To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Irish band Altan teamed up with the Raidió Teilifís Éireann (R.T.E., the Radio and Television of Ireland) Concert Orchestra to record Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration. These type of collaborations are risky because they may or may not work. In this case, the result is truly remarkable.
By now, Altan has become one of the finest contemporary Irish folk music bands. The group’s sound is characterized by the Donegal style of fiddling, performed by two fiddlers, Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh (who is also the lead vocalist) and Ciaran Tourish. The rest of the band is formed by three virtuoso musicians: Mark Kelly on guitars, bouzouki, backing vocals; Ciaran Curran on bouzouki and mandolin; and Dermot Byrne on button accordion and melodeon.
The songs, jigs, and reels featured in Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration include many of Altan’s most memorable pieces from its extensive discography. The R.T.E. symphony orchestra, conducted by David Brophy, features lush orchestrations by renowned Irish composer Fiachra Trench and adds a fascinating new dimension to Altan’s songs, which, despite their youth, could be regarded as Irish traditional music classics. “We liked the lushness of it and the way it showed the colors of the harmonies better than, say, a guitar would. We asked Fiachra to expand the quartet arrangements he’d done for us into orchestral arrangements, and it just fit like a glove,” Ni Mhaonaigh reflects.
Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration is a stunning album, full of mesmerizing Irish folk music, beautiful vocals, outstanding orchestrations and dazzling fiddle work by one of Ireland’s most significant bands.
Buy the album:
- In North America: Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration. Other recordings available: Altan (Green Linnet, 1987), Horse with a Heart (1992), The Red Crow (1992), Harvest Storm (1992), Island Angel (1993), The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (1995), Blackwater (1996), The Best of Altan (1997), Another Sky (2000), The Blue Idol (2002), The Best of Altan – The Songs (2003), and Local Ground (2005).
- In Europe: The 25th Anniversary Celebration. Other recordings available: Harvest Storm, Island Angel, The Red Crow, Horse With a Heart, Runaway Sunday, Altan, L
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.