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Where in This Wide World CD cover

The Standing Stones:
Where in this Wide World
CD description

It is said that you can tell the history of a people from their songs. Where in this Wide World illustrates this with a fascinating selection of traditional material in English, Irish and Scottish Gaelic.

A haunting song from the Orkney Isles, The Standing Stones, describes ancient customs connected with the stones themselves. The reign of the Gaelic aristocracy is reflected in a song in praise of the heiress Fannuidh de Paor, composed by the renowned 17th century Irish harper Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin. The decline of the Gaelic order is described in the beautiful The Leitrim Queen. The attitude of the Irish to English domination is revealed in Newfoundland is a Wide Plantation, where an 18th century poet simultaneously flatters and reviles his rulers in two different languages. The Bonny Light Horseman (from which the CD title is taken) describes the Napoleonic Wars, and The Ballad of Eureka tells the story of an Australian uprising led by an exiled Irish rebel. The lighter side of life is celebrated with spirited mouth music (vocal dance music) from both Ireland and Scotland, and a humorous song showing the influence of the Victorian music hall.

Both Vicki and Michael, like many other musicians in the Celtic tradition, play more than one type of instrument. On slower tunes, the beautiful bell-like tones of Vicki's traditional wire-strung Gaelic harp contribute a unique sonority; she plays a nylon-strung folk harp for more up-tempo material (including a march which once started a rebellion). Several energetic sets of polkas, slides, jigs, hornpipes and reels feature Michael on banjo, mandolin, flute, fiddle and accordion.

Highland Wedding David Allan (1744-1796)
Although Michael's accomplished guitar playing can be heard on some of the songs, the modern practice of guitar accompaniment to tunes has been avoided, as it tends to obscure the subtle interplay among the melodic instruments. Instead, the accompaniments look back to 18th and 19th century Scotland, where the cello was the instrument of choice. (Scholars have recently uncovered references to the use of the cello in 18th century Ireland also.) Vicki's cello adds harmony and countermelody, supporting the tune without interfering with it. Chris Caswell, the producer of Where in this Wide World and a well-known Celtic rhythm expert, adds percussion in a few well-chosen places.

Some of the tunes feature the wire-strung Gaelic harp which was the traditional instrument of the ancient harpers of Scotland and Ireland as far back as historical records exist. The playing of metal-strung harps is mentioned in some of the ancient epic poems of Ireland, which are thought to date to no later than about 300 AD. Vicki also plays a nylon-strung folk harp, which comes through the Welsh tradition and is the ancestor of the modern orchestral harp.

The CD package of Where in this Wide World includes a 12-page insert containing translations of all the Irish and Gaelic texts, plus extensive background and historical information on all the music. The cassette package contains a reduced version of the notes (otherwise it wouldn't fit in the box), but still includes all the translations.

The Standing Stones' Where in this Wide World features innovative arrangements, rich modal harmonies and varied instrumental and vocal textures, combined with a lifetime's study of traditional Celtic music and culture—showing how this ancient art-form continues to grow and thrive in the modern world.

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STANDING STONES is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a federal service mark. Unauthorized use of this mark for performing live or recorded music, or providing music-related information over the Internet, in interstate commerce in the United States, is prohibited. For full details on the activities covered by this mark, consult the US Patent and Trademark Office database.