CD REVIEW: Carol Wood - The Chaucer Songbook
By Ben Ohmart - 05/21/2007 - 10:34 AM EDT
Artist: Carol Wood
Carol Wood’s Celtic Music and Early Music For Harp and Voice is as delightful as it is gentle. You don’t want to squeeze too hard else the disc will break into a splash of medieval Welsh bits. This collection of songs mentioned throughout Chaucer’s works is startlingly fresh, done with a love and spirit that only the very knowledgeable can accomplish. Dr. Wood holds her Ph.D. in Medieval English Literature, and who else but such a mind could produce the olde style words as they need to be related, with a voice so vulnerably styled to the age.
The only thing I’m not too crazy about are the 2 tracks containing keyboards. But then I’m a bit of a purist. Perhaps we are so used to hearing them that to the average listener they blend in well by now; yet ‘Sanctus (Roy Henry)’ is so obvious, especially in light of Carol’s beautiful harp skills through the likes of ‘The Pear Tree’ and more, that is sticks out like a small nick on a beautiful face. But that’s it.
The harp may have been Chaucer’s favorite instrument, as often as Ms. Wood says it’s related in his works, and the author would be quite impressed with the singular skill that the Professor of English at McNeese University brings to this pack of 17 airy ballads.
Along with every song is included a translation from the Middle English, notes on the song, and often the story. For instance, ‘Edi Be Thu’, though not mentioned in any of Chaucer’s works, is in praise of the Virgin, one of many religious constants through all of the master’s life. ‘Blessed be thou, heaven-queen / people’s ease and angels’ bliss / maid unspotted, mother clean / such in the world no other is.’ That of course is the translation.
The touch of harp solos that find their way in, as in the penultimate ‘Alma Redemptoris Mater’, is magic. Like a breath of spring from a season unsullied by pollution and too many people, heralding in an era of good old days that don’t make you think of all the sickness and disease back then. Just a sharp and beautiful piece of music, as is the follow up, ending ‘Glenkindie’. With Tina Wing’s guitar and voice, it becomes perfect exit music.
An accompanying music book has been published by Mel Bay. But first, I suggest the cd. For the glory of yourself.
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