The rather graceful and tranquil looking image of Moya Brennan & Cormac De Barra used for this article is very fitting in many respects. They both come from what many consider to be large musical families that have been very influential on the Irish Music scene. Grammy award winning Moya Brennan is probably best known as the lead singer of Clannad but she has also produced a wealth of solo work as well as spending a significant amount of time on side projects such as this one and with the ever popular T with the Maggies ( with Tríona & Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh), all of whom are from County Donegal (with Gaelic as their first language).
Cormac De Barra has known Moya for at least a decade and is known throughout the music world as a virtuoso harpist who began playing at the age of ten when he was taught by his grandmother. He has played with some of the biggest names out there including The Chieftains and the Irish Harp Orchestra, Cathy Jordan of Dervish and the incredibly talented Liam Ó Maonlaí. Cormac also tours with his two brothers in the family trio Barcó.
His globetrotting exploits have maybe leant a hand to his reputation for re-shaping the muiscal boundaries of the Irish harp as well laying ground for further innovation as the grounds of acceptance are broadened. Both Cormac and Moya share a kindred musical spirit that has led to a very rewarding musical experience that has continued to grow. Their new album Voices & Harps marks a milestone in this relationship on which they explore the beauty and depth of their music and song.
Voices and Harps is an album of escape, one of finesse and grace which is reflected in the simple unadorned album cover with gold lettering which holds a respect for the musical legacy it represents which reflects throughout the album. The highlights are many but none so beautiful as when they both sing in contrast on Bean Dubh a’ Ghleanna. The song is sung in Sean-nós style and Cormac’s opening is so reminiscent of the ornamentation of the uilleann pipes, a tune I first heard played by Seamus Ennis. Moya’s vocals and choral style must be one of most well known in Irish music having been used in numerous soundtracks over the years but the songs on this album are not as familiar as you would maybe expect.
Whilst there is some familiarity on this album there is also unique moments such as on Bean Dubh a’ Ghleanna and Taim Breoite Go Leor on which Moya shines at her brightest and most moving. The majority of songs are in gaelic but there are some more familiar and popular songs in English including the well known ‘Streets of Derry’ and ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. My preference is for the traditonal gaelic songs which shows their voices off to the fullest. The magic of this album is its ability to make the Irish language sound so beautiful, a language that was made for song. Whether it is a song of joy or a lament it is incredibly powerful as Moya demonstrates so ably on Casadh Mo Chroi, as does Cormac who I would like to have heard more of. Overall the combinaton of voice, harp and simple arrangements work perfectly.
Voices & Harps Workshop
It will be no surprise that their joint workshops are very much in demand. Following the success of their inaugural workshop last year Clannad’s Moya Brennan and harp maestro, Cormac De Barra will be holding another exclusive Voices & Harps workshop in Gweedore, Co. Donegal on the weekend of June 22-24 2012.
The workshop will be geared towards those with a keen interest in combining singing with harp playing (singers looking to perform with harp accompaniment, voice with self accompaniment, voice and vocal harmonies or harpers developing their accompaniment skills).
The workshop fee will include all workshop sessions from Friday afternoon, through to Sunday plus lunch and dinner on both days. Travel and accomodation should be arranged by participants themselves but options for both will be posted on the workshop web page. Many participants from last year have signed up again so places are limited and immediate booking is advised.
Registration in Naomh Padraig from 12.30pm on the Friday prior to the first half day of workshops. There will be a traditional session that evening after dinner. Saturday night entertainment will be provided by Moya and Cormac themselves and the finale, in the renowned Leo’s Tavern on Sunday evening, will give participants the opportunity to perform a selection of the material from the workshop.
Full details of the workshop schedule and registration can be found at: