I can't confess to spending most of my days preparing for the holidays listening to random Christmas carols and the like. Let's face it, I'm not much of a traditionalist, although I do love Christmas carols and will listen on Christmas Day. However, I try very hard to put myself in a more homey frame of mind as I sit down to wrap my gifts and craft the one or two cards I may send (MAY being the operative word anymore). This refusal to give in to traditional fare means I either go the rock 'n' roll, country, or blues route for holiday cheer, but not always. For the last two years I've found the perfect CD to kick off all such wrapping and baking and decorating activities ahead of me: The Pleasures of Hope by Alex Reidinger.
Perhaps it's the lovely Celtic strains that are delivered with such deftness and heart that make me feel at once comforted and wide awake and warmed to the bones. Or maybe it's the energy and deliberate pacing of the CD itself. I listen to the tunes in order. Every time. Except when I'm running my playlist on shuffle. Nope. I prefer to let the artist, in this case, the delightful Alex, tell her story her way.
My family may have some Celtic blood coursing through our veins (chances are it's very little), but The Pleasures of Hope makes me feel very much at home. The virtual hearth is lit and the warmth spills into the room. One can imagine a cup of Irish coffee causing an uncle to perhaps dance about the kitchen every now and again; or the children to run through, delighted to steal a few forbidden cookies with impish grins upon their flushed faces. I also imagine those moments where I might sit and take a break, sipping a cup of tea and snitching my own bit of shortbread and try to make sense of the bits of ribbon tangled about here and there.
I usually start the music a day or two before Thanksgiving and Pleasures continues to feature high on the list well into the New Year. It is, after all, hopeful. Wordless and wonderful, it gives you the opportunity to paint your own hopes and dreams upon the musical canvas Alex has provided us. It's obvious that Alex possesses (and always has) a maturity and understanding of music, pacing, order, and inviting the listener to be a part of the experience. It's very rare in this world that a musician allows you to participate at the level to which Miss Reidinger does.
As a teenager (she was 17 at the time), it was Reidinger's desire to present the music she loved so much in a manner that suited her. Playing fiddle, harp, and concertina on the album, she was joined by other musicians: Chelsea Link, Harp, Track 6; Vincent Fogarty, Bouzouki, Tracks 1,3,7,13; Tom Fellenbaum, Guitar, Track 2; Al Petteway, Guitar, Track 5. The music was chosen and arranged by Alex herself with just a little help. She also took on the responsibility of putting together the CD packaging. Additionally, she composed "John Daly's" (track 13) as a means of thanking Daly for all his guidance.
From beginning to end, The Pleasures of Hope is a beautiful work of art and the perfect way to start and end one's day, especially the hectic ones. This young lady creates a stunning tale with her music. A little something to add pep to your step to start you off, then a tender moment to gather your wits about you, and on and on through the near hour worth of music. Jigs, reels, airs, hornpipe, set dance...all there for you. Don't try to pick a favorite. Nigh impossible. Although, "Martin Wynne's, The Sligo/Leitrim Bucks Of Oranmore" moves me to a pensive place, but I can't say that makes it a favorite as each selection is brilliant and bright in its own way.
I do so very eagerly encourage you to pick up a copy of The Pleasures of Hope. Okay, pick up several copies. (CD Baby is also offering 10% off your order if you purchase multiple copies right now.) Just remember to save one for yourself as you give these to friends and family. All will thank you. I know everyone who received the CDs I handed out last year appreciated them and they are played often.
Best part of this deal, you can play the music all yearlong and smell the crisp green grasses and leaves, feel the warm fires at the hearth, hear the laughter of loved ones gathered near, and revel in the sense of stress slipping off your shoulders like an unnecessary wool coat on a summer's day.
1. Hanly's Tweed/The Bunch of Green Rushes/Bunker Hill - Concertina
2. Crabs in the Skillet/The Woods of Old Limerick - Harp
3. The Stage/The Pleasures of Hope/McGlinchey's Hornpipe - Fiddle
4. An Binsin Luachra - Harp
5. The Maid at the Spinning Wheel/Aherne's Egg/The Fly in the Porter - Concertina
6. Martin Wynne's/The Sligo/Leitrim Bucks of Oranmore - Harp
7. O'Farrell's Welcome to Limerick/The Roaring Barmaid - Concertina
8. Paddy Fahy's/The Boys on the Hilltop/Reavy's - Fiddle
9. The Bright Lady - Concertina
10. Paddy Fahy's/Lad O'Beirne's - Harp
11. Cró Na nGabhar/Gan Ainm - Fiddle
12. The Ebb Tide/Seán Ó Duibhir a'Ghleanna - Concertina
13. The Tenpenny Piece/John Daly's - Harp
14. The Bird in the Bush/The Jolly Tinker/The New Road - Fiddle