The Celtic Lute

The Celtic Lute


Artist: Ronn McFarlane

Composers: Turlough O'Carolan, James Oswald, Traditional

Format: 1 CD


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“I’ve had a great love for Celtic music since the 1970’s, hearing groups like the Chieftains and The Bothy Band. I was delighted to find Scottish tunes in lute manuscripts from the 17th century. But alas, there is no repertory of Irish lute music. Yet there is an obvious sympathy between the music of Ireland and Scotland, so I undertook to make arrangements of some of my favorite Irish and Scottish tunes that had never quite made it into the historical lute repertory. (An oversight, I’m sure.)”  —Ronn McFarlane

There are Celtic Music specialty radio shows and on-demand audio channels. Celtic Music CDs are sold in health food and yoga stores. We know it when we hear it. Right?

So, what is it? There’s a loose definition (or maybe tacit agreement) that Celtic Music is found in those European cultures where the Celtic tribes invaded. Aside from Ireland and Scotland, Wales qualifies, as does Brittany, the Galician part of Spain, the Isle of Man. If we focus just on the Gaelic language group and fine tune it to just Scotland and Ireland, we really know what we are hearing, right?

Do we? While there is plentiful cross-pollination between these two nations and an ancient shared heritage, they are not the same place, and their music is not a single common recipe using slightly different ingredients. Irish stew is not haggis.

There are differences grand and small, subtle and great. Distinct nations with different histories will evolve different artistic natures, and this is played out in a joyful noise in our Celtic lands.

Ronn McFarlane’s heritage and lifelong interest in Scottish music allows us to walk first (as Neil Munro put it) “song-haunted over the Moors.”


Ronn McFarlane

GRAMMY-nominated lutenist, Ronn McFarlane brings the lute—the most popular instrument of the Renaissance—into today’s musical mainstream, making it accessible to a wider audience.

Since taking up the lute in 1978, Ronn has made his mark in music as the founder of Ayreheart (Ayreheart’s first CD release, One Morning, consists of all-original music by Ronn McFarlane. Ayreheart’s 2016 release, Barley Moon, blends folk music and art music from Renaissance and Medieval England, Scotland and Wales.

Ronn is a founding member of the Baltimore Consort, touring 49 of the 50 United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany and Austria, and as a guest artist with Apollo’s Fire, The Bach Sinfonia, The Catacoustic Consort, The Folger Consort, Houston Grand Opera, The Oregon Symphony, The Portland Baroque Orchestra, and The Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra.

McFarlane was a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory from 1984 to 1995, teaching lute and lute-related subjects. In 1996, Mr. McFarlane was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Shenandoah Conservatory for his achievements in bringing the lute and its music to the world. He has over 35 recordings on the Dorian/Sono Luminus label, including solo albums, lute duets, flute & lute duets, lute songs, the complete lute music of Vivaldi, a collection of Elizabethan lute music and poetry, and recordings with the Baltimore Consort.

Ronn has composed new music for the lute, building on the tradition of the lutenist/composers of past centuries. His original compositions are the focus of his solo CD, Indigo Road, which received a GRAMMY Award Nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album of 2009.

Track List

1. Carolan’s Welcome     Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738)     1:50
2. Banish Misfortune     Traditional (Irish)     1:46
3. The Battle of Harlaw     Traditional (Scottish)     1:51
4. Pipe on the Hob     Traditional (Irish)     1:53
5. Cliffs of Moher     Traditional (Irish)     1:13
6. Hey My Nanny & Guzzle Together     Traditional (Scottish)     1:57
7. Carolan’s Dream     O’Carolan     3:31
8. Sheebeg and Sheemore     O’Carolan     2:55
9. The Flowers of Edinburgh     James Oswald (c.1711-1769)     3:27
10. Miss Noble     O’Carolan     1:59
11. Fanny Power     O’Carolan     2:28
12. The Flaggon     Traditional (Scottish)     1:47
13. The Stool of Repentance     Traditional (Scottish)     1:21
14. The Lone Vale       Traditional (Scottish)     2:01
15. Flee Over the Water       Traditional (Scottish)     1:28
16. Hoop Her and Gird Her       Traditional (Scottish)     1:45
17. If I Had a Bonny Lass       Traditional (Scottish)     1:11
18. Lady Atherny       O’Carolan     2:29
19. The Seas are Deep       O’Carolan     1:39
20. Tune Without Title (#172)       O’Carolan     2:36
21. The Monaghan Jig       Traditional (Irish)     2:31
22. The Kid on the Mountain       Traditional (Irish)     2:24
23. Blind Mary       O’Carolan     3:18
24. George Brabazon       O’Carolan     1:27
25. Separation of the Body and Soul       O’Carolan     2:53
26. The Butterfly       Traditional (Irish)     2:32

Total time: 55:59
Release date: July 27, 2018
UPC: 053479222527

Quotes & Reviews

Album of the Week

KDFC Staff

WCRB CD of the Week

The album is laid out with incredible care…McFarlane plays with such a soft insistence, you could fall into a melancholy trance.

WCBR Staff

Ronn McFarlane has the strength of heart, knows the pulse of the Celtic soul, both past and present. This spotless Sono Luminus recording is a coruscating delight.

Christie Grimstad, ConcertoNet

McFarlane’s complete mastery of his instrument is everywhere apparent in his fingerings, his expressiveness, his ability to contrast bright and dancelike material with inward-focused pieces, and his overall sensitivity to the nuances of compositions that, especially in the case of the folk tunes, are generally straightforward and harmonically and rhythmically simple.

Mark Estren,

…a wonderful array of Scottish and Irish tunes, some from lute books of the 17th century and others performed in his own arrangements. As always, he makes it sound easy (it isn’t)…

Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist

A beguiling recording by the US lutenist which beautifully balances tradition Scottish and Irish tunes with works by Turlough O’Carolan.

Michael Beek, BBC Music Magazine (Oct. 2018)

...his effortless ornaments create just that magical balance of almost amorphous freedom that never for a moment loses its rhythmic drive
— Gramophone

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