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© Russell W Elliot
Backgrond Image © Real Music® 1997
Last Updated 16 October 1999
Fans of female vocal-laced, Celtic-inspired artists like Capercaillie,
Clannad, Enya, Máire Brennan and Shannon and the multi-layered vocal work of
contemporary classical artists including Adiemus, Aria, Lorenza Ponce,
Secret Garden, Sissel, as well as Philip Riley and Jayne Elleson will
quickly discover that Ceredwen (pronounced kûr-ed-win) have created
two stunning albums that must be heard throughout to be fully appreciated.
While vocally rich, the albums are instrumentally very powerful and deeply
rooted with a Welsh Celtic influence. They have more of a
progressive—or modern techno—tendency than a folk feel to them with
depth and warmth arising from the vocal and instrumental production.
Ceredwen is comprised of vocalist/songwriter Reneé Gray and
composer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Fryer. Andrew plays a vast
range of original instruments—pennywhistle, flute, bodhran, Uilleann
pipes. Sampling technique are employed to achieve greater control.
Renée writes the melodies and the lyrics and then the two put their work
together in the studio. Two stunning albums have resulted
from their collaboration. A comprehensive
available on their label's website.
Image © RealMusic 1997-9
Reneé Gray and Andrew Fryer
Ceredwen's albums feature an upbeat style of Welsh Celtic music
fusing traditional themes with modern rhythms and arrangements. Their
first album, Ô'r Mabinogi—Legends Of The Celts
recounts the heroic deeds of Britain's Celtic kings and queens.
Seeming themselves to step between this world and the Celtic Otherworld,
Ceredwen has masterfully created a haunting journey in the songs from
their first album. Most commonly compared to Enigma for their first
album, Ceredwen's music spans a wide variety of rhythms and moods to
illustrate the story.
Their second album, The Golden Land, continues in a
similar vein, this time with expansive instrumentals, more vocal harmonies and tribal
rhythms. The second album reflects the time of the Druids, as they
and Boudicca, Warrior Queen, strive to preserve their power and gold
against the Roman conquest. It is a wonderful second album and weds
perfectly to the group's debut recording.
Ô'r Mabinogi—Legends Of The Celts
It is clear from the initial harmonies on their first album
that Ceredwen have found the magic needed to interest lovers
of modern and progressive Celtic music. Harken back to the
initial recordings by Ronan Hardiman on his first Shannon
album. The style is similar—upbeat Celtic rhythms with
traditional whistles and modern instrumentation and mixed
thoroughly with harmonious multi-tracked vocals.
individual songs are quite long, the bulk of them running
in the six to eight minute range. With varied textures,
some are quite rhythmic and upbeat—almost dance-oriented—and
others slow and melodic primarily with solo vocals carrying
the track, very ballad-like. The group often mix styles
wthin a track leading to the progressive nature of their
An outstanding booklet accompanies the CD; fully
illustrated, it includes complete (Welsh) lyrics, and
their translation, and has been annoted with brief notes
that tell the story, song by song. The artists and
their label have produced an album that is meant to
be thoroughly understood and enjoyed through total
immersion if the listener cares to do so.
The album opens with a rousing multi-dimensional track
entitled "Porth Annwn" (The Gates Of Annwn). "Yng
Ngolau Ddydd" (In The Light of the Day) is a progressive
track that begins as a ballad but develops into a harmonious
multi-tracked vocal number mixing traditional with modern
instrumentation. In "Dial Bendigeidfran" (The Revenge of
Bendigeidfran), the journey continues with an extensive
instrumental introduction that progresses into a rhythmic
and melodic production featuring outstanding solo and
multi-tracked lead vocals as well as backing vocalise.
Solo vocals carry "Morwyn Y Blodau" (Lady Of The Flowers)
a ballad-like song yet backing vocals add additional
depth and warmth. The whistle used in the instrumental
bridge and traditional percussion add to the song's Celtic
feel. Loreena McKennitt enthusiasts should especially
enjoy the overall feel of the song.
The epic-length fifth track of the album consists of
two parts. "Tir Gwastraff" (The Wasteland) is a complex
and modern instrumental. The second part, entitled
"Cwynfan Pyrderi" (Pyrderi's Lament) begins with an
absolutely stunning keyboard melody and lead vocal
segment that Reneé sings in a very high register.
Backing vocals in the chorus and a short spoken vocal
part add depth and colour to the track.
In a return to the theme that opens the album, the
track "Blwyddyn I Heno" (A Year From This Night) consists
of lead vocal verses sung mid-register and absolutely
stunning multi-layered choruses. Whistle segments in
the instrumental bridge add Celtic spirit to the track.
Highly accessible and percussively very strong with a
nice hook in the chorus, this song is certain to please
In a style similar to "Revenge" and "The Wasteland",
"Teyrnas Y Sêr (In The Realm of the Summer Stars) is
the only all-instrumental number on the album. While
the the song builds its power with deep percussion and
supporting almost orchestral instrumentation, the melody
is carried by the whistles.
A wonderful multi-tracked a capella vocal begins the
stunning ballad "Fel Yr Eira" (Like the Snow). Only
harp accompanies Reneé's wonderful vocal work initially.
