful, which is to say, she makes it sound effortless; but in fact it is really hard work to sing as effortless-sounding as she sings! Like listening to the so-called "crooning" of Perry Como, who schooled himself on recordings of Enrico Caruso singing opera: his diction and delivery are crafted to sound casual and relaxed, but his technique of diaphragm-abdominal breathing give him all the support and resonance of the opera singer projecting over the orchestra to the gallery. I guess I can see why some sean-nos devotees cringe at the sound of Ní Scolaí's singing, because it is so very polished; no diamond-in-the-rough spontaneity for this artist.

A fascinating time-capsule of a record album!