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Iona - Birken Tree

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Birken Tree, released in 2000, is the album where all the acoustic elements of Iona's approach really come together. Nick Smiley's mandolin, bouzouki & bass, Bob Mitchell's piping, Barbara Ryan's singing and Bernard Argent's fluting are all at their best. It continues Iona's pan-Celtic explorations, adding Appalachian and Asturian themes to the usual mix of Scottish, Irish, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton. 1. Wrth Fynd Efo Deio y Dywyn/An Culyek Hos (While Going with Deio to Tywyn/The Mallard Duck) Welsh/Cornish 3:31 This song in Welsh is an enthusiastic young traveler's diary, cataloging his experiences with one Deio, friend of Mr. Jones, en route to the town of Tywyn in Gwynedd, Wales. We combine it with a Cornish tune that reflects Breton origins. Not content with a single time signature, we play the above first as hornpipes then as jigs. Barbara: vocals, bodhrán; Bernard: doumbek, flute, D whistle; Bob: shuttle pipes; Nick: mandolin, bouzouki. 2. Came Ye O'er frae France/Duncan Johnson's/Butterfingers (P.M. Duncan MacLeod) Scottish 4:21 This fine auld Jacobite song satirizes the Hanoverian King George I, who reigned at the time when James Stuart, the Old Pretender, led the Highland rebellion against British rule, with rude references to his very ugly mistresses and scandalous proclivities. Bob carries on with a hornpipe and jig on the great pipes. Barbara: vocals, bodhrán, guitar in open tuning; Bernard: Eb flute, doumbek; Bob: Highland pipes; Nick: mandolin. 3. Fare You Well/Santón de Camadu Appalachian/Asturian 5:25 This stunning song from North Carolina was collected by John and Alan Lomax. It seems to have it's roots in the time of the Napoleonic wars, but projects a distinct Appalachian flavor, reflecting the Scotch-Irish (yes-that's what they call it!) heritage of Barbara's Kentucky and Bob's Virginia forebears. We accompany the song, then lead with a dance tune from the Camadu area in Asturias, one of the Celtic regions of Northern Spain, that we learned from the group, Llan de Cubel. Barbara: vocals, guitar, tambourine; Bernard: flute; Bob: shuttle pipes; Nick: mandolin. 4. Quand j'étais jeune à dix-huit ans/Hanter dros (When I was young and eighteen/dances) Breton 5:48 Once again, we are indebted to the Monjarret family of the Morbihan district in Brittany, the Celtic province of France. Nolwenn taught Barbara this song from Morbihan--an hanter dro, or dance tune--with nonsense words in French dialect. We found two of the subsequent hanter dros in Polig's magnificently exhaustive collection of Breton tunes. As always, we encourage our audiences to join in the dances, taught to Bernard by Nolwenn as well... Barbara: lead vocals, tambourine, bouzouki, bodhrán; Bernard: vocals, Eb flute, Eb whistle, doumbek, bombarde; Bob: shakers, bombarde; Nick: vocals, mandolin, acoustic bass guitar, 'avocado'. 5. Donald MacGillavry/Paddy's Leather Britches Scottish 5:34 Back to the Jacobite rebellion and another satire, this one of one Donald MacGillavry, the symbol for the Scottish lairds who sold out to the English. Bob follows with a piping version of the song on the great pipes, then segués into the reel, Paddy's Leather Britches, arranged for him by his brother, another great piper, Burt Mitchell. According to Bob, the aforementioned leather britches were once worn by excise men to test the strength of whisky: if they stuck to the liquor, poured on a bench, the whisky was strong enough--the britches, no doubt, reminiscent of the piper's bag who penned this ode! Barbara: lead vocals, bodhrán; Bernard: guitar, vocals, doumbek; Bob Highland pipes; Nick: vocals, bouzouki. 6. Wellington's Advance/A Ei D'ir 'Deryn Du?/Nyth y Gog/The Tarbolton (Blackbird Will You Go?