Daniel Stephen Johnson was born in the desert and learned to play the violin. After studying viola and English at the University of Southern California, he wrote fiction at Columbia University. Then he moved to Connecticut, where he worked at a record shop and wrote about music, literature and comedy for the New Haven Advocate and the Believer. Now he lives in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and works as a sheet music salesman in Queens. Follow Daniel on Twitter at @linernotesdanny.
Irish Mass Reimagined by Uzbekistan's Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky
Q2 Music Album of the Week for November 19, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
If it didn't happen here, in London, maybe in Paris or Berlin, it didn't happen: the self-sufficiency of the New York scene is also its fatal flaw, making it all to easy for this town to get lazy and provinicial. Fortunately, there are those periodic arrivals that demand to be reckoned with and wake New York, momentarily at least, from its solipsism.
In recent years, there has been one notable example from the country of Ireland, in the form of Donnacha Dennehy's Dublin-based Crash Ensemble, but the recent recordings of the Louth Contemporary Music Society, from County Louth, suggest that the LCMS is ready to make its own, very different, impression on American listeners.
If Crash's musical identity resembles the New York vogue for amplification and repetition, LCMS's discography suggests a band that has been drawing its influences from points east, with commissions and premieres from post-Soviet giants like Valentin Silvestrov and Arvo Pärt. On its latest recording, "Ó Riada Re-imagined," the Louth band has asked Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky to create a new work out of an Irish mass by Seán Ó Riada.
Ó Riada, though relatively unknown in the States, influenced the midcentury revival of Celtic traditional music, and his Mass's melodies reflect his fascination with his homeland's native sounds. Yanov-Yanovsky, in arranging the work for the the Society, manages to put a highly personal and imaginative spin on the music without straying far from its Irish roots.
This is true not just in the instrumentation – Siobhán Armstrong on harp, Zoë Conway on violin and Robbie Harris drumming on the bodhrán – but in the way the group is written for, to the extent that a listener approaching the work without context or explanation would never guess that this was the work of more than one composer.
The playing is superb throughout, as is the well-blended and idiomatic vocalism of the EQ Singers, and the sound is marvelous. It's hard to imagine that this is a live recording, but not as hard as it is to resist digging deeper into the recorded oeuvre of this remarkable ensemble.
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