Calen-O – Songs from the North of Ireland by Howard Ferguson, Hamilton Harty, Joan Trimble and Charles Wood

Reviewed on Wed 30 May, 2018

Harty’s aching A Cradle Song (more lament than lullaby) and slicing piano rhythm and intoxicated lyrics of Scythe Song receive ardent performances from Dobbin and Burnside.

There’s no mistaking Carolyn Dobbin’s committed advocacy in this collection of songs from her native Northern Ireland. With ever-adroit accompaniment by pianist Iain Burnside, the Carrickfergus-born soprano makes a persuasive claim for a body of work fully deserving of greater attention, finding rich local colour in colloquial idioms throughout. A baker’s dozen of first recordings by Hamilton Harty and Charles Wood provide immediate interest. Harty’s aching A Cradle Song (more lament than lullaby) and slicing piano rhythm and intoxicated lyrics of Scythe Song receive ardent performances from Dobbin and Burnside. So, too, Wood’s yearning Shall I Forget and hauntingly delivered At the mid hour of night. Howard Ferguson’s Five Irish Folksongs are exquisite miniatures, the disc’s title track, Calen-O, a thing of bewitching delicacy. Three songs by Joan Trimble exemplify, in Dobbin’s subtly restrained vocals, her crystalline tone and unaffected directness. Philip Hammond’s informative notes provide valuable context and commentary.
–Michael Quinn