“Fíodhna Gardiner-Hyland is the daughter of legendary accordion player Bobby Gardiner, and as they say – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This album is a beautiful collection of slow airs and songs played with great heart and feeling, featuring Fíodhna on the whistle with a backdrop of luscious arrangements provided by some of Irelands leading musicians, including Seamie O’Dowd, Martin O’Connor, Bobby Gardiner, Gary Ó Bhroinn, Liam Kelly and Cathy Jordan featured on three songs. I certainly enjoyed listening to this album and know you will too.”
(Joanie Madden, Cherish The Ladies)
When Fíodhna sent me a review copy of her new “Air Time” album in March 2013, I was delighted to be asked to write a review for her. Only a few short weeks earlier, I heard Fíodhna play a beautiful arrangement of “An Raibh tú ag an gCarraig” at a session run by Paul Smyth in Liam Ó Riains, Ballina/Killaloe, Co. Tipperary.
From the first notes of “An Raibh tú…” this album had me engrossed. Because all the airs are played on low whistles, they move seamlessly in and out of one another. You would imagine that a brave undertaking like this – to play only airs for 40 minutes plus – would lead to fatigue. But I can guarantee the listener that this is not the case, as each air has been arranged and accompanied with such care and attention to detail, that even on repeated listening, the music is given different interpretations as to hold the attention.
There are surprises too. Cathy Jordan’s singing on three of the tracks caught me by surprise. On “An Buachaillín Donn” she is introduced by the whistle but then, after she sings a verse the whistle takes the melody again to the harmonies of voice. Likewise, Martín Ó Connor’s use of the box on “Amhrán na Leabhar” is most interesting and enhancing to Fíodhna’s playing. Seamie O’Dowd’s laid back fingered guitar, strings and keyboard enhance the newly composed air “The Boy from Aughdarra” which flows into Fíodhna’s mother’s composition “An Ghorta” which evokes visions of recent famine in Africa as well as events in our own country in the 1840’s.
Cathy’s harmonies with guitar, accompany the whistle again on the opening of the well know song “The Banks of Sullane” and by the end of the song the whistle and voice are in perfect unison together.
“Hector the Hero” is an air I first heard the great Scottish fiddler Aly Bain play many years ago and it was written by another great fiddler Scott Skinner for his friend, Sir Hector Macdonald who committed suicide as a result of unsavoury rumours and illness. How apt that it should be included here when we hear about so much of such tragedies happening, particularly among the young, in the Ireland of today.
“The Dreams of old Pa Fogerty” is the other Scottish air on the album and again with Mairtín’s drone-like box playing and fills, finishes the music off nicely with Gary Ó Bhroinn’s piano.
One track I hadn’t mentioned earlier ‘’Easter Snow’’ is an air I first heard played by the legendary Séamus Ennis (piper and collector) and one that he also named his final home in Naul, Co. Dublin after. There are many different descriptions of where the air originates but perhaps my favourite is that Easter Snow is a reference to the blackthorn blossom which appears in the Springtime; blackthorn is the opposite to hawthorn in that it bears its blossom before its leaves open, and the blossom time is usually quite close to Eastertide. Fíodhna is joined here by her father, the well-known Button Accordion player Bobby Gardiner for a beautiful rendition of the tune. So, on this album which is firmly based in the tradition, we hear her mother’s and father’s influences. As the old sean-fhocal goes: briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait (heritage breaks out through the eyes of the cat).
(Aodan O’Dubhghaill, Head of Lyric FM)
Agalamh idir Fíodhna Ní Ghairnéir agus Helen Ni Shé faoi dlúthdhiosca nua, den teideal AIR TIME – Airs for the Low , á sheoladh sa Seomra Caidrimh i gColáiste Mhuire Gan Smál, Luimneach ar an 5ú Mí na Nollag.
Cliceáil anseo chun éisteacht le h-agallamh a dhein Fiodhna ar an gclár An Saol ó Dheas ar 02/12/13 ar Raidió na Gaeltachta.
With an innate understanding of the slow air, this sensitive and skilled musician, Fíodhna Gardiner, invites you on a dreamlike journey into an ancient Celtic world with a hauntingly beautiful collection of Irish and Scottish airs on her new CD entitled ‘Air Time’.
With respect for tradition, Fíodhna’s playing, governed by her heart, performs these airs with complete sincerity, supported by singer Cathy Jordan and a cast of well- known musicians. Her excellent choice of a low A/B flat whistles with its rich timbre, lends this CD an air of ethereal timelessness.
