Irish, French and Flemish instrumental music from the cultural crossroads of Europe. Features Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts. They perform on hammered dulcimer, wooden flute and pennywhistle; harp-guitar, classical and steel stringed guitars, mandolin, musette accordion, cittern, tenor banjo and with a wide and diverse range of guests on fiddle, uilleann pipes, woodwinds and soprano sax , French horn, bass, piano, and percussion.

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"Wonderfully energetic and exquisitely arranged collaborations. Celtic Cafe makes an thoroughly enjoyable and evocative travelogue."

~ The Washington Post

"Highly recommended for ears thirsting for true musical adventure... If you love music full of raw energy and cultural diversity (Irish, French and Flemish), you won't be able to eject this CD. Bright and full of a range of emotions not often stirred by the "pop" music you'll hear these days, Celtic Cafe will expand your mental boundaries.

Karen Ashbrook (Irish wooden flute) and Paul Oorts (Harp-guitar)
Karen Ashbrook (Irish wooden flute) and Paul Oorts (Harp-guitar)

The pipes (Mark Hillman) and woodwinds (Bobby Read) add an element of enchantment that will stay in your mind for days (even years, I'd imagine)... people who love life and the living will cherish this unique album for many listens to come. Joy is clearly expressed in Bonnie Rideout's Scottish fiddle playing. It's the kind of music that you can get up and dance to without having to "put on airs". I fell in love with it right away... it's a "keeper"! I rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for ears thirsting for true musical adventure."

~ Improvijazzation Nation (issue # 47)

"Karen has long been something of a heroine to me. Her style is at times traditional, then moves surprisingly at a tangent, making it more interesting in an unexpected way. And her whistle playing is excellent."

Irish Edition, Philadelphia

Tune List

  1. Breton Dance/Star of Munster (4:29)
    Irish Maidens Set (2-3):
  2. Máirin De Barra aire (2:13)
  3. Siobhan O'Donnell's/Handsome Young Maidens (3:59)
  4. Style Musette 2:30 Irish Reel Set (5-6):
  5. Hong Herald (2:17)
  6. Bear Island/Séan sa Cheo/Hong Herald (4:19)
  7. Behind the Bush in the Garden/Sgt. Early's Dream/Lady Anne Montgomery (5:19)
  8. Belgian Jigs: Colonne la Gavre/Sabotière de Nonceveux/La Marchande (3:45)
  9. Valse Petit Déjeuner (3:53)
  10. Flemish Carillon Set: Wel Island/Chimes of Dunkirk/Air (5:11)
  11. Paspie Menuet/Mr. Waller (Turlough O'Carolan) (5:11)
  12. Napoleon Suite (12-19)-Before the Battle: Gathering at Waterloo/Will You Go to Flanders (1:47)
  13. Napoleon Suite - Before the Battle: Wellington's Coming (1:12)
  14. Napoleon Suite - Before the Battle: The Victor's Return (1:47)
  15. Napoleon Suite - Before the Battle: Waterloo Hornpipe (1:52)
  16. Napoleon Suite - The Battle: Bonaparte's Defeat (0:34)
  17. Napoleon Suite - Battlefire/The Retreat (2:51)
  18. Napoleon Suite - Lamentation for the Fallen Heroes of Waterloo (3:24)
  19. Napoleon Suite - The Aftermath: 19. The 78th's Farewell to Belgium (2:41)

Liner Notes


Karen Ashbrook ~ hammered dulcimer, wooden flute and pennywhistle
Paul Oorts ~ classical and steel stringed guitars, mandolin, musette accordion, cittern, tenor banjo
Andrea Hoag ~ fiddle (3,5-6)
Bonnie Rideout ~ Scottish fiddle and viola (10,14,16-19)
Mark Hillman ~ uilleann pipes
Bobby Read ~ woodwinds and soprano sax (7)
Dwight Purvis ~ French horn
Ralph Gordon ~ bass
Dave Wiesler ~ piano
Paddy League ~ bodhran, snare drum, concertina and percussion

Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Bob Read at Bob Read Studios, North Garden, VA.

This CD celebrates an institution that contributed mightily to the development and vitality of folk music‹the café,and its Irish cousin, the pub. Our best recollections are of late nights spent in these venues, "sessioning" with old musicians and listening to the lore of the buskers (street performers). We invite you into our café where music--old and new--Celtic and continental--brought together a Belgian and an American Irish musician who fell in love.

1. Breton Dance/Star of Munster
A continental Celtic an dro paired with a classic Irish reel.

Irish Maidens Set (2-3):
2. Máirin de Barra air
3. Siobhan O'Donnell's/Handsome Young Maidens 
(C.Lennon (c)IMRO)
In this traditional air, a rejected lover sings to Máirin: ³Happy and thankful are the blankets that warm you, and how happy the bridegroom who'll stand beside you at the altar² (trans. Brian O'Rourke). "O'Donnell's" was composed by John Brady and "Maiden" by Charlie Lennon for his Island Wedding Suite.

4. Style Musette (André Verchuren; arr. Paul Oorts)
A classic of the French musette genre. The combination of the (Italian) mandolin and the (Irish) pipes as lead instruments is actually not as surprising as you may think. "Musette," originally meant "bagpipe," the principal instrument in working class neighborhoods of Paris in the final decades of the nineteenth century. The wave of Italian immigrants introduced the accordion into dancehalls, rendering the old musettes obsolete, and engendering a new musical genre.

