Barra MacNeils Mark 25th Anniversary with Release of New Symphonic Recording
Sydney Mines, NS – April 18, 2012 - There is something special about a live Barra MacNeils’ performance. Over the past 25 years this group of siblings from Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia has built deep, almost indefinable, connections with fans around the world through their moving performances of Celtic music in all its forms. The rich, diverse and mystic beauty of this iconic group’s unique brand of Celtic music reaches new heights with the release of the Barra MacNeils first symphonic recording. Recorded at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, over a two concert run with Symphony Nova Scotia this new CD features a lush collection of traditional Celtic arrangements by Stewart MacNeil and long-time Barra MacNeils collaborators Chris Palmer and Eric Robertson. The Barra MacNeils with Symphony Nova Scotia (Live) is released in Canada by Fontana Records and hits stores, coast to coast, on April 17, 2012.
“This album is a dream come true,” says Stewart MacNeil. “The marriage of our Celtic traditions with classical settings has always been a natural, almost organically seamless marriage; but on this recording, the beauty of the arrangements combined with the great respect for the history of Celtic music which was shared amongst all the musicians on-stage enabled us to transcend the performance, and capture a moment in time that was truly magical”.
We reached Stewart at his home in Cape Breton and you can listen to our interview on the Soundlcoud file below.
A special performance at Governor's Pub & Eatery in Sydney, Nova Scotia to celebrate the release of the Barra MacNeils two new LIVE recordings: In Concert & In Session can be viewed on Youtube below.
The relationship between the Barra MacNeils and Symphony Nova Scotia dates back to the group’s early days as a professional ensemble, and has continued with frequent guest performances. The 37-piece orchestra is based in Halifax and offers performances across the province, reaching more than 50,000 Nova Scotians of all ages each year. The Barra MacNeils have begun touring these symphonic arrangements, and recently performed with the Victoria Symphony in a performance the Martlet News called ‘a celebratory overview of Celtic music”…showcasing their abilities as talented instrumentalists, vocalists and performers”.
This CD release marks the Barra MacNeils’ 25th Anniversary year, and is notably the first commercial recording for Conductor Martin MacDonald. MacDonald, who was serving as Resident Conductor with Symphony Nova Scotia at the time of the recording, is a childhood friend of the Barra MacNeils. MacDonald acknowledges the overwhelming sense of pride felt by the orchestra when performing alongside the Barra MacNeils, who are widely regarded as Canada’s Celtic ambassadors. MacDonald also believes that the orchestra was equally inspired by the complexity of technique and emotion prevalent in both the Celtic and classical music traditions.
“The ancient style of Scottish fiddle playing that exists in Cape Breton shares a tradition of ornamentation and improvisation with that of Baroque performance practice. The Celtic tradition is in fact filled with the same kind of dynamics and subtle nuances that we see in classical music, it differs mostly in tempo and swing. The orchestra found this unique collaboration to be truly challenging and absolutely rewarding on every level.”
The authenticity and folk-traditions found on every Barra MacNeils recording resonates throughout the new CD, The Barra MacNeils with Symphony Nova Scotia (Live). The featured tracks include, The Longest Day, a reel that celebrates the summer solstice; an orchestral arrangement of John Sebastion’s Darlin’ Be Home Soon, a song that was a huge radio hit for the Barra MacNeils; Easter Snow, featuring Ryan MacNeil on uillean pipes in an arrangement by Chris Palmer; One Misty Moisty Morning a catchy song based on the exploits of Robin Hood; and Northern Light, a song written by the Oysterband, that provides a crisp setting for Lucy MacNeil’s haunting vocals. Highlights include a Symphonic arrangement of My Heart’s in The Highlands inspired by a bombastic rendition by John (Jimmy Malcolm) Gillis and Jackie (Allan J.) MacNeil which Stewart first heard on the top of the Highland Village hill in scenic Iona overlooking the Barra Strait in Victoria County; a lively, dynamic set of reels on Dougie Mac; Dance With Me Daily, a number that celebrates the simple yet profound theme of celebrating love and joy daily; and Our Highland Queen Medley featuring Kyle and Sheumas MacNeil in an orchestral arrangement by brother Stewart that pays homage to fiddler J. Scott Skinner. An exuberant medley which leads with Gearan na Maidainn (The Maiden’s Compliant) a Gaelic song written by the late Hugh F. MacKenzie serves as closing number.
01. The Longest Day
02. My Heart's In The Highland's
03. One Misty Moisty Morning
04. Darling Be Home Soon
05. Easter Snow
06. Dougie Mac
08. By Northern Light
09. Horses, Geese And One Old Man
10. Our Highland Queen Medley
11. Dance With Me Daily
12. Finale Medley