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Borealis Records  BCD206

Following flautist Nuala Kennedy’s meeting with fiddler Oliver Schroer in his native Canada at a teaching event, she invited him to play in her show composition Astar at the Celtic Connections Festival in winter 2007. The concept of a duo album followed, arising from their enthusiasm to share their symbiotic interests in music. Linked plans to tour were sadly never realised due to Oliver’s death in 2008 from leukaemia.

The album’s genesis itself must have been an extraordinary project with Nuala writing of “…improvised recordings on rooftops, street corners, at the houses of friends, the hospital common room and on empty wards where the air-conditioning wasn’t too loud”. This album certainly captures their evident joyous will to share their interests in music and original composition.

The music for the 15 composed pieces (one with vocals) was inspired by nature, friendships, travel, and other aspects of the human condition. Celtic sounds are to the fore, intertwined with several European influences including some jazz. This cocktail characterised Oliver’s prolific compositional output and combining such elements has increased in prominence in Nuala’s more recent exploratory ventures.

Fundamental to its presentation is elegance and beauty in the interweaving of melodies and rhythms with the flute and fiddle. Empathetic and sensitive accompaniment is provided on piano (Bill Brennan and Brian Kellock), guitar, and bass with some captivating cameo contributions too from Italian diatonic accordionist Filippo Gambetta and guitarist Kevin McKenzie (sounding much like Breton Gilles le Bigot with whom Nuala now plays in the group Oirialla (Oriel) along with fiddler Gerry O’Connor).

The result is truly enthralling music that is intense and exquisite, often with a sublime and haunting quality - a brightly glowing testament to the joyous meeting of two virtuoso musicians and composers.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.