Fíodhna’s first track ‘An raibh tú ar an gCarraig’…… were you at the rock and did you see my Valentine?’, one of our most beautiful love songs in the Irish tradition, holds the key to this beautifully evocative collection.
One of the highlights on the CD is Track No. 4, ‘Grá mo Chroí’, where the tempo and pace is just perfect. While engaging the listener throughout, it introduces an unusual contemporary accompaniment, which in itself beautifully compliments Fíodhna’s original composition.
Being raised in a musical household, how could Fíodhna possibly produce a CD that isn’t a family affair. Lovely to hear her father, Bobby contribute to Track No. 2 –‘Easter Snow’ and her mother Anne’s composition ‘An Ghorta’ on Track No 9
With countless other recordings featuring jigs, hornpipes and reels, this CD ‘Air Time’, placing the slow air at the heart of the traditional repertoire – is long overdue.
From the opening phrases of ‘An raibh tú ar an gCarraig’, you will be enchanted by this magical recording. Here, the listener is invited to take the air, down a musical path all too rarely travelled these days. Listen for the wonderful rendition of ‘Easter Snow’, where Fíodhna engages in musical dialogue with her dad, the great Clare accordionist, Bobby Gardiner. Both the playing and setting of ‘Amhrán na Leabhar’ evoke vividly, so many years later, the deep-felt emotions of the 19th century scholar and poet, Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháin, at the loss of his books and manuscripts, on a fateful day off the Kerry coast.
Featuring collaborations with some of the finest artists in Irish music today, ‘Air Time’ shows this artist’s deep understanding and appreciation of our musical heritage, while embracing innovation and creativity, blending seamlessly the new with the old. It is a stunning collection by a most talented musician – one from whom we all need to hear more.
Tar slán, Fíodhna! (Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, Traditional Singer)
It is with a great sense of honour that I find myself sitting down to review this wonderful album of slow airs by Fíodhna Gardiner. Of course it is indeed such a unique occurrence in the modern world of traditional music that an album consisting totally of airs comes to the fore, and this alone is a very welcome innovation. The Gardiner name is synonymous with traditional music through the legendary Bobby Gardiner, one of Ireland’s finest ever button accordion players, so it is no surprise that the musical pedigree continues to be manifest across the generations.
Coming from a background of traditional song in both the English and Irish languages, where interpretation of such lyrics is paramount to the performance and appreciation of these most powerful melodies, I feel that the renditions performed by Fíodhna on this album are true to every essential component that such pieces require.
On a personal level, Track Two ‘Easter Snow’ and Track Ten ‘The Banks of Sullane’ stand out to me as highlights from this most beautiful collection of airs that will be forever cherished because of sensitive recordings like this one. It is important to point out at this stage that Fíodhna’s musical collaborators deserve serious mention for their magical contributions – the stunning vocals of Cathy Jordan, coupled with the wizardly accordion tones of Martín O’Connor, and of course those of her own father Bobby, augment this recording in the most appropriate way imaginable. The accompaniment throughout remains exactly what it should be, allowing the powerful melodies to take their rightful place center-stage, as one would expect from such a stellar collection of musicians: Garry O’Briain, Liam Kelly, Seamie O’Dowd, Cathy Jordan, Bobby Gardiner and Mairtin O’ Connor. In my opinion, the stewardship of Seamie O’ Dowd as producer is the perfect catalyst in reaching recording utopia.
I wish this album and Fíodhna herself all the very best for the future and congratulate her once again on catapulting these most powerful airs to their rightful place, in gaining recognition up there with the more commonly played dance tunes.
Fíodhna Gardiner’s version of ‘Easter Snow’ on low whistle, amplified by button accordion, strings and guitar provides the perfect closing coda to the film ‘The Lord’s Burning Rain’, about a teenage boys journey of discovery. The boy is given the task of riding a newly purchased horse home through the beautiful Sheha mountains of West Cork in 1960’s Ireland, and on his way he has many strange encounters, including a tryst with a Didoesque tinker woman, a broken down Protestant farmer who gives him poteen, causing him to hallucinate and imagine himself observing some major battle scenes from Ireland’s War of Independence in which his father took part. The final haunting strains of Fíodhna’s ‘Easter Snow’, playing over images of the boy’s long dead mother, strike a deep chord of human longing.
“It is a pleasure to hear this ample collection of slow airs, so well arranged and played and with such variety of sound. The slow air has a great capacity for musical expression and Fíodhna and her fellow musicians and family are to be congratulated on giving fresh life to these old and beautiful airs”. (Peter Browne, Producer, RTÉ Radio 1, Ceilí House Programme)