Irish Music Forever...
by Pat Kehoe
Arlene Faith – Spirit of the Celtic Violin
Sometimes you might be aware of an artist and know that they’re good but you never quite get round to listening to them properly– then one day you do get the chance and you realise what fantastic music you’ve been missing all those years.
That’s the way it was for me with American violinist Arlene Faith – one of the top classical/country/ folk crossover artists of the last 30 years.
I’ve only just discovered her trilogy of albums of Celtic violin music and now I wished I’d come across them earlier.
Arlene was known as Gidget Baird back in the 1970s when she played country and bluegrass in Nashville, Denver and other cities in America.
Arlene wrote songs for Charlie Pride
She worked for many years as a session musician and songwriter for a publishing company owned by Charlie Pride.
During that time she wrote several songs that were recorded by Charlie himself and other leading performers including Janie Fricke, George Jones and Roy Rogers. She changed her name to Arlene Faith when she set up her own publishing company called Wooden Stone Music.
Arlene is a classically trained violinist and has played with various orchestras and has been with the Trevecca Symphony Orchestra for 10 seasons.
Three Celtic violin albums over 10 years
Her trilogy of Celtic Violin albums was recorded over a 10-year period and consists of Spirit of the Celtic Violin, River of Dreams and Luna Wings.
These are three beautifully relaxing albums. Arlene is clearly a consummate musician but for me, the stand out point of her music is the strength of the melodies. They’re just wonderful – very accessible, instantly appealing and they linger in the memory long afterwards.
The track East of the River Shannon from the first album, Spirit of the Celtic Violin, was used as the title theme music for the PBS film series The Appalachians, about the people and the music of the Appalachias.
Authentic sound of traditional music from Ireland
Nearly all the tracks were written by Arlene but they have authentic sound of Celtic music from Ireland and Scotland. You could easily believe they were traditional and written a hundred years ago or more.
With some 30 tracks over the three albums, it’s hard to pick favourites but The Cry of the Celts struck a chord with me and Saint Brigid’s Tear was particularly effective with its choral intro and Arlene’s searing violin over a subtle guitar accompaniment.
Come the Morning is another beautiful and haunting melody. You can drift away to this but not for long because your foot would start tapping to irresistible dance tunes with names like Dances with Elves, Jack in the Pulpit and Pixie Dust.
A rare appearance as a singer
Luna Wings is the final track on the third album and features Arlene making a rare appearance on vocals.
As with all the tracks in this collection, the melody is wonderful and Arlene sings it so well, which begs the question why she doesn’t sing more…but then of course, the answer is that she’s too busy playing violin…even so I’d welcome a few more songs… but that’s my only quibble with this superb trilogy of albums. I shall be listening to them a lot.
Give them a try. If you do, I think you’ll agree that there are a lot of well known artists getting more attention than they deserve for music that is nowhere near as good as the tracks to be found on these three Celtic violin albums.
by Jenny Ivor
Arlene Faith's River of Dreams is a beautiful and peaceful album of Celtic instrumental music, following on the heels (after a three-year delay) of her previous CD, Celtic Violin.
Ably accompanied by seven other musicians, the sounds of Faith's violin is enhanced by piano, whistle, concertina, mandolin, bodhran, uillean pipes, cello, bass, guitar and percussion. The 50 minutes of music pass as if the listener is floating on a tranquil and deep-flowing river. Each track is subtly different, but the pace on the whole is unhurried, stately and gentle.
"Dances With Elves" sees the tempo increase considerably on the sixth track for a light and sprightly reel. Faith, who composed all of the tunes on the CD, co-wrote this track with husband and fellow musician Russel Kortright. "Whistle Song" is another lively jig, but the other tunes are delicate, dreamy and soothing.
Faith's website is another journey in beauty and is well worth a leisurely visit. If you like Celtic music, you will surely love relaxing, as I did, to the truly lovely sound of River of Dreams. To say anything further seems superfluous.
written by Jenny Ivor
by Valerie Frankel
Arlene Faith's Spirit of the Celtic Violin is the musical equivalent of a long, hot soak in a tub. The eerie, mystical sounds of violin and background instruments remain soft and poignant throughout the CD. Most of her music reminds the listener of folksongs, although most of the tunes were written by the artist.
