New CD with Celtic music launched


The Sue Ryder Home for the elderly in Prague hosted a celebration on Tuesday - the Michal Hromek Consort ensemble was launching a new CD featuring arrangements of old Celtic music. Alena Skodova was there and has this report:

When I came to the Sue Ryder Home, its small concert hall was already full of elderly ladies and gentlemen, all dressed up and eagerly awaiting Michal Hromek and his ensemble. Although it was not the first time that Michal and the Consort had played here, this was a very special occasion: a new CD featuring old Celtic music was being launched.

The repertoire of the Michal Hromek Consort concentrates on instrumental adaptations of folk tunes from Ireland, Britain and Moravia, but apart from this they also perform their own original compositions based on medieval and pre-classical music. Michal's first CD from 1990, called 'The Celtic Guitar' scored a smashing success in Canada, where it received a golden disc for 100,000 copies sold. The new record, released by the Supraphon record company, is called Carolan and Michal Hromek explains why:

"This recording is based on themes by Turlough O'Carolan, who was a harp player, approximately a contemporary of Jess Buck, and he was one of the last harp players who traveled across Ireland and composed and dedicated pieces to wealthy and influential people of his time. His tunes, his themes are nowadays more or less part of the whole body of Irish traditional music."

How has his music been preserved, do any records exist?

"Well, there's no written record because harp playing stopped very shortly after O'Carolan's death, and its revival dates to the mid 20th century, so his tunes were preserved by the tradition of flute playing, fiddle playing, bag-pipers etc."

Present at the concert and one of the record's 'godfathers' was the Irish ambassador to Prague, Joseph Hayes:

"Well, the embassy is associated closely with the Sue Ryder Foundation in the Czech Republic, an association going back several years, and the fact that tonight there's a Celtic concert, where else would I be, it's very important."

Do you think that other nations than the Irish can play Celtic music equally well?

"Well, that's a really difficult question. For sure, the Czechs can. I mean not only can they play as well but they understand it, and that's the difficult one. It's one thing to play it, to feel the heart of the music, and for some extraordinary reason, the Czechs almost play Celtic music better than we do in Ireland, and I can't say any higher than that."