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Nutmeg & Ginger

IONA's Celtic Winter Solstice celebration. Tunes and carols from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Galicia are woven together vocally and instrumentally. With guest performances by U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion, Elke Baker, on two of the tracks. Barbara Ryan, Bernard Argent, and Diana McFadden. 49 minutes. Released in 1996. Reissued in Dec 2012.
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Album cover
"The arrangements are elegant and spare...and the three part harmonies pretty and precise...In short this is an album for those interested in a traditional variation on Yuletide."
- Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post. Read the whole review
"...one of the most delightful seasonal recordings in recent memory."
- Dave Sleger, CelticMusic.Com (Read the whole review)
What a perfect Chrismas present!
See also the Liner notes and Lyrics


Nutmeg & Ginger was reviewed by Mark Jenkins in the Washington Post
Friday, November 15 1996; Page N13
under the title:

Iona's Traditional Twist on Carols

The review is © Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company. Here are some excerpts:

...NAMED AFTER the spices in Wassail, the hot ale traditionally drunk in Britain during winter holidays, Iona's "Nutmeg & Ginger" collects "music of the winter season" from the seven Celtic "nations" recognized by the Celtic League: Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Brittany, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Galicia. That sounds exotic, but it's just a cover for what "Nutmeg & Ginger" really is: an album of medleys of Christmas carols...

...This Northern Virginia trio's music is not as banal as the seasonal Muzak that will soon pervade the local malls. The arrangements are elegant and spare -- guitar, mandolin and flute predominate -- and the three-part harmonies are pretty and precise. These qualities make such tunes as " 'Ma Grun War 'N Gelynen" (that's Cornish) and "Cwrw Da" (Welsh for "good beer") a treat. Still, some of the melodies (if not the lyrics) are overly familiar. In short, this is an album for those interested in a traditional variation on Yuletide tradition, but not for those who hope never to hear another "fa-la-la-la" so long as they live...


December 1997 Issue

Music Reviews
By Dave Sleger

While seasonal recordings of the Celtic variety are in abundance, the first half of this column will attempt to emphasize a few of the more noteworthy ones. Yes, traditional Christmas carols are among the most beautiful and heartfelt pieces ever written. Unfortunately by the beginning of December many of the better-known songs have already fallen victim to overkill and by the week of the 25th who wants to hear them anymore? Thankfully many artists are discovering an (until recently) untapped treasury of Christmas carols and songs.

IONA: NUTMEG & GINGER - Barnaby Productions (BP4651CD)

[Hailing from Virginia this group should not be confused with the UK group bearing the same name.] An equal opportunity ensemble, Iona routinely borrows material from each of the seven Celtic nations. As with their previous album HOLDING OUR OWN (BP9811CD) lead vocalist (and guitarist) Barbara Ryan sings those songs in the appropriate native tongue. While some artists might defensively claim that selections like "J'Ai Vu Le Loup" or "Can Y Fari Lwyd" are best interpreted as instrumentals, Ryan is not dissuaded by the incredibly daunting Welsh language or the complex French nuances. She tackles those as well as Gaelic and Cornish songs with seeming ease and respect to each language. Her powerful and versatile voice is perhaps unequalled in the traditional Celtic arena. Completing the trio is Bernard Argent on flute, whistles and bouncy vocal harmonies and Diana McFadden on cello, cittern and mandolin. Their combined efforts yield a thoroughly authentic, well-rounded and full-sounding three piece. The challenging and unconventional selections on NUTMEG & GINGER coupled with their impeccable delivery make this one of the most delightful seasonal recordings in recent memory.

Copyright © 2018 Barnaby Productions, Inc.

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Page updated December 2, 2012 - Bernard Argent