BRIAN BORU: THE HIGH KING OF TARA
A MUSICAL PORTRAIT by MAURICE LENNON
With Attention Deficit Disorder seemingly rampant among artists and audiences alike these days, it's the brave musician who would embark on a musical project that extends beyond the 3 minute holy grail. Maurice Lennon has never been a musician to shy away from that particular challenge. His long years of apprenticeship with Stockton's Wing (phenomenally successful in the early 80's), and his impeccable genetic and geographical inheritance (nephew of Charlie Lennon, and flag bearer for the tradition in Leitrim) have served him well. These days, Maurice Lennon sets his sights on the broad canvas, all the better to dig deep into the tradition and marry it with the 21st century music that courses through his own veins.
Brian Boru: The High King of Tara sees Lennon embarking on his most ambitious project to date. A musical portrait of Boru, a 10th Century Irish hero who defended his country against the pillaging Vikings, Lennon's sweeping suite captures the passion, the terror and the sheer villainy and epic heroism of the times with all the laconic ease that we've grown accustomed to expect from this most understated of fiddlers and composers.
Swing shifting from the mournful to the celebratory in the opening piece, 'Brian's Theme', Lennon's fiddle marks Boru's territory and his charismatic leadership with mantra-like chord sequences, bolstered by Noel Eccles' tiptoeing percussion. From the opening sequence, it's the organic ensemble playing that leaves the deepest impression. Orchestral in its sweep, yet more akin to the cosiness of the session in its tone, this is a musical journey that would welcome entreaties from snug and concert hall alike.
Historical accuracy is a lynchpin of Brian Boru. Painstakingly retracing key events such as the burning of Boruma - a ring fort on the west bank of the Shannon near present-day Killaloe - and gathering the Dal gCais, or faithful followers, rise to a gallop, fuelled by Máirtín O'Connor's trademark featherlike accordion, and Anthony Drennan's lithe guitar. Donal Lunny lends his customary conglomeration of offerings from bouzouki to bodhrán, guitar, keyboards and vocals, while Brian Lennon's flutes and whistles cross-stitch their way through the tunes with the agility of a Juillard graduate.
Then there's Sean Keane's guest
vocals, sparingly applied and pitch perfect on 'Aisling', an ode to the unfailing
commitment Boru felt for his native land, replete with foreboding for the impending
triumph and tragedy that was the Battle of Clontarf.
Maurice Lennon's meticulous scholarship and creative energy are what define Brian Boru: The High King Of Tara. This collection is a confluence of musical and historical passions that reaps richly from the seeds Lennon has sown. Creative peaks seldom rise from nothing, and Maurice Lennon's been tipping around its perimeter for long enough to know a gemstone when he uncovers one.
Reflective, restorative music. Balm for the soul and fodder for the imagination.
TARACD3038 - Brian Boru - The High King of Tara