THE WEST OCEAN STRING QUAR­TET An Indigo Sky West Ocean

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - SIOB­HÁN LONG

Records New dawns are pro­claimed far too non­cha­lantly in tra­di­tional mu­sic, so we pro­ceed with cau­tion with each pass­ing sun­rise. But The West Ocean String Quar­tet pro­poses an in­trigu­ing ex­pe­di­tion on their fourth, mag­nif­i­cently ele­giac record­ing.

Neil Martin, the quar­tet’s cel­list, com­poser and ar­ranger, is in char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally imp­ish form in his test­ing and tast­ing of the di­vi­sions that sep­a­rate reel from jig, and de­light­ing in what he ac­knowl­edges in the sleeve notes to be the genre-de­fy­ing “quirky me­tre” that char­ac­terises some of his com­po­si­tions.

The scene is set from the de­li­ciously aus­tere opener, The Wood­turner. The quar­tet pur­sues its lurch­ing rhythms like a par­ent af­ter an er­rant off­spring. Their treat­ment of Thomas Moore’s well-worn The Min­strel Boy ren­ders the melody line anew, re­plete with a melan­cho­lia ut­terly in keep­ing with the spirit of the orig­i­nal piece. Carolan’s Planxty Hewlett wears its baroque ori­gins beau­ti­fully, tem­pered by the warm tones of cello, vi­ola and vi­o­lins con­vers­ing with one an­other like old friends. In be­tween nes­tles the tit­u­lar suite of tunes com­posed by Martin to com­mem­o­rate the late mu­si­cian Joseph Browne.

Wide in its hori­zons, and plumb­ing emo­tional depths to which few mu­si­cians dare ven­ture, An Indigo Sky lures the lis­tener to its own nether­world, full of the joys and pas­sions of a pre­ma­turely quenched light: a mu­si­cal evo­ca­tion of a life lived well. Rarely are bi­og­ra­phy and mu­si­cal com­po­si­tion so richly in­ter­twined.

Sea­mus McGuire’s highly dis­tinc­tive fid­dle and Martin’s throaty cello lines in­ter­sect those of Ni­amh Crow­ley and the vi­ola of Ken Rice with a fresh­ness that be­lies their al­most decade-long col­lab­o­ra­tion. A shim­mer­ing de­light. wosq.com Down­load: Ely’s Shuf­fle, Áil­leacht Bhró­nach

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