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Arvel Bird has long been known as “The Lord of the Strings.” He is a violinist and flutist that has become an award winning international sensation for his blending of Native American and Celtic sound. Bird’s mastery of his music is transcendent, going beyond the obvious and using his knowledge of Classical, Bluegrass, Folk, Celtic and Appalachian to craft a musical blend of genres that focuses on the violin as lead instrument. In his newest album, Titanic Centennial, Bird has done just that. His creative vision shines through to bring to life an epic event in history that still holds a fascination for us to this day. With the Centennial of Titanic’s sinking in April of 2012, this album resonates through the ages as we give tribute to the musicians, crew and passengers of that magnificent ship and the fateful night that forever haunts our dreams.
Picking only three songs to write about on this album was a challenge, as the entire album was a journey into the fateful night that claimed an unsinkable ship. “Celtic Connection” is the first track on the album and it springs to life with rapid fire violin playing and beautiful female vocals, shifting gears to a more classical Celtic violin sound. The music pouring from Bird’s instrument is sure and true, inviting us in to experience the might and majesty that dwelled in the Irish craftsman that made this incredible ship. You also hear the inspiration and hope that immigrants felt, looking toward America as “Farewell to Ireland” begins its bittersweet lament. Love of homeland conflicts with the desire for a better life, and so they embark on a journey that will ever change history. The slow and steady lament becomes a joy filled boot stomper of a celebration as the possibilities of a grand future shine in the distance. Bird captures the emotion perfectly and the energy pouring from the violin is remarkable.
“Adrift in the Dark” is theatrical music at its best. Sounds of the sea combine with ambient music, all but sending the water out of your speakers. Noises from the ship blend with flute playing to make you feel the mist of the sea air on your face. Panic filled bells and shouts ensue. Pulses race as the music turns disjointed and discordant. Crashing glass, whistles, people calling out in panic and sliding into the water as lights go dim. Passengers and crew alike gasp their last breaths as the frigid water closes over their heads. This piece is a true journey of what that night must have been like for those fated to be a part of Titanic’s history.
“Distant Shore” tinkles to life with erratic piano music spinning into Celtic flute playing. For the survivors of Titanic, seeing their rescuers and arriving at their destination must have been a bittersweet journey indeed. The pulsing and spiraling flute married with the proud violin music brings to life the shuddering relief of seeing the distant shore of America on the horizon and knowing they were going to live their dream, even while mourning their loved ones buried forever under the bottomless ocean waves.
Arvel Bird is a musician who is in constant evolution. He is almost always on tour, connecting with his fans in symphony halls and festivals. His method of fusing his Scottish and Native American ancestry to craft a unique blend of musical fusion is truly a delight to the ears. With Titanic Centennial, Bird nods his head toward the traditional songs played by bandleader Wallace Hartley and his three band members as they played to calm the passengers even as the ship went down. In original arrangements, Bird winds these pieces through his work, bringing the fateful voyage to life as we go on an audible journey of sound and sensation as the ship meets its fate. This album is magnificent and if you have ever been intrigued by the Titanic or Celtic fusion music, you owe it to yourself to listen.
Key Tracks- Celtic Connection, Adrift In the Dark, Distant Shore
Dana Staff
March 15, 2012
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