The Celtic Lute (2018)

Traditional, Carolan, Oswald

Ronn McFarlane

There are Celtic Music Speciatly radio shows and on-demand audio channels. Celtic Music CDs are sold in health food and yoga stores. We know it when we hear it. Right?
So, what is it? There’s a loose definition (or maybe tacit agreement) that Celtic Music is found in those European cultures where the Celtic tribes invaded. Aside from Ireland and Scotland, Wales qualifies, as does Brittany, the Galician part of Spain, the Isle of Man. If we focus just on the Gaelic language group and fine tune it to just Scotland and Ireland, we really know what we are hearing, right?
Do we? While there is plentiful cross-pollination between these two nations and an ancient shared heritage, they are not the same place, and their music is not a single common recipe using slightly different ingredients. Irish stew is not haggis.

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Ronn McFarlane

GRAMMY-nominated lutenist, Ronn McFarlane strives to bring the lute - the most popular instrument of the Renaissance - into today’s musical mainstream and make it accessible to a wider audience. Since taking up the lute in 1978, Ronn has made his mark in music as the founder of Ayreheart, a new ensemble brought together to perform Ronn's new music.  Ayreheart's debut album is also available on NativeDSD Music. 

He is also a founding member of the Baltimore Consort, touring 49 of the 50 United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany and Austria, and as a guest artist with Apollo’s Fire, The Bach Sinfonia, The Catacoustic Consort, The Folger Consort, Houston Grand Opera, The Oregon Symphony, The Portland Baroque Orchestra, and The Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra.

Born in West Virginia, Ronn spent his early years in Maryland. At thirteen, upon hearing “Wipeout” by the Surfaris, he fell wildly in love with music and taught himself to play on a "cranky sixteen-dollar steel-string guitar.” Ronn kept at it, playing blues and rock music on the electric guitar while studying classical guitar.

He graduated with honors from Shenandoah Conservatory and continued guitar studies at Peabody Conservatory before turning his full attention and energy to the lute in 1978. The next year, Mr. McFarlane began to perform solo recitals on the lute and became a member of the Baltimore Consort. Since then, he has toured throughout the United States, Canada and Europe with the Baltimore Consort and as a soloist.

McFarlane was a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory from 1984 to 1995, teaching lute and lute-related subjects. In 1996, Mr. McFarlane was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Shenandoah Conservatory for his achievements in bringing the lute and its music to the world. He has over 35 recordings on the Dorian/Sono Luminus label, including solo albums, lute duets, flute & lute duets, lute songs, the complete lute music of Vivaldi, a collection of Elizabethan lute music and poetry and recordings with the Baltimore Consort. 

Ronn has composed new music for the lute, building on the tradition of the lutenist/composers of past centuries. His original compositions are the focus of his solo album, Indigo Road, which received a GRAMMY Award Nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album in 2009. 

photo: from cover 'The Celtic Flute'

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The Celtic Lute (2018)

Traditional, Carolan, Oswald

Ronn McFarlane

    Positive Feedback

The lute is an ancient instrument with its forebearers having been traced back to 3100 BCE in Mesopotamia. Though a popular instrument during the Middle Ages, the lute reached its zenith during the Renaissance. While gradually falling out of favor after the Renaissance, the lute was still being widely used during the Baroque period. By the late 1700s the lute had pretty much disappeared from the music world. It did not reappear until the early music movement started in the second half of the 20th century. The Celtic Lute contains music of Irish and Scottish origins from the 18th century. Ten of the tracks are the performer's arrangements of the harp music of Turlough O'Carolan (1670 - 1738). One track is the music of James Oswald (1711-1769). The other fifteen tracks are arrangements of traditional Irish and Scottish music that have come down through the centuries. For those of you who have followed the Dorian and Sono Luminus labels since the 1980s you will recognized the name of Ronn McFarlane as his lute playing talent has been recorded on 36 albums from these two labels. Most of these albums were either duets with other early music musicians or with ensembles such as Ayreheart or the Baltimore Consort. Of these 36 albums The Celtic Lute is his 9th solo album. His previous solo album was released in 2007. It has been a long drought for those of us who love and are mesmerized by his phenomenal mastery of the lute. The album contains 26 tracks totaling 56 minutes. So what is the album like? Sonically, it is a typical Sono Luminus release. This means the recorded sound does not get much better than this. Sono Luminus prides itself on the quality of their recording, mastering and production and they have the awards to show for it. If I close my eyes while listening, Ronn is seated fifteen feet in front of me. If I could hear him breathing it would be a near perfect illusion of the real thing. I can think of only a couple of other albums, also recordings of solo instruments, in my music collection that invoke with this kind of realism. Music-wise, this is not a head-banging album. No surprise there. The lute does not do LOUD, though some of the tracks, such as Pipe on the Hob and The Stool of Repentance, will get your toe to tapping. However, most of the tracks are listening music. The soft, mellow sound of the lute is woven into intricate music patterns by a master lutenist. Sit back and relax. Let the music captivate you. Let it wash over you and leave the world behind. I find the music very relaxing. Just the thing to listen to after fighting your way home through rush hour traffic. Music of this sort is not for everyone. But if you are into early music or the lute, you will love this album.

Roger Gordon[read full review]

The Celtic Lute (2018)

Traditional, Carolan, Oswald

Ronn McFarlane

Digital Converters: Merging Technologies Horus (Recording) and Hapi (Mastering)
Editing Software: Pyramix
Loudspeakers: Legacy Audio
Mastering Engineer: Daniel Shores
Mastering Room: Legacy Audio
Producer: Dan Merceruio
Recording Engineer: Daniel Shores, Allison Noah
Recording location: Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia
Recording Software: Merging
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DXD

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DSL92225: The Celtic Lute
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Tracks.
1.
Carolan's Welcome
Carolan
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2.
Banish Misfortune
Traditional
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3.
The Battle of Harlaw
Traditional
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4.
Pipe on the Hob
Traditional
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5.
Cliffs of Moher
Traditional
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6.
Hey My Nanny - Guzzle Together
Traditional
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7.
O'Carolan's Dream
Carolan
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8.
Sheebeg and Sheemore
Carolan
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9.
The Flowers of Edinburgh
Oswald
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10.
Miss Noble
Carolan
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11.
Fanny Power
Carolan
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12.
The Flaggon
Traditional
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13.
The Stool of Repentance
Traditional
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14.
The Lone Vale
Traditional
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15.
Flee Over the Water
Traditional
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16.
Hoop Her and Gird Her
Traditional
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17.
If I Had a Bonny Lass
Traditional
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18.
Lady Athenry
Carolan
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19.
The Seas Are Deep
Carolan
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20.
Tune Without Title, No. 172
Carolan
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21.
The Monaghan Jig
Traditional
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22.
The Kid on the Mountain
Traditional
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23.
Blind Mary
Carolan
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24.
George Brabazon
Carolan
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25.
Separation of the Body and Soul
Carolan
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26.
The Butterfly
Traditional
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