Genre: Folk/Celtic/”Meditative and reflective”
Playing time: 58 minutes
Availability (out of 3): **
Related website(s): http://alisoneve.co.uk; http://ritualitas.co.uk
My rating: 8/10
I like: The variety of sounds and moods, Alison’s voice as well as the harp, the arrangements
I’m less keen on : –
I love the sound of a harp. It’s relaxing and somehow soulful, and when it’s Celtic harp playing folk melodies (traditional or contemporary) I think it’s almost magical.
I’d never heard of this player or album until they were brought to my attention by a fellow member of a review site. I took a punt, ordered two titles, and eagerly awaited their arrival!
Alison Eve has studied and taught singing. From her childhood she played piano, guitar and trumpet.
From around 1999 she decided to teach herself harp, and her website names Loreena McKennit and Clannad as strong influences.
Besides singing and recording in her own right, she seems to have quite a diverse range of styles. As well as singing in a folk vocal group “Messenger” and a female choir “nChant” she has also sung with a folk-rock “Eve And The Garden”, and even a heavy metal band “Ascentis”!
She plays at an increasing number of weddings.
Unlike classical harp with its various pedals, Celtic harps have levers. They come in various sizes and with various numbers of strings, but essentially they have a wide pitch, giving the unique sound, the higher pitched strings creating an ethereal tinkling in contrast with the lower pitched ones. Alison Eve’s website describes three instruments that she has: a small harp with 25 strings, her main one, a maple large lever folk harp, and also an electric instrument harp made from carbon fibre. The photograph below from her website (used with kind permission) shows her with the second of these instruments, performing at a wedding.
In Ireland the harp has had a very chequered history; it was such a part of Irish culture that it came to be seen as a symbol of resistance to English rule and was banned for many years. It’s hardly surprising that for many years the harp did indeed serve as a symbol of Irish identity, and graced the back of coins from Eire for many years!
Although at first glance it may not be so obvious, like any other stringed instrument,the sound of a harp comes from its hollow body. The tensioned strings, when plucked, cause the wooden body of the harp to resonate.
comes in a jewel case, which to me is infinitely preferable to card packaging. It has 8 tracks and plays for 58 minutes.
It’s an essentially instrumental album, with some backing vocals by Alison. I have a vocal album of Alison’s (“Set Sorrow Aside”), and she has a lovely voice. “Time And Tide” was apparently produced during a spell of laryngitis, however, hence the limited vocal content.
The album is subtitled “Reflections, Meditations & Improvisations On Celtic Harp”. This is an accurate description of its contents.
Time And Tide – The Iona Boat Song
commences the album, replete with the sound of waves and sea birds – a nice touch. Some lovely, evocative low whistle plays the melody with the harp as accompaniment. I love the sound of low whistle, it has a “breathy” sound to it, and here is no exception. Gradually the harp comes more to the fore. It’s an instrumental version of a song, and, according to the sleeve notes, the tune was supposedly played as kings of Scotland were ferried to their burial ground.
The sound of the sea and of the birds could easily have sounded contrived, but I feel that in the event its inclusion works really well. It’s not overdone, but starts, ends, and punctuates the tune part way through. My second favourite track of the album, and I sometimes hit the replay button when it ends.
Angel’s wings – The Annunciation
commences slowly but with scintillating arpeggio playing where adjoining individual strings are plucked in succession. I find the sound mystical, reflective, and the arpeggios at times really do help to convey a feeling of a being in flight. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, the tune is about the angel Gabriel in the early chapters of the gospels.
Ave Generosa – Meditations On Hildegard
is a hymn written by Hildegard. Alison songs the words in a clear voice to the accompaniment of her harp. The combined effect is, to me, simply lovely!
Trinity Candle – God’s Story In Action
Like the preceding track, this was written as part of a video soundtrack. It’s intended to evoke the Christian Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). I like the backing vocal behind the harp, which I feel creates an air of mystery. The harp playing is improvised, enriching the sound and the variety.
St Nectan’s Glen – A Cornish Saint
is my favourite track. Like the opening tune it is played over the sound of bird calls. Some gentle small bells add to the sound and feel, and the simple tune rolls along just beautifully from the harp strings.
I find this tune truly soothing and relaxing. The location of the title is apparently in North Cornwall and features some “ancient labyrinth carvings”. Gorgeous, and one that I sometimes repeat-play. To be truthful, this tune alone would justify the cost of the album. This isn’t intended to imply that I don’t like the others; far from it, it’s simply that this tune is especially lovely.
Tread Gently – Chant Of Relinquishment
is sung softly – to protect the temporary weakness of Alison’s voice. It’s a plea to live “tread gently…, hold…, let go…, live simply…, breathe deeply…, love fully…, cherish…, and relinquish”. The melody is slightly plaintive and again, the voice and the harp create a lovely overall effect.
Crux Fidelis – Good Friday Chant
is an improvisation based on a 16th Century Good Friday chant.
Deep Calls To Deep – The Abyss
conveys a mystical (or magical) feeling with the additional aid of a singing bowl, Tibetan prayer bell, and various other musical or improvised items. The melody is slow and evocative, and whilst at first listen I wasn’t over-keen on this track, it has grown on me considerable with successive listens.
This album is evidently intended as a spiritual aid, but I feel that its appeal is wider than that. I like the variety of moods and sounds, and it does make for a fine listening experience. The album plays for the best part of an hour, and as if all this weren’t enough, there is one track that I love enough to play twice in succession, which to me is the mark of a fine album.
My rating: 8/10
Please note – this is not a money-making blog and I am simply trying to share my enjoyment of music or other media. However I am anxious to credit any images included in my posts.
Thanks to Alison for her kind permission to use the photographs that are included in this post, all of which come from her website http://alisoneve.co.uk