Produced by Bobby Read. All tunes traditional , except where indicated.
Maggie Sansone has frolicked in the world of Celtic music for many years, but those of us in her extended family know that it is always with a touch of the warm south. Her Italian heritage gives her a restless energy to explore beyond the Irish airs or Scottish piping tunes (all of which you do hear on this recording), into a Breton Wedding Suite, an Italianate motet, even a work based on Persian modes.
Perhaps the word for this new Maggie project is “spicy.” Like the tea that is imbued with blended spices in India and given that nation's word for tea (“chai”), Maggie has taken a proper Irish morning brew and added scents and tinctures from other lands, making an infusion at once heady and restoring. The song “Evening Chai,” with the hammered dulcimer singing as its ancestors had done across the trade routes of the ancient world from desert to crowded bazaar, from lonely mountain mist to the spice market, is both the heart of this project and a fortune-teller’s guide to the direction Maggie has taken on her ongoing musical journey.
When we first saw the cover picture, one that Wallace Jones took as part of his “Irish Rain” project (an American chronicling the magic of the Emerald Isle), Maggie asked him to share how he came upon that spot on that day:
"The photo was taken at one of my favorite spots in Ireland. Deep in the mountains of Connemara—along the border between counties Mayo and Galway—there is a small lake tucked away in a valley. Lough na Fooey is one of those places that tourists don't ever get to see. It is off the beaten path so much that every sheep and cow stops to look at you with amazement. We had started down the little road several times before but always stopped short of actually making it to the lough. The road was so small that we just figured that it would lead to a house…but we kept driving up the little road...over a steep hill...past sheep in the road...and eventually crested a small hill. It was then that we could see out over the little valley with the lake below. The road snaked down the mountainside... occasionally passing a farm or house... until we came to the little red sand beach. We laid out a blanket... and stretched out in the summer sunshine with our picnic. It was a perfect day. A day that will always be sacred in my memory. I took this particular photo on a cold March morning. The boats sat on the sandy bank... looking as if they had not been touched since the previous summer." ~ Wallace Jones
And so we have it—pushing on down that road where we had only wandered to the first bend so many times before—drifting, like the wind at early dawn (or the breeze that cools our evening cup of chai), we find ourselves at once in a new place...and home again. ~ Robert Aubry Davis.
Robert Aubry Davis, a TV and radio personality from Washington, DC, is a producer and can be heard on classical and folk channels on Sirius XM, and is creator and host of the long-running public radio series, Millennium of Music.
1. North Sea Crossing (reels) (3:24) When Charles Returns/North Sea Crossing/Hamar Ower Da Taing.
(Trad. Scotland/ © Maggie Sansone/Trad. Shetland). Here we create the musical image of a sailor making the crossing from Scotland to the Shetland Islands. North Sea Crossing envisions that sailor approaching the treacherous crosscurrents of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
2. Slippin’ Jigs Set (5:32) The F Sharp Minor/Humours of Whiskey. (Trad. Ireland). This set consists of two 9/8 Irish slip jigs: The F Sharp Minor (also known as The Cock and the Hen) starts with a bend I create by pressing on the note with my left thumb while striking the string and also throughout the tune and the others, I use the pedal dampers to create a percussive effect. Humours of Whiskey is a popular Irish slip jig.
3. Willie's Old Trousers & The Tartan (4:07) (Trad.Scotland/©Maggie Sansone). The set begins with a traditional Scottish reel translated from the Gaelic, Seann Triubhais Uilleachain. Willie’s Old Trousers has a long and illustrious history as a protest tune called Song to the Breeches (Oran do 'nbhrioghais), lamenting the Act of Proscription in 1746 that banned the wearing of the kilt and other forms of Highland dress. Tartan is a bold colorful weave, as is the music here as the instruments intertwine to create a tartan fabric of sound. This is my musical bow to the tune's history. I picture Willie tossing his trousers aside and putting on the tartan.
4. Lilting Banshee Set (jigs) (7:19) Gow’s Lament for His Brother/Gallowglass/Boys of Ballinamore/Lilting Banshee (Trad. Scotland/Trad. Ireland). Nathaniel Gow (Scottish musician and publisher, 1763-1831) wrote Lament. It is followed by the Irish version of the same tune called Gallowglass, and two Irish jigs.
