The Celtic Songbook

ABC Classics 481 1981

Music of the Celts has always had a huge following, and this disc of 18 songs will find a large audience. Timeless melodies from Ireland, Scotland and Wales are performed by some of the leading musicians in Australia currently.

The Celtic SongbookSingers David Hobson, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Sarah Calderwood, Annalisa Kerrigan, Paul McMahon, Timothy Reynolds, Nollaig Casey, and Craig Newman, are accompanied by orchestras (Tasmanian Symphony, Australian Brandenburg, Melbourne Symphony and Sinfonia Australis), chamber or folk groups (Sunas, Carisma), as well as choirs (Cantillation, Brandenburg Choir, Choir of Trinity College – University of Melbourne).

There is a plethora of instrumentalists recorded here from Genevieve Lacey (recorder), James Crabb (classical accordion), Genevieve Lang & Mary Dourmany (harps), Paul Jarman, Lynnelle Moran (tin whistles), to Chris Duncan (fiddle), who all help in giving the arrangements an authenticity.

Those interested in Celtic music, or folk music in general, will love the selections: The Mountains of Mourne, Wild Mountain Thyme, As He Moved Through the Fair, Suo Gan, Do You Love an Apple?, Loch Lomond, My Lagan Love, The Cliffs of Dooneen, Bovaglie’s Plaid, The Last Rose of Summer, Danny Boy, All Through the Night and Fhir an Bhata.

The vocal and instrumental artistry shines through in every track. There is a genuine affinity that comes across with each performance. This is one of the best collections of Celtic music on offer. It does fall into that category of relaxation and evocative music, with its abundance of melancholic and sometimes haunting ballads, slow instrumental passages, and lack of energetic gigs. But, it is reflective music, which is so perfect for the soul.

Bohemian Rhapsody: Choral Pop

ABC 481 0120

Fifteen of the world’s favourite pop songs are assembled here in choral settings that retain all the excitement, verve and vivacity of the original songs. Of course, pop songs set for choir often do not succeed, but these arrangements (by Dan Walker, Sally Whitwell, Daryl Runswick, Ward Swingle and Roderick Williams) are quite exceptional. Sung by the glorious Cantillation, Australia’s leading chamber choir, this recording is a real winner!

481 0120 Bohemian RhapsodyAll great selections, this recording covers many legendary pop artists or bands, such as Queen, Lennon and McCartney, David Bowie, Powderfinger, The Beach Boys, ABBA, Chicago, Toto, Sting, and Radiohead.

Resplendant vocal resources of the 21 singers of Cantillation are clearly evidenced in the title track, Bohemian Rhapsody, along with other tracks, such as If You Leave Me Now, Blackbird, Summertime, and Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves), These select singers produce an appealingly blended warm tone throughout, and the close harmony work is quite exceptional.

Vocal harmonies in Toto’s Africa are complemented by the inclusion of drums and percussion to retain authenticity in this song.

The solo voices of Dan Walker and Philip Chu are tantalisingly beautiful in Moon Over Bourbon Street, and How Can I Let You Go? respectively.

Mack the Knife brings to life the flavor of the Swingle Singers, with a rhythmically dynamic arrangement by the great Ward Swingle. No choral pop album could be complete without an ABBA song, and this disc ends with Mamma Mia, in a less predictable, but equally enjoyable version by Sally Whitwell.

Audio available on Soundcloud:

Symphony of Australia: Ballads of the Bush. Gavin Lockley. ABC 476 3659

Australians seem to be forever on a quest to discover themselves. Australian identity is uppermost in our collective psyche. Gavin Lockley is a new voice in Australian composition, and in this two CD set, we have a symphonic work of large proportions which captures the history of Australia from the Dreamtime, through the arrival of the First Fleet, the explorers Burke and Wills, the wartime period, the emergence of multiculturalism and finally a tribute to Dorothea Mackellar’s famous poem, My Country.

It is stirring music, epic in its design and performed with heartfelt vigour and passion. Fitting the genre of programme music (which could adapt to being a ballet score), the orchestration is sensational and the fusion of elements of historical significance is quite breathtaking.

Performing on Symphony of Australia is the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Brett Weymark), Matthew Doyle (didgeridoo), Cantillation, Jon English, Sharolyn Kimmorley (piano), Riley Lee (shakuhachi), Saragan Sriranganathan (sitar) and Renee Martin (mezzo-soprano), amongst others.

The second CD contains Ballads of the Bush, a rollicking entertainment drawn from iconic Australian poets including CJ Dennis, Dorothea Mackellar and Banjo Paterson. The composer shows his rich baritone voice as soloist on this disc.

Gavin Lockley composed Ballads of the Bush whilst studying for his PhD at Magdalen College, Oxford. Selecting poems he’d loved since childhood, he has created a work which reflects his urgent belief that the great Australian poets and balladeers need to be performed and brought to as wide an audience as possible. Lockley is a welcome voice in the Australia musical landscape, and via this recording should excite every Australian with its sensitivity, patriotism and soul.