It’s a cold, dark time of year here in the Northern Hemisphere. The winds howl, the temperature has dropped to well below a comfortable level and the days are short. It is the darkness that makes it so much seem so much colder and dismal. Music lifts the heart and warms the soul, and winter time is when we need that extra help the most.
Appropriate to the season in so many ways, we have Jaiya’s Firedance: Songs for the Winter Solstice. This is a collection of foot-tapping ‘old standards’ from the Celtic Isles is scattered with original gems that shine on their own while still blending beautifully with the traditional pieces.
“The Year is Born Anew” is a sweet ballad that manages to bring together all of the elements of Yule. “Gaia’s Lullaby” describes the bleak midwinter nativity from the viewpoint of Mother Gaia. “Yule Is Come” is a musical work of genius. It starts with a quiet processional of the refrain from the old Latin hymn, “Gaudete!,” one of the very earliest Christmas songs on record (I recognized it from the Mediaeval Baebes). As the Gaudete! Gaudete! arrives at full voice, it begins to change into an entirely new song, a kind of a Yule anthem. This transformation is powerful and had my hair standing on end. Eventually, the song resolves into a long, energetic instrumental that will have you dancing through the night.
Jaiya is: Miranda Brown on harp and vocals, Lael Whitehead on acoustic guitar, percussion, winds, and vocals rounded out by Kim Darwin on accordion. I’m not usually a fan of the accordion, but Darwin has a skill that transforms this humble instrument into something truly special.
The title track, another original offering, “Firedance,” seems like a straightforward piece. The lyrics are the fairly typical call for renewal at the turning of the year. What makes it special is the unusual treatment of the melody: a whirling, almost Middle Eastern collection that climaxes in a wild whirl.
This is a wonderful album! Use it for ritual work, or just to lighten the dark a little.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
running time 47:53