Features Irish singer, Connie McKenna. Like the Chieftains, the Irish band, Ceoltoiri presents and ensemble style of performance that includes driving jigs and reels, and an exciting mix of traditional and contemporary sounds. Hear Irish lament Rockin' the Cradle, a Scandinavian polska set, tunes by O'Carolan and a W.B. Yeat's Song from the poem Song of the Wandering Aengus, set to a Scottish air. Pronounced "kul-tory," Ceoltoiri means musicians " in Irish Gaelic. (54:50 minutes)

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"Quite simply the best traditional Celtic album I've heard. I'm carried away by Connie's pure singing voice and the subtle intertwining of the harp and dulcimer."

- Dulcimer Players News

"Fluid and shimmering."

- Victory Review

"The instruments fit together like pieces in a puzzle...They know their genre, their instruments, including the voice, and their Celtic folklore and traditions."

Dirty Linen World & Folk Music Magazine

Tune List

  1. Arise & Dress Yourself (2:32)
  2. Scottish Reel Set (3:51)
  3. Killarney Boys of Pleasure / Oro 'Se Do (3:42)
  4. Rockin' the Cradle (4:30)
  5. Flowing Tide / New Claret (4:36)
  6. Song of Wandering Aengus (3:40)
  7. Far Away (4:30)
  8. Grey Cock (3:56)
  9. Dr. John Stafford / Constatine Maguire (4:46)
  10. Polska Set (5:22)
  11. The Plain Girl's Lament (2:36)
  12. Death of Queen Jane (4:54)
  13. Lias Laddie (5:35) (3:51)

Liner Notes



Karen Ashbrook ~ hammered dulcimer, boxwood flute & pennywhistle
Connie McKenna ~ vocals & guitar
Sue Richards ~ Celtic harp

Guest Musicians

Charlie Pizer ~ Double bass
Myron Bretholz ~ Bodhran, dholak
Carolyn Surrick ~ Viola da gamba
Phillippe Varlet ~ Fiddle
Lisa Moscatiello ~ Harmony vocals on "Oro 'Se Do"

Chamber folk trio Ceoltoiri makes music that breaks through traditional boundaries. With its trademark arrangements of haunting ballads and driving reels and jigs, it has won the praise of the Washington Post for its "virtuosity and spirited performance."

Karen Ashbrook is the author of the popular book-and-tape set, Playing the Hammered Dulcimer in the Irish Tradition (Oak Publications). Her solo recordings are Hills of Erin and Knock on the Door.

Connie McKenna has written theme music for theatre and film, including an Academy Award-nominated documentary; she studied Irish-Gaelic at University College of Galway in Ireland and sings in sean nos style.

Sue Richards is four-time U.S. Scottish Harp Champion. Her solo recordings are Grey-Eyed Morn, Morning Aire (Wammie-Award winner, "Record of the Year"), and Hazel Grove.

1. Arise and Dress Yourself (2:32)
In this Irish Gaelic song, an impatient suitor begs his lover to wake up and cut her hair in preparation for their wedding. By the end of the song, overtaken by eagerness, he vetoes the haircut, and the trip to the priest, too! Vocals, harp, hammered dulcimer.

2. The Scottish Reel Set (3:51)
(Sir David Davidson/Sma' Coals for Nailers/Jack Broke da Prison Door) "Sir David" and "Sma' Coals" are traditional Scottish reels. "Jack" is a reel from the Shetland islands, written by fiddler John Goudy. Goudy, a miner, went mad after a mining accident. One evening when spell was coming on, his friends restrained him by locking him in a shed. He broke out, fled home, and wrote this tune. Harp, hammered dulcimer, guitar.

3. Killarney Boys of Pleasure/Oro 'Se Do Bheatha 'Bhaile (3:42)
"Killarney Boys" is a traditional reel. "Oro" is a nationalistic song from the turn-of-the-century Irish Revival. We sing it as a tribute to Grainne Mhaol, a woman pirate from the O'Malley clan of County Mayo. "Were I to last only another week, may I live to see Grainne Mhaol and a thousand warriors announcing the destruction of our foreign occupiers!" Guitar, pennywhistle, bodhran, vocal, flute, fiddle.

4. Rockin' the Cradle (4:30)
A traditional Irish lament with an unusual point of view: it is the man who is left at home to baby sit and malign his spouse. While gender-busting for its time, the song does not cover all the compelling questions: Can he cook? Does he do floors, too? Vocals, harp.

5. Flowing Tide/New Claret (4:36)
These traditional tunes are an Irish hornpipe and a Scottish 9/8 jig. Hammered dulcimer, harp.

6. Song of Wandering Aengus (3:40)
Sue Richards set this poem by William Butler Yeats to a Northumbrian tune, "Gan to the Kye wi' Me." Yeats wrote this poem in 1897, when he and Lady Gregory were exploring supernatural beliefs in County Galway. There is a magical significance to the hazelwood and the trout. Vocals, harp, viola da gamba.

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name;
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

7. Far Away (4:30)
A contemporary waltz written by New York bassist Peter Jung. Guitar, hammered dulcimer, harp, double bass.

8. The Grey Cock (3:56)
Sue Richards paired Irish lyrics with the traditional Scottish melody from "The Standing Stones." We sing this song at Samhain (Halloween) celebrations because the Celts believed that on that one night, the dead "crossed the barrier" to visit their loved ones. Vocals, guitar, double bass, dholak, hammered dulcimer, harp.