/The Cuckoo's Nest) Irish/Welsh/Scottish 5:11 We decided to do some Celtic hopscotch on this medley. We start with a slow Irish jig, and follow with a macaronic song, i.e. sung partly in Welsh, partly in English--a gimmick popular in the nineteenth century, then a Welsh hornpipe, back to the song, and finish with a rollicking reel, claimed by both the Scottish and the Irish. Quite the whirlwind tour. Barbara: vocals, bouzoukis, guitar, bodhrán; Bernard: flute, doumbek, D whistle; Bob: shuttle pipes; Nick: acoustic bass guitar, mandolin. 7. The Mermaid's Song/Seoladh na nGamhna (Driving the Calves to Pasture) Scottish/Irish 5:38 Bob and Barbara take the spotlight with two beautiful solos. The Mermaid's Song is one of the most haunting piping tunes we know. Seoladh na nGamhna, from the collection of Pilib Ó Laoghaire, describes with unsurpassed grace, the seduction of the singer's object of affection in 'a fragrant little nook in the corner of the wood'. Barbara: vocals; Bernard: Eb whistle; Bob: Highland pipes; Nick: bowed 5-string bass. 8. Where are you Going/Aberdulais Cornish/Welsh 3:55 This Cornish song, also of seduction, describes a naive swain maneuvered handily into marriage by a canny young milkmaid. Barbara, whose interpretation this is, renders the song in English, the words of which were sung by James Olver, a tanner of Launceston, Cornwall, and recorded by Baring Gould. We introduce the song with an old Welsh tune, Aberdulais, then follow it with a variation. The latter interpretation is a happy mistake executed by Ceri Rhys Matthews, a contemporary Welsh musician, while transposing the original Aberdulais from a collection of tunes, Alawon fy Ngwlad: Lays of My Land, compiled by Nicholas Bennett of Glanyrafon 1896. Barbara: vocals, bodhrán, shakers; Bernard: Bb whistle, bombarde; Bob: shaker, Highland pipes; Nick: Low F whistle, acoustic bass guitar. 9. Birken Tree/Devil in the Kitchen/The Curlew (Donald MacPherson) Scottish 4:41 Yet another happily ever after love song, in which the cooing couple trysts beneath the birch tree in the glen (the very same one after which we've named this album). Bob augments this joyful concept with a hornpipe and jig on the great pipes. Barbara: vocals, bouzouki, guitar in open tuning; Bernard: Doumbek; Bob: Highland pipes; Nick: bouzouki, 'avocado'. 10. An Dros/Te Traa Goll Thie (Arrane Oie Vie)(It's time to go home or Good night song)/When First Her Face I Seen Breton/Mann 4:15 We start out with two an dros--Breton dances, from Polig Monjarret's collection, and throw in a hint of the tune of the song to come, in the upbeat preamble to this beautiful song of farewell from the Isle of Man. Frequently sung at sessions after last call, Te Traa Goll Thie is considered by many to be practically an anthem. We're indebted to David Fisher, a musician in Mann, who patiently sang the words over the phone for Barbara across the miles. The finale is a beautiful air, also from the Isle of Man, that we learned from Elke Baker, a good friend and fine fiddler. Barbara: bodhrán, guitar, lead vocals, bouzouki; Bernard: flute, vocals; Bob: shuttle pipes; Nick: mandolin, vocals, low D whistle. Total Running Time - 48:28 Credits: Produced by Bernard Argent, Barbara Tresidder Ryan and Scott Shuman Recorded and mastered at Shuman Recording, Falls Church, VA Engineered by Scott Shuman Art work and design: Barbara Tresidder Ryan and Bernard Argent. Front cover based on a carving on the North Cross, Duleek, Ireland. Photography: Iona meeting by the Burke (Virginia) Birken (river birch) tree by Tom Smith; studio shots by Chris Moscatiello Liner notes: Iona.

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Iona - Birken Tree.

1) WR th Fynd Efo Deio y Dywyn / An Culyek Hos
2) Came Ye O'er Frae France / Duncan Johnson's / Butterfingers
3) Fare You Well / Sant N de Camadu
4) Quand J' Tais Jeune Dix-Huit Ans / Hanter Dros
5) Donald MacGillavry / Paddy's Leather Britches
6) Wellington's Advance / a Ei D'ir 'Deryn Du? / Nyth y Gog / the Tarbolto
7) The Mermaid's Song / Seoladh Na Ngamhna
8) Where Are You Going / Aberdulais
9) Birken Tree / Devil in the Kitchen / the Curlew
10) An Dros / Te Traa Goll Thie

Birken Tree
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Birken Tree | Iona