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Dialogues: Agallaimh

Máire Ní Chathasaigh
& Chris Newman
this page updated 11/06/09
These multi-faceted musical conversations add up to an exciting artistic departure for Chris and Máire. From the purest well-spring of the Irish tradition come the 17th century solo harp Gol na mBan san Ár, the newly-discovered 18th century Hidden Pearl arranged for harp & string quartet and an elaborate set of jigs. Two of the four songs are here recorded for the first time in these versions, one of them in the free-form, uniquely Irish “sean-nós” style. Scotland is represented by the Beeswing Hornpipe and Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban / Duntroon Castle. From this traditional core, they explore new musical styles & approaches to arrangement. Three Piece Suite, composed by Máire in a traditional style, gets a slightly African-influenced treatment. Other full band arrangements include the irresistably jaunty bluegrass Twinkle Little Star and Chris’s compositions, the Caribbean-influenced Banana Yellow & the jazzy Swinging the Lead.

Guests: Nollaig Casey & Iain MacFarlane (fiddles), Simon Mayor (mandolin), Liz Hanks (cello), Roy Dodds (percussion)

scroll down for press reviews, tracklist & catalogue details

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“With each outing they make, this pair continue to amaze and stun with their sparkling virtuosity and incredible tightness. Guest musicians include Máire’s sister Nollaig Casey on fiddle and Simon Mayor, who contributes a characteristically virtuosic solo in the swinging finale, on mandolin.

The album title perfectly sums up the way Máíre’s harp and Chris’ guitar interact with each other. Perhaps the most stunning example of this is the foot-tapping, bluegrass style Twinkle Little Star, which is guaranteed to bring some sunshine into your life.

As well as all these wonderful instrumental tracks, Máire also contributes several songs and her harp solo, Gol na mBan san Ár - an example of Ireland’s older harp music - has a spare, stark beauty about it, reminiscent of her performance of Carolan’s Farewell to Music. She plays with passion and admirable restraint—just listen to the bass notes of her Camac harp resonating boldly without interruption.

Dialogues is a rich and breathtaking album, in which the various styles and instruments discourse together with consummate ease, grace and joy.”

Delyth Jenkins


Tykes News

“Chris and Máire are off on another journey of musical discovery with this latest CD. Thirteen tracks of music and song with long-time collaborator (well, she is family) Nollaig Casey, fiddles, viola, backing vocals; Liz Hanks on cello, Roy Dodds, percussion; Ian MacFarlane, fiddle on track eight and the educated mandolin of Simon Mayor on track thirteen.

If I didn’t like instrumental music this review might be a horse of a different colour, but I do, I love it, and this is its apogee. There are songs here also, sensibly scattered throughout the disk. The gaelic ones are helpfully translated in the sleeve notes, where there is help with pronunciation also. Máire’s voice is pure and light with a subtle vibrato that suits the Irish style of singing and is at its best when singing in Erse.The music is so perfectly played that a picky person might say that it could become sterile and mechanical… but it doesn’t, it exudes warmth, passion and pleasure. You might say that Chris’ tunes don’t match up to the trad. arr. ones… but they do, in fact a reviewer with more musical knowledge than I, might say that they will be gathered into the arms of the tradition without a second thought.

Máire is on a one-woman crusade to update the Irish harp from the twee to its rightful place as the instrument able to take on any musical task with guts and fire. When I listen to a new CD from the Newman/Ní Chathasaigh stable I expect, and get, fireworks from the harp. It is truly wonderful to hear its many facets as it is accompanied by all the other styles of strings strutting their stuff on this CD. Track eleven The Hidden Pearl is the perfect example with cello, harp, fiddle and viola not getting slushy or melodramatic. Although a slow piece it tries to climb out of the box, as the restraint it is played with barely holds back the passion.”