My true love, my own true William, where thou ever may be
This dark night I long to be with you, many months gone from me.

Though the night be dark as a dungeon, no light through the windowpane
I'll be guided without a stumble, to my true love's door.

I went to my true love's cottage on a Hallow's Eve
Through a windowpane, I whispered softly, "Lies my love within?"

"Who's that, who's that of at my window, disturbing my long night's rest?"
"It's I, your lover, do not be discovered. Open! Let me in!"

He rose up off his soft, down pillow, opened and let her in
Both shook hands, embraced each other, Willie's back again.

But when that night was past and over, cocks began to crow
Both shook hands, he cried and kissed her, "Darling, I must go!"

"O Willie, Willie, where are your blushes, your color of long ago?"
"Mary, Mary, cold clay did take them, O Mary, I'm a ghost!"

9. Dr John Stafford/Constantine Maguire (3:56)
Turlogh O'Carolan composed these tunes. The lyrics are attributed to him, translated from Irish Gaelic. Dr. Stafford found the right bottle in his black bag to cure the blind harper, O'Carolan. Vocals, harp, guitar, hammered dulcimer.

If sick or strong I chanced to be,
I went along, 'twas well for me!
To Doctor John to find relief,
Brave Stafford, skillful leech is he!
About the witching hour we would start our carouse,
By morn our zest for whiskey was the sharper;
O! Sensible man! for this was his plan
To put life in the poor blind harper!
Sometimes tipsy, sometimes raking,
Wild in frenzy, harpstrings breaking,
The custom that we followed, we will never let it die!
I tell you once again, Sirs, I will always maintain, Sirs,
For a long and merry life of it, be drinking for aye!

10. Polska Set (5:22)
(Jampland Polska/Sodemanland Polska) The polska is a Scandinavian couples dance in a slow 3/4 rhythm, usually played by several fiddlers in intricate harmonies. It sets a graceful mood, in which dancers sweep each other through alternating leaps and turns. We play these polskas as "listening tunes." Harp, hammered dulcimer.

11. The Plain Girl's Lament (2:36)
Connie McKenna composed this song in sean nos ("old ways") style, the unaccompanied, highly ornamented style of singing found in Celtic tradition. A capella vocal.

My mother said to me, "His love is like a summer flood
That drowns the humble flower bud
Here in this valley wide."

My father said to me, "A fool would leave her mother's
side! A plain girl only has her pride
Here in this valley wide."

My love, he said to me, "The looking glass will tell you lies,
Believe the mirror in my eyes, across the valley wide."

My heart, it nothing said, but hummed a melody so slight
I banished words to hear its flight, across the valley wide.

And so I say to you, I go to find my darling boy
And if he's gone, the road shall be my joy
Out of this valley wide.

12 Death of Queen Jane (4:54)
England's King Henry VIII was ruthless in affairs of state and of the heart, but in this unique story he forgets ambition to try and save one queen he truly loved. This old ballad was collected by Francis James Child. Vocals, guitar, hammered dulcimer, harp, pennywhistle.

Queen Jane lay in labor full nine days or more,
Till the women grew so tired, they could no longer there.

"O women, good women that ye be, will you open my
right side and find my baby."

"No," cried the women, "that's a thing we never can do.
We will go find King Henry, and hear what he might say."

King Henry was called for, King Henry he did come, saying,
"What will my my lady be, your eyes look so dim."

"King Henry, King Henry, will you do one thing for me?
That's to open my right side and find my baby."

"O no," cried King Henry, "That's a thing I never will do.
If I must lose the flower of England, I shall lose the branch too."
There was singing and dancing on the day the babe
was born, but poor Queen Jane who carried it lay cold as a stone.

13. Lias Laddie (5:35)
Sue Richards composed this air, jig and reel in a pibroch style (theme and variations) of Scottish classical pipe music. Richard Gary wrote the lyrics. In Celtic lore, the faerie people populated their underworld by stealing infants from mortal parents. But a child born with a lias, a particular type of birthmark, was considered safe from faerie schemes. This lullaby is the lament of a faerie queen for a lias child she cannot kidnap. Vocals, harp, hammered dulcimer, guitar.

My darling wee worldling, wert thou my ain jewel,
Thy bed were not bracken, thy cover no plaidie,
Thy cot not a hut at the foot of Glen Trool,
And thou not another ain's sweet lias laddie.

List little luggie (ear) as I croon ye hooly,
Wi' a cloud for a pillow, I'd cradle ye doon.
Wi' cannel (candle) stars blinkin', in sleep ye'd be sinkin',
While floating a-dream twixt the horns of the moon.

Couldst thou be my lammie, my dear lias laddie,
Thy heart would ne'er suffer the maist (most) o' life's stoure (strife).
Wi' a Queen for thy mammie and a King for thy daddie,
And thou Prince of Faerie to live evermore.

But waefu' (woeful) and doolie (sadly) do I whisper to ye,
For I ken'd (knew) at ye're Kimm'rin (birthing) ye'd ne'er be my ain.

Twas the lias that doomed me, my heart brak and soumed (flooded) me
For the dear lias laddie and the wan chancey sain (unlucky blessing

Silver Apples of the Moon
  1. Arise and Dress Yourself Ceoltoiri 1:07
  2. Scottish Reel Set Ceoltoiri 1:21