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The Sound of IONA

Taking its name from the stretch of water between the islands of Iona and Mull, the album features piping, harping, bouzouki, bodhran/doumbek duets and vocal harmonies. Traditional Scottish, Irish, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton plus an original song by Loralyn Coles. The same IONA with some very new ideas from the line up of Barbara Ryan, Bernard Argent, National Scottish Harp Champion, Mary Fitzgerald, and world class piper, Bob Mitchell.. with guest appearances by Abby Newton on cello and legendary Breton singer Nolwenn Monjarret.
Released in 1998
Buy the CD
" ...produced with extraordinary craft...instrumental prowess and vocal ingenuity."
- Mike Joyce, The Washington Post. Read the whole review
" For a good musical meeting of Celtic nations Sound of Iona is tops."
- Art Ketchen - Celtic Beat Magazine. Read the whole review

See also the Liner notes and Lyrics


IONA "The Sound of Iona" Barnaby

Was reviewed by Mike Joyce in the Washington Post
Friday, November 20, 1998; Page N11

The review is © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company. Portions are excerpted below:

"The Sound of Iona," the Washington-based quartet's new album, is in truth a weave of sounds -- a Celtic tapestry of ancient tongues and tunes produced with extraordinary craft. Its common threads -- instrumental prowess and vocