NEW RELEASE

by Ben Taylor

CD cover of Féileacán na Saoirse

A new CD by fiddle player Anna Falkenau with guest musicians  Ged Foley, Mary Shannon, Kevin Hough, Lena Ullman, Holly Geraghty, Steve Sweeney and Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh

“…Imagine Denis Murphy meets Martin Hayes and both win!” (fRoots) read full review
 “Hugely impressive debut recording by a German Galway-based fiddler who’s thoroughly immersed herself in both the Irish and old-timey traditions. Her tone is ever evocative and often captivating-imagine Denis Murphy meets Martin Hayes and both win!”
 

“A superb CD of airs and dance tunes from the Irish and American Old-time traditions – soulful, inventive and infectious” (Jackie Small – Irish Traditional Music Archive)   read full review
“Soulful, fluent, inventive – the superlative fiddling of Anna Falkenau flows sweetly and with spellbinding expressiveness. On this superb CD she weaves a finely crafted musical tapestry from an intensely personal selection of airs and dance tunes from the Irish and American old-time traditions. Her delicate fiddling takes us to the core of some of the most deeply felt music in the Irish tradition and to infectious dance tunes, as well as to freshly composed music from herself and other fine tune makers of today.
Especially haunting are her mood-filled airs from Sliabh Luachra, the area of rushy hills in east Kerry and west Cork whose extraordinary heritage has enriched Irish music with some of the most heartfelt music in its long tradition.
On this CD Anna is supported masterfully by some of the most skilled accompanists in the contemporary Irish tradition.”
“Her tone and control are glorious, but the overall feel is that of a late-night session when the bar patrons have left and the remaining musicians are playing for each other.” (Rob Weir, SingOut!) read full review
“The Irish-to-English translation of Anna Falkenau’s solo fiddle album is, roughly, ‘Butterfly of Freedom,’ an apt descriptor. It reminds me of Kevin Burke projects in the ways in which tunes are freed by putting composition and emotion at the fore instead of virtuosity. The trick, as Burke once patiently explained to me, is to make the music sound simple and easy flowing – like a butterfly’s flight – even when it’s hard to play. Falkenau does precisely this. Her tone and control are glorious, but the overall feel is that of a late-night session when the bar patrons have left and the remaining musicians are playing for each other.
This collection consists mostly of traditional Irish and American fiddle tunes inspired by the playing of such renowned old masters as Paddy Killoran, Tommy Peoples, and Pádraig O’Keefe, and recent ones the likes of Liz Carroll and Bruce Molsky. Aside from a few well-traveled tunes such as ‘Sally Coming through the Rye’ and ‘The Jolly Tinker,’ though, Falkenau chooses material suited to her quiet and expressive style rather than ones that sound familiar. (Over-familiarity can be a curse on solo projects.) She does let her hair down on several pieces, including ‘The Coolea Jig’ set, the American old-time selection ‘Richmond,’ her tour de force thump-out with bodhrán artist Johnny McDonagh on ‘The Little Cascade,’ and her note-for-echoing-note duet with accordionist Steve Sweeney on the wonderfully titled ‘The Sporting Pitchfork’ set. But among the many things Falkenau does well is mix tempos and moods. ‘The House on the Hill/The Leading Role’ is lilting and smooth, her take on hornpipes ‘Fitzgerald’s/Bushmills’ is stripped down and raw, and the lullaby effect of ‘Ivan’s Waltz’ is enhanced by her tasteful collaboration with harper Holly Geraghty.
One of my favorites, though, was the only original on the album, ‘Vodka & Chocolate.’ Falkenau’s liner notes say that it came to her after a Cork session in which she had been overly imbibing in the aforementioned items. The next morning she fashioned a gorgeous piece that sounds faintly like a Breton an dro. Who says excess is a bad thing?”
“The riches afforded by this textured tune selection (along with a skein of thoughtfully composed sleeve notes) is a reminder of the benefits of the hard copy over the virtual” (Siobhán Long, The Irish Times, 4 out of 5 stars)  read full review
“The riches afforded by this textured tune selection (along with a skein of thoughtfully composed sleeve notes) is a reminder of the benefits of the hard copy over the virtual. Anna Falkenau is a fiddler with a highly developed ear for music from Sliabh Luachra and American old-time music. She often favours a deliciously stripped-down style, letting the fiddle’s most primal qualities shine through. This spartan style is a perfect fit for her tune choices, including her own beautiful Ivan’s Waltz. There’s a vitality to Falkenau’s ability to marry tunes, and her pairing of Caoineadh Uí Néill with Liz Carroll’s sublime That’s Right, Too! lingers long after the final notes have faded. Falkenau’s singular voice is ever audible, but never at the expense of the tunes.”
“spine-tingling”, “a touch of the Martin Hayes genius”
(Alex Monaghan, Irish Music Magazine) read full review
“Not a common Irish name, Falkenau: this young fiddler is originally from Germany, but has taken to Irish traditional music like a duck to – well – anywhere on Erin’s green isle! After a stint in Cork, and another in Connecticut, she’s well able to produce an album mixing Irish and American old–time music with some of her own compositions. Anna Faulkner’s sweet spot seems to be the junction of Irish and American music – she tops and tails this CD with a couple of Liz Carroll reels, and makes a lovely job of them. There’s a number of accompanists on Féileacán na Saoirse, and some fine unaccompanied fiddling too. Anna’s playing is folksy, earthy, not the usual German precision, and lends itself to slower tunes and to the raw Sliabh Luachra style: her version of The Wounded Hussar is spine–tingling over a fiddle drone which acknowledges its piping legacy. The jump to The Coolea Jig shows a sprightly side of Anna’s music, a lighter mood which leavens the heavy dark modal tunes here – but to be honest I prefer that darker side. The growling harmonies on Sally Coming Through the Rye with a high bass tuning, the sawing slow suicide of Anna’s own Vodka & Chocolate or the abject despair of O’Rahilly’s Grave which I’d even say has a touch of the Martin Hayes genius about it in Anna’s hands. Ivan’s Waltz is sweet, with Holly Geraghty keeping the harp well grounded. A bit of banjo and accordion is always welcome on Richmond and Ard Bothar, and of course it’s great to hear a Scottish gem like G S McLennan’s Little Cascade. This fiddler’s real meat is dark and heavy, Caoineadh Ui Néill and even her own title track Féileacán na Saoirse. Give this album a listen.”
“a gorgeous, intense rendition…gloriously sublime…”
(Sean Smith, The Boston Irish Reporter) read full review
“A native of Germany, Falkenau has spent a good chunk of her adult life in Ireland, at University College Cork (during that time she was a member of Liz Doherty’s Fiddlesticks ensemble) and, for the past decade, in Galway; in between, she pursued a graduate degree right down the road at Wesleyan University. So perhaps it’s not a surprise that she’s equally at home with Irish and American fiddle styles, and ‘styles’ is indeed the key word here, because Falkenau shows herself capable of playing in a variety of settings, whether Sliabh Luachra and other Irish regional traditions, American old-time, and modern – including her own compositions as well as a couple by Liz Carroll.