The background instruments vary from ocean waves and birdsong to whistles and mandolins. Despite its title, the violin works with other instruments, dominating them while creating a pleasant blend. The music seems to spring from the countryside itself, echoing the rhythms of nature.
Some songs are sprightly dance tunes, while others soothe with sweet, lingering melodies. The CD is perfect for listeners wanting wordless background music to relax to, or something pleasant and upbeat in the background. Faith quotes a Welsh poem inside the CD cover, indicating the inspiration for her works. On the front cover, she proudly plays the violin, surrounded by a field of green grass.
Arlene Faith has played a variety of musical styles, since she began playing the violin at age 7. Spirit of the Celtic Violin has been well-received all over the world, especially among her new Internet fans, and her second Celtic CD, River of Dreams, will soon be released.
written by Valerie Frankel
Music Row Magazine 8/17/06 edition
"DisClaimer" column by Robert K. Oermann
"Formerly known as the country singer Gidget
Baird, she is now on a different path as the new-age violinist Arlene Faith. First came 2000’s Spirit of the Celtic
Violin. Next was 2002’s River of Dreams. The new collection "Luna Wings" contains Celtic-flavored instrumental mood music like
its predecessors, but it concludes with her first vocal performance in the trilogy, the CD’s gentle, meditative title tune."
Records Ltd. Review
reviewed by Chrys Davis,
Song Catcher Records,
In my many years as a serious music lover I have always been looking for that one album that
I can sit back and say..... "perfection". I can now say that Arlene Faith's "Luna Wings" has
provided that perfection. Together with her husband Russell Kortright they have produced a
Masterpiece .... yes a Masterpiece.
The Wonderful thing about Arlene's music is it takes you on emotional rollercoaster, full
of joy one minute ...... a tinge of sadness the next .... but always soothing .... that is
the nature of the violin I suppose .... but in this case the clever use of other instruments
adds to the emotional feel .....
Bodhrans, Fiddles, Guitars, Whistles and the subtle use of a Cello, so beautifully played by John Catchings,
is an inspiration. John Mock, who plays whistles and Uillean Pipes amongst other instruments, kept
me captivated throughout the album. Gene Rabbai (Keyboards and Piano) adds a depth to the compositions with
such great playing.
John Gardner (percussion & drums) is always there ....soft and gentle when needed and
drives the beats if required.
The Bass duties are admirably shared by Ron De La Vega and Matt McKenzie and listen out for Wendy Windsor-Hashiguchi
on the Hammered Dulcimer.
But I am sure you will all agree that it is Russell Kortright ,responsible for all the Recording, Mixing, Mastering as well as playing the Guitar ,
Mandolin and other instruments, ....who provides the platform for Arlene Faith to give us so much pleasure with her Violin playing.
10 truly memorable instrumental tracks .....and then ..... in my mind one of the greatest songs ever penned ...where everything that I have said above
comes together ...... Arlene also shows what a wonderful voice she has with the title song "Luna Wings" ......
The Boss and I would like to thank you Arlene for bringing something of true beauty into our lives...
Personally I am going to make sure that everyone I know is made aware of "Luna Wings" and Arlene Faith ..... and I hope everyone who reads this
does the same .....let us spread the word ..... and a special treat for you all you can hear "Luna Wings".....
IMDB User Review
Besides telling a terrific tale, Half Light has beautiful music - I see we have a petition going for the
soundtrack, GREAT! Until that gets released, enjoy similar music by Arlene Faith - check it out at:
www.woodenstonemusic.com I just purchased two of her cds, Spirit of the Celtic Violin and River of Dreams.
It's hard to find this type of music without singing and these are treasures! Demi Moore's acting ability in this
movie really came through - I hope she pursues more movies along this line and reactivates her career! In a
rare move, I've recommended Half Light to all my friends and family and have yet to hear someone say they
didn't enjoy it!
Rambles Net Cultural Arts Magazine Review
Arlene Faith's River of Dreams is a beautiful and peaceful album of Celtic instrumental music, following on
the heels (after a three-year delay) of her previous CD, Celtic Violin.
