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Harping on pagan magic

Calman the Dove
Savourna Stevenson
Times Music
Rs 95

Doves and wolves haunt Celtic mythology, and that's the world this album draws you into. Mesmerising pipes, an elusive harp and a wailing fiddle play tunes composed by Savourna Stevenson, star Irish folk musician. The nine pieces featured here are gems of the Celtic imagination.

The harp is a symbol of pagan Ireland: god Dagda's harp plays the three songs of joy, sadness and sleep.

The jacket says Savourna's music interprets the past in a contemporary context. Used as we are to Indian-style remixes, where any music gets "contemporary" with the addition of computerised drums, Savourna sounds authentic and unswayed by the temptations of electronic sound.

Savourna remains within the fold of Celtic tradition, and the innovation comes in her orchestra and music arrangement.

Calman the wolf is a sign of all that's to be expected of this tape. A certain quality of magic, inevitable with the harp, combines with low whistles, Uillean pipes, and the fiddle. These by turns interpret the main melody, adding their characteristic graces.

Where there's women there's trouble has a perky beat sketched on the harp, with the fiddle playing up the theme.

Mesmerising Nessy weaves a spell with relentless fiddling; the pipes on a harp chord progression strongly remind you of a jig.

Are the Uillean pipes Ireland's answer to the Scottish pipes?

The bell ringer has a sentimental touch, with the fiddle reaching out to far-flung notes and the harp plucking away in rhythm. The tempo and rhythm vary too.

Sith as a Ghaillionn has low whistles warbling on the expressive harp. The fiddle adds a wistful colour by playing seconds in the latter part.

Calman the dove is a contemplative, expansive piece on the harp and keyboard. The low whistles appear like a trail of smoke and are soon replaced by the more earthy fiddle.

An Buachaille is full of fast and deft harp playing on a three-beat rhythm. You can experience the thrill of the acoustic plucking most in this piece. Savourna on both harp and keyboard is in total control. This piece is enchanting in the way it changes tempo and moves from a small motif to a bigger one.

The white swan has beautiful chords heralding the plaintive whistles. The fiddle enters in a different mood, more loaded with movement, but for a very short space. Anne Wood on the fiddle interprets the same melody as the whistles (Davy Spillane) with a harder intensity. The whistles too return with their eerie but real presence. There are more graces on the whistles than on the fiddle, which remains satisfied in stressing existing graces.

I mo chridh starts on keyboard chorus and violins, used with great restraint. The harp plays a tender melody and is joined by the whistles and then the fiddle.

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