Falkenau’s modus operandi on ‘Féileacán na Saoirse’ – which is Gaelic for ‘Butterfly of Freedom’ – is astute and appealing. Except for one track in which she’s joined by guitarist Kevin Hough and Mary Shannon on tenor banjo, a solo on a pair of hornpipes, and another in which she accompanies herself on viola – a gorgeous, intense rendition of the air ‘The Wounded Hussar,’ as popularized by Sliabh Luachra legend Padriag O’Keeffe – the CD is a series of duets between Falkenau and different instrumentalists. Guitarist Ged Foley, late of the Battlefield Band and Patrick Street, plays on four of the tracks, and the rest are one-offs: Lena Ullman on five-string banjo, Holly Geraghty on harp, Steve Swee- ney on accordion and the indubitable Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh on bodhrán.
The effect of this is to focus attention on her fiddling while at the same time providing a variety of moods and contexts. Her collaboration with Sweeney on a trio of classic session jigs (‘The Sporting Pitchfork/High Part of the Road/Connachtman’s Rambles’) is fun, loose and easy-going; Geraghty underscores the gentleness of ‘Ivan’s Waltz,’ a Falkenau original; the American tune ‘Richmond,’ with its crooked phrasing and style of bowing that is markedly distinct from Irish fiddling, gets a fine lift from Ullman’s five-string; and McDonagh provides his characteristically spot-on rhythm for a medley that is arguably the album’s highlight – it begins with Falkenau playing the Irish reel ‘The Jolly Tinker’ at a slow pace, then changes key and tempo and finally segueing into the Scottish pipe tune ‘The Little Cascade,’ full of accents and tricky transitions. Her stints with Foley include ‘Sally Coming Through the Rye,’ an otherworldly West Virginia tune Falkenau plays in open A tuning, and her own ‘Vodka & Chocolate,’ a moody, moderately-paced reel, and a pairing of ‘Caoineadh Ui Néill (Lament for O’Neill)’—from the repertoire of another Sliabh Luachra swami, Denis Murphy—she plays solo before Foley escorts her into Carroll’s gloriously sublime ‘That’s Right, Too!’
The butterfly, as science teaches us, is not only lovely in its appearance, but also quite hardy, what with the long distances it migrates – rather like the music Falkenau champions.”
“Her personal style lends itself equally to swinging jigs, fiery reels and emotional slow airs.” (Folkworld) read full review
“Butterfly of Freedom is not just the title but a fair description of the fiddle player’s at the same time rhythmic but gentle style. Anna Falkenau grew up in east Germany but made her home in Ireland. She studied for a Bachelor of Music Degree at University College Cork, being a member of Liz Doherty’s Fiddlesticks group. The past decade saw her in Galway City, playing regularly with Johnny Connolly, Mary Shannon, and Johnny Moynihan. With her duo Murray & Falkenau she has toured internationally. So now this is Anna Falkenau’s first solo album, featuring tunes from the Irish and American traditions (e.g. the old-time tune “Richmond” which evolved from “Cuckoo’s Nest”) but also new compositions from herself and others, just to mention the prolific Irish-American fiddler and composer Liz Carroll. Anna is joined by a stellar cast: accompaniment by guitarist Ged Foley (Patrick Street) harpist Holly Geraghty and bodhrán veteran Johnny McDonagh, embellishment by banjo players Lena Ullman (Buffalo in The Castle) and Mary Shannon (Bumblebees, Sharon Shannon Band). However, Anna Falkenau’s rootsy playing is always in the centre. Her personal style lends itself equally to swinging jigs, fiery reels and emotional slow airs. The Butterfly of Freedom has started its journey, and we will probably learn more of Anna’s art in the coming years.”
“Anna Falkenau’s fluid fiddle playing sees her infuse her love of traditional music with an imaginative spark, creating something vital and new.” (Jimi McDonnell, Galway City Tribune)