Folk London “Chris and Máire have established themselves as firm favourites on the folk circuit. So it’s not surprising that this recording comes highly recommended. The first track opens uncharacteristically with the sound of the fiddle (performed by Nollaig Casey - Máire’s sister). It catches you unawares as it sounds like it could be a track from Lead the Knave by Nollaig and Arty McGlynn. Ah, but this is just the set-up for Máire’s harp and soon we are treated to the dazzling display of arranging that has become Chris’s trademark. The funky slip-jig Chestnut Tree leads into The Reel of Peace joined by Stratocaster (is this beginning to sound familiar) but hang on, what’s that underpinning the last tune? A kind of Soweto top line. And all of this on the opening track. In fact, the whole of the album is so littered with gems that I’m having difficulty in containing the superlatives. Just take my word for it (and excuse the cliché) the playing on this album is so good it should be outlawed!”

Pete Fyfe


Shreds and Patches

“Two of the folk scene’s most respected musicians have put together a CD of what can only be described as beautiful music, if that is not too cheesy a phrase! A mixture of songs and tunes, all are played with wonderful control and really effective dynamics. No duff tracks here; it’s really a matter of picking out personal favourites, so pardon the subjectivity – here are a few highlights for me: the playing on Colonel Robertson, clean, light and devastatingly accurate; Banana Yellow with a tune that does bring the sun out (well, it did when I was listening to it); Twinkle Little Star bringing back memories of Chris playing at the Ironbridge Bluegrass Festival a few years ago, and holding an audience spellbound with a series of staggering solos; Swinging the Lead with perfect swing guitar playing; the atmosphere created by the harp and whistle especially in Gol na mBan san Ár, and so on, for virtually the whole CD.

What really holds much of this CD together is the understated rhythm playing; tight, never overpowering but providing a perfect background to the tunes and songs at the front.

As you may have gathered, this is quality stuff. The range of material is excellent, with a really broad appeal.

Right, get the guitar out, relax and try to play like this… ah yes, well… time for a pint then.”

Alan Harris


The Sunday Tribune
 A beautifully produced, tight album that runs from harper Ní Chathasaigh’s own jigs with sister Nollaig’s fiddle and Newman’s mandolin, to central American harp brightness and slick bluegrass. Beeswing and Maid at the Spinning Wheel have terrific articulation and ornament, and Gol na mBan san Ár achieves immense, droned pathos… A virtuosic Latino Banana Yellow follows. Vocal Deirín Dé is sweetly Christmassy and Clár Bog Déil & Cill Mhuire with rich vibrato à la Munster recall Mary O’Hara. Hidden Pearl is a rare Petrie gem, with Twinkle & Swinging showing Newman’s brilliance…

Fintan Vallely


“Wie immer mit augenzwinkernden Wendungen perfekt gespielt und glasklar gemixt.”


Dirty Linen
“A judicious mix of lively dance tunes, lovely songs, classic Irish harp music, and general purpose fun. Ní Chathasaigh, who invented the playing of Irish dance music on the harp, is in fine form on a set of Irish jigs, a set of reels, a James Hill hornpipe, and a set of Scottish pipe tunes. Her fine version of Gol na mBan san Ár uses the silences between the notes to full effect and her singing in Irish is clear and strong as the wind. Newman, one of the most versatile and just plain fun guitarists around, takes the lead on tunes as diverse as Twinkle Little Star and a swingy original, Banana Yellow. A very strong recording.”


Sing Out
“This virtuoso guitar/harp duo test the limits of Irish music with touches of calypso, bluegrass and 40s-style swing. Newman’s hot guitar licks and Ní Chathasaigh’s bell-toned harp are delights… ”


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Tracklist Three Piece Suite
(The Chestnut Tree/Ril an tSuaimhnis/The Copper Hills of Beara)
The Beeswing Hornpipe
Deirín Dé/Midnight in Annemasse
Paddy Whack/Colonel Robertson's/The Maid at the Spinning Wheel
Gol na mBan san Ar
Banana Yellow
I love my love
Donald Maclean's Farewell to Oban/Duntroon Castle
An Clár Bog-Déil
Twinkle Little Star
The Hidden Pearl
Cnocáinin Aerach Chill Mhuire
Swinging the Lead
Catalogue details Old Bridge Music OBMCD14, 2001
Barcode number 5023405001422
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Old Bridge Music
PO Box 7, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9RY, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1943 602203   Fax: +44 (0)1943 435472