Only light acoustic guitar and a touch of keyboard is
added to the track as it builds. A lovely solo shines
through in the bridge between the verses.
The magesty of the throne of Arberth is illustrated
with the depth of the keyboards that open "Rhiannon"
A highly contemporary song with stunning vocal work,
fully illustrating the range of the artists' talents,
this is another highly accessible number, that develops
a dance- oriented rhythm in the choruses. Most
illustrative of what Ceredwen can do, "Rhiannon" is
clearly one of the high spots of this debut album
and certain to stimulate a wide interest of this
outstanding ensemble's recordings.
The Golden Land
Perfectly mating to their
debut album, Ceredwen's followup stands out right
away with wonderful vocal harmonies, contemporary rhythms
and Celtic instrumentation characterised mostly by
the whistle with Uillean pipe influences highly
evident in several tracks. The songs are slightly shorter in
length and more focused in a single direction
and less exploratory than the debut album.
The album is again accompanied
by a lovely fully illustrated booklet with complete lyrics
(in Welsh) as well as accompanying English translation and
short narratives that introduce the songs telling the album's
story. With a running time of almost 54 minutes, there are
ten tracks with only one pure instrumental.
The title track, "Tir Aur"
(The Golden Land) opens the album with a lovely whistle
melody and solo during the instrumental bridge.
Expansive multi-layered harmonious vocals backing
Reneé's terrific lead. With a richer and lusher
feel, the instrumentals are even more contemporary than
the debut and the Welsh language is more apparent.
A magestic string sample
and tribal percussion rhythms immediately characterise
"Y Bryn Gwyn" (The White Hill). Reneé's lead vocals
are mixed way up during the verses and the multi-tracked
backing vocals of the chorus contribute to this highly
accessible moving number.
The bright Celtic
whistles, traditional rhythms and extensively
multi-layered vocals establish a nautical setting
for the lovely, ballad-like track, "Ynys Sanctaidd"
(Sacred Isle). Reminscent of some of Rodan Hardiman's
writing for Lord Of The Dance,
"Beltain" presents a certain Druid feel in its
instrumentation. The vocal elements of the song
are quite catchy with excellent lead and backing
performances. A wonderful reel on whistle during the
instrumental bridge shows off the group's Celtic
origins and plays throughout the concluding choruses
of the song.
"Y Galwad" (The Calling)
is a very new agey track, primarily from the keyboard
treatment, with multi-layered highly harmonious vocals
carrying the songs melody. The theme is carried by
a whistle performance and samples used to further
establish the overhall mood.
Returning to the moving
Celtic style established on their debut album in the
leading track and "A Year From This Night," "Boudicca"
is carried by upbeat galluping rhythms carried
on the keyboard (and percussion) and underscored by
whistle. Multi-layered vocals progress the style
from verse to chorus and back again between several
highly memorable melodies. This song is a
certain favourite for all audiences.
The album's only pure instrumental is
"Y Llyn Du" (The Black Lake). A progressive yet
dark melody is introduced in a lovely low whistle
part before being picked up by Uillean pipe samples
and keyboard. Brilliance is achieved within the
track by finger cymbals, Uillean pipe solos, sax
samples and vocalise. Although not quite as moving
as "In The Realm of the Summer Stars" from the
"Bradyrchiad" (Betrayal) opens with
a lovely whistle solo with only light instrumental backing and
piano to underscore the melody. The song then fully develops
with Ceredwen's typical lead and multi-tracked backing vocals
but this lovely and melodic song also features extensively
All of the group's energy is
evident in the highly moving track "Ar Draws y Cae" (Across
the Field), drawing together the highly polished electronic
instrumentals to produce a sound similar in some ways to
"Boudicca." Lush vocal harmonies, Celtic rhythms, and expansive
whistle parts characterise the piece. Modern percussion moves
the song along at a catchy pace.
The album concludes with the
lovely ballad "Er Mwyn y Plant" (For The Children) with Reneé's
tremendous lead backed by heavenly light echoing multi-layered vocals.
Uillean pipes and a broad range of string samples contribute
almost lullaby sweetness and a unique bass part adds
further depth to the track.
Ceredwen's debut album is a wonderful
introduction to the tremendously gifted duo of Reneé Gray and Andrew Fryer.
Welsh language lyrics with stunning lead vocals and heavenly backing
vocals carry the melodies while traditional Celtic instruments are
sampled to produce a lush and contemporary soundscape to further
illustrate the album's themes. Their followup album builds on the
foundation established by their debut with further exploration
into an even more modern motif, never leaving their Celtic roots
far behind. Vocally more harmonious and richer overall, the group's
second album is a perfect mate for their first; the two work quite
well played sequentially one after the other, with the second album
illustrating a significant development in the ensemble's musical
Clearly, with their excellent songwriting,
stunning solo and multi-layered vocal work, and outstanding instrumental
performances, and a contemporary treatment of the Celtic theme, Ceredwen
have it all. These are two simply wonderful albums worth a cross-country
journey—both of them, individually and together, a must listen!