CD Launch The Crane, Galway, by Jackie Small

“…In that episode, a piper spoke about his own place in the music community of his time, and he said the equivalent of the following: ‘There are lots of fine pipers around here who play for the dancing, but I’m not one of those ‘foot pipers’ – my music is for the heart and for the soul!’ And so it is with the music of Anna Falkenau – here we have music that aspires to the highest function that music can have in our lives: it is for the heart and for the soul!” (Jackie Small)  Read More

“The happy occasion of the launch of a wonderful new CD by composer and fiddle player Anna Falkenau was the first happening in the exciting programme of events of the 2014 ‘Galway Sessions’ festival in Galway.

The new CD is titled ‘Féileacán na Saoirse’ – the Butterfly of Freedom – and that, in turn, is the title of one of the tunes on the CD, one composed by Anna – and, like all of Anna’s music, it is a very beautiful and very subtle piece with a very reflective and evocative atmosphere – played superbly, on this occasion on unaccompanied fiddle.How would one describe Anna’s music? First of all it is, of course, traditional music, but that description alone does not get us very far. Traditional music is used in lots of different ways in our society. For example, it can be functional, in that it can provide lively music for dancing; it can be social, in that it can be the vehicle for gatherings like music sessions, which are like musical conversations; it can contribute to community-building, in that it can be the binding agent to build communities of people with like interests – as it does, for example, these days for our young people, who form lasting friendships at their music classes, summer schools, and so on.

All of these are very worthy uses for traditional music, and they render very valuable services to our society. But, somehow, they don’t encompass the full beauty and subtlety of music like that of Anna Falkenau. When one thinks of Anna’s music, what comes to mind might be something like the following:

The great uilleann piper Jimmy O’Brien-Moran recently completed a very illuminating PhD thesis about the Galway piper Paddy Conneely, who lived at about the time of the Irish Famine – that is to say, more than a century-and-half ago – and in that thesis Jimmy quotes an episode from a novelist of Conneely’s time, William Carleton, who often wrote about music themes in his novels. In that episode, a piper spoke about his own place in the music community of his time, and he said the equivalent of the following: ‘There are lots of fine pipers around here who play for the dancing, but I’m not one of those ‘foot pipers’ – my music is for the heart and for the soul!’ And so it is with the music of Anna Falkenau – here we have music that aspires to the highest function that music can have in our lives: it is for the heart and for the soul! Anna’s music enables our hearts to soar, like the butterfly of freedom, into regions of emotion and imagination that are largely untouched by the day-to-day functionality of much of the traditional music that we hear around us!

Anna comes from Germany, but she has become a native speaker of the idiom of Irish traditional music. In fact, like many before her who came to live among the Irish, she has become more Irish than the Irish themselves; and by that is meant that she has come to a deeper understanding of the most profound depths of expression in the Irish tradition than have many Irish musicians themselves.

Most indicative of that, for many enthusiasts of her music, is her deep affinity with the music of Sliabh Luachra. She has, as if by magic, found her way to one of the deepest wells of music expression in the Irish tradition. In general, it’s rather mysterious why a particularly rich tradition might flourish in one particular area, rather than another. What we do know is that a tradition of surpassing beauty and expressiveness grew in that area of rushy hills in the eastern part of county Kerry and the western part of county Cork. And it is here, in the beautifully expressive slow airs of Sliabh Luachra, that Anna Falkenau has found the deepest well of inspiration that enriches this CD.

But, it should also be stressed that, as well as the beautiful – and beautifully played! – airs on this CD, there are also lots of sprightly, atmospheric and witty tunes, many composed by Anna herself, and accompanied by an array of superb musicians and accompanists!

This new CD has something very interesting in common with another CD that was launched recently, also in Galway – the new CD by the singer Bernie Pháid: both are a mixture of Irish traditional music and old-time American music. The big difference between the CDs is, of course, that Bernie’s is from the singing traditions and Anna’s is from the instrumental traditions. But both CDs in their different ways, share a very interesting mix of styles. And on Anna’s CD, the old-time American tunes evoke as beautifully expressive an atmosphere as do her Irish tunes!

This new CD from Anna Falkenau is recorded, mixed and mastered in Germany and Ireland to a high degree of professionalism, and the design of the package is particularly beautiful! The CD package contains extensive and fascinating information about the music on the CD.

May this new CD by Anna Falkenau, ‘Féileacán na Saoirse’ – the Butterfly of Freedom – soar on wings of melody and expression!”

 

New Release "Féileacán na Saoirse"