5. Evening Chai (3:10) ©Maggie Sansone. Chai is one my favorite spicy teas from India, and here it is a symbol of the link bridging the gap between different cultures. This is an
improvisation based on my own studies and explorations into Arabic and Persian music for the hammered dulcimer.
6. Breton Suite (medley) (7:54) Breton Gavotte/ Bourrée/ Bourrée d'Aurore Sand/ French Musette (Trad. Breton).These tunes are from Brittany, the Celtic region of France. Picture a festive gathering, celebration or a wedding starting with the Gavotte, a guitar duet, then a lively dance tune, Bourrée d'Aurore Sand, which refers to the 19th century novelist George Sand (whose real name was Aurore Dupin), a woman of advanced views famous for her affair with Chopin. The last tune is a waltz I learned from button accordionist Peter Brice.
7. Blue Mottetto (3:24) ©Maggie Sansone
The first and last sections were inspired by a 12th century motet I played on the classical guitar. The middle section is a spicy brew influenced by non-western scales and syncopated patterns. This piece also exploits the hammered dulcimer's unique string layout that requires “jumping” the bridges to achieve certain notes. Mottetto, Italian for “motet”, is a tribute to my Italian father, Leonard Sansone, who played jazz piano and was a major musical influence in my life. So…add some sauce, stir often and get Blue Mottetto—a “new dish.”
8. Wind Drift (3:37) ©Maggie Sansone
This title track is based on an Irish step dance form, the slide, a type of jig in 12/8 time. I wrote the tune during the easy flowing days of summer to celebrate a carefree mood as our boat drifted across the wide open spaces of the Chesapeake Bay. Wind Drift suggests this rise and fall of a boat on the waves as it heads toward shore. It’s also a tribute to the ancient Celtic summer festival of Lughnasa marking the longest day of the year.
9. Early Dawn (2:55) © Maggie Sansone
Like the early dawn, this composition begins slowly with a prelude of ethereal chords to set the mood then, using the compositional device called a canon, it unfolds as if the sun were rising with the main melody first as an introduction, then repeated by each instrument like an echo. It resolves at the end with a slow refrain.
All tunes traditional except where noted © Maggie Sansone.
About Maggie Sansone
One of America’s premier hammered dulcimer players and recording artists, Maggie has been featured on CBS-TV Sunday Morning, and NPR’s All Things Considered, Performance Today and The Thistle & Shamrock. Her recordings, concerts and collaborations with Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Teelin School of Irish Dance, Sony/BMG, Time-Life Records, XM Radio and Ken Burns' PBS documentaries and her US tour with a Scottish
Christmas featuring Bonnie Rideout, have drawn wide praise. Among many awards, Maggie received Wammie awards from the Washington Area Music Association for Celtic/Irish Instrumentalist and Record Label of the Year.
Maggie is founder and CEO of Maggie's Music record label with over fifty recordings and twelve recording artists, with sales topping one million. A native of Miami, Maggie began her music career at age eight. She is a multi-instrumentalist and in addition to hammered dulcimer plays piano, guitar, recorder, percussion, bassoon, banjo, Scottish smallpipes and bodhrán. She received her BFA from Kent State University and settled in Maryland in 1973. Maggie's first music studio was in the basement of a Baltimore row house. Sansone's recordings are A Celtic Fair, Mystic Dance, A Traveler’s Dream, Celtic Meditations, Dance upon the Shore, Mist & Stone, Traditions,
Sounds of the Season, Sounds of the Season II, Merrily Greet the Time (with Sue Richards), A Scottish Christmas (with Bonnie Rideout, Al Petteway) and Ancient Noels (with Ensemble Galilei).
Band arrangements: co-arranged: Maggie Sansone & Bobby Read.
Publishing: Maggie Sansone Publishing (ASCAP).
Photos: boat-Wallace Jones, www.irishrainphotography.com; Maggie-Viki Garte; Maggie & Toby-RC.
Booklet & Design: Viki Garte, Maggie Sansone.
Maggie's instrument: Forte hammered dulcimer with pedal dampers by Nick Blanton, Shepherdstown, WV.
Thanks to I am grateful to have worked with Bobby Read again, and thank him for his amazing virtuosity & creative input. He inspires me to be a better musician. Liner notes: Robert Aubry Davis; editing: Connie McKenna, Betsy Chalfin. Thanks to Richard Crenshaw & my mom Emily Sokoloff.