Irish Reel Set (5-6):
5. Hong Herald (Karen Ashbrook)
6. Bear Island/Séan sa Cheo/Hong Herald
Karen's "Hong Heral" is dedicated to her son's cherished 5th grade teacher, Ms. Hong. The second reel is composed by accordionist Finbar Dwyer to honor a place at the head of Bantry Bay in County Cork. "Séan sa Cheo" is Irish for "John in the Fog."

The Celt Goes South
7. Behind the Bush in the Garden/Sgt. Early's Dream/Lady Anne Montgomery

Traditional tunes that travel to sunny climes include a Reggae jig, some pseudo-African guitar riffs, and a reel that swings, Texas-style.

Belgian Jig Set
8. Colonne la Gavre/Sabotière de Nonceveux/La Marchande

The Colonne (row dance) and Sabotière (clog dance) are from the playing of Belgium's eminent folk orchestra, Het Brabants Volksorkest. These jigs are commonly played in Wallonia, the southern, French-speaking part of Belgium. This sabotière also found its way into the Irish tradition and can be found as a gan ainm (nameless tune) in Brendán Breathnach's Ceol Rince na hÉireann, Vol. IV. "La Marchande" dates from the days of the 18th century Austrian occupation of Belgium and was published in Cent Contredanses en rond by D'Aubat St. Flour, a dancemaster from Ghent.

9. Valse Petit Déjeuner 3:53 
Composed by French diatonic accordion player Jean-Christophe Lequerré, this tune conjures up for us the sweetness of a honeymoon breakfast despite its later title, "La mal-aimable" (The Hard-to-Love Woman).

Flemish Carillon Set
10. Wel Island/Chimes of Dunkirk/Air #38 (arr. Paul Oorts)

Island is West Flemish for Iceland, where fishermen would spend long months on small boats in frightful weather to bring back barrels of pickled codfish. Many sailors lost their lives in those treacherous waters. This lament was collected in the mid-1800's from a woman whose son was a regular ijslandvaarder: "Iceland, you cruel coast, you distress the maidens in sad summertimes without their pleasant lovers..." Next is a welcoming tune which sailors might have heard from Dunkirk's carillon as they sailed into the harbor. It is from a 1746 manuscript collected by Antwerp's carilloneur, Johannes de Gruytters. To celebrate a warm return from the icy seas, we add a happy air from the same source.

11. Paspie Menuet/Mr. Waller (Turlough O"Carolan, arr. Dave Wiesler) Paul learned the first piece from 't Kliekske, a pioneering Flemish folk group. We couldn't resist the addition of French horns on the Irish harp minuet, Mr. Waller.

Napoleon Suite (12-19)
The battle that took place in 1815 in Waterloo, a little town just south of Brussels, like many of the pan-European conflicts of the last centuries, engaged armies filled with conscripts from the outposts of the clashing empires. These armies traveled with professional musicians who played them into battle, and these migrating instrumentalists carried their arsenals of folk tunes across borders, allowing musical traditions to cross- pollinate. Such momentous battles also inspired the creation of commemorative tunes and songs. A Scottish folk song collector wrote: "The twenty years that ended with Waterloo have left more traces on our popular minstrelsy than any other period of our history." Napoleon's defeat there dashed the dreams of the Irish hoping France would help liberate them from the British. It also led to the creation of Belgium as a buffer country between surrounding European powers.

Before the Battle (12-15):
12. Gathering at Waterloo (Bobby Read) Will You Go to Flanders 

Flanders stretches along the North Sea from the northern tip of France over the northern half of Belgium to the southwestern edge of the Netherlands. This small but wealthy area was both centrally located and relatively defenseless, so the crowned heads of Europe found it a convenient place to have their armies settle their quarrels. The Scottish song opens with a lighthearted invitation to go to one of those excursions: "Will you go to Flanders, my Mally-0? There we'll get wine and brandy, sack and sugar candy" ‹but then acknowledges their brutal reality: "You'll see the bullets fly, and the soldiers how they die and the ladies loudly cry, my Mally-O."

The Generals' Jigs (13-14):
13. Wellington's Coming 

This 9/8 march is originally from O'Farrell's Collection (ca 1810). Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, born in Dublin, won a lifelong seat in England's House of Lords by leading the British troops at Waterloo to victory. Later he earned the affection of the Irish by pushing through the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829.

14. The Victor's Return 
This jig is from O'Neill's Music of Ireland. We take it to apply to Napoleon's glorious 100-day return from exile which ended in defeat at Waterloo.

15. Waterloo Hornpipe
We got this, via Robin Williamson, from a collection called the Caledonian Depository (1829).

The Battle (16-17): (arr. Bobby Read)
16. Bonaparte's Defeat

A hornpipe from O'Neill's.

17. Battlefire/ Bonaparte's Retreat
This set dance, also from O'Neill's, portrays the eerie lull after battle.

The Aftermath (18-19):
18. Lamentation for the Fallen Heroes of Waterloo
 (arr. Paul Oorts)
From Part Four of the Complete Repository of Original Scots Slow Strathspeys and Dances, by Niel Gow and Sons.

19. The 78th's Farewell to Belgium
From Scottish Tunes for Piano (Ossian Pub.), adapted by Bonnie Rideout.

For Karen and Paul bookings call: 301-592-0101 or

Celtic Cafe
  1. Breton Dance/Star of Munster Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts 1:23
  2. Marin De Barra aire Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts 1:17