Ably accompanied by seven other musicians, the sounds of Faith's violin is
enhanced by piano, whistle, concertina, mandolin, bodhran, uillean pipes, cello,
bass, guitar and percussion. The 50 minutes of music pass as if the listener is
floating on a tranquil and deep-flowing river. Each track is subtly different, but the
pace on the whole is unhurried, stately and gentle.
"Dances With Elves" sees the tempo increase considerably on the sixth track for
a light and sprightly reel. Faith, who composed all of the tunes on the CD,
co-wrote this track with husband and fellow musician Russel Kortright. "Whistle Song" is another lively jig...
Daily Planet Review
‘Come take a drink from the River of Dreams’
kik: Second Celtic CD released by former resident
By Bob Beer
Residents of Telluride in the 1970s will remember recording artist Arlene Faith as Gidget Baird, a classically trained violinist who turned to playing country fiddle.
Now, Faith, who has lived in Nashville for almost two decades, has released her second CD of Celtic instrumental music, entitled River of Dreams.
The 11-song CD follows Faith’s successful Spirit of the Celtic Violin, released in 2000.
“I tried to keep the CD concept in a Celtic theme throughout,” Faith said in a recent interview with the Daily Planet. The title cut “was meant to invite others to take this little journey with me, as well as a dedication to my cousin and her children and the victims of 9-11, that they might be in the land of their dreams which went unfulfilled in this lifetime,” Faith said. Faith’s cousin, Evelyn Dieter and her two children were killed tragically last year outside of Zurich.
Faith’s violin, along with her husband, Russ Kortright’s guitar work, created an inspiring tribute to her late cousin, also a classical violinist who was a member of a 100-year-old chamber orchestra in Zurich. “Her brother and sisters and I were all violinists starting at a very young age,” Faith said.
The instrumentals on the CD range from traditional Celtic dance music depicting faeries and elves joyously dancing in the velveteen woods to haunting, sometimes dark, somber tunes reflecting on life’s tragedies.
“Ancient Voices of the Sea” is Faith’s interpretation of “the sea being somewhat haunted from shipwrecked sailors and those lost at sea who never made it back home.”
“Saint Brigid’s Tear” fuses the folklore of Saint Brigid, who was the daughter of a pagan Druid holy man of the ancient Celts, with “the voices of Catholic nuns.” Saint Brigid cried for the hungry poor in that far-away land and her tears caused fruit trees to grow, Faith said. After Christianity was introduced to the Celts, Brigid was sainted and Celtic women wore crystals around their necks depicting her tears.
“Enchanted” is Faith’s interpretation of giving oneself over to enchanted fantasies, emphasizing her classical training.
“Evelyn” is a haunting tribute to Faith’s cousin. “She was tragically taken along with her children, leaving a deep mark on our entire family, which will never be the same without her,” Faith said. Evelyn and her two children were victims of domestic violence that took all by surprise.
“I believe she was with me throughout the making of this CD, and her memory is one of the treasures of my life,” Faith said.
“Creating River of Dreams helped me through a very difficult time and I am grateful,” Faith said. “Every time I put this CD in the player, it takes me back, not only to the soul-searching time I was experiencing, but further … it’s like I finally managed to be a real part of what I was writing about.”
The tragic circumstances that lead to River of Dreams notwithstanding, the CD is filled with deep, rich earthy tones complemented by airy musical side trips that tweak the listener’s mind into flights of fantasy. Listening to the CD before going to sleep almost guarantees vivid dreams.
River of Dreams may be purchased online by going to www.woodenstonemusic.com.
Here's what the critics said about "East of River Shannon"
"This collection begins with an excerpt from "East River of Shannon," the title theme for the series. ." Arlene Kortright's
"East River of Shannon" is the title theme for the program and carries with it echoes of the Irish and Scottish musical
traditions brought to the region in the 1700s".
By Bill Yates, Roots66.com
"The soundtrack rides Arlene Kortright's composition "East River of Shannon" in much the same way as Ken
Burns' Civil War documentary rode Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell", mile after haunted mile."
By Michael Metivier
"Appalachian music goes back much further, to the English and Celtic instrumental and ballad forms brought with the
earliest immigrants to the region. The beautiful fiddle tune "East River of Shannon" by Arlene Kortright, though
contemporary, reflects the music's roots".
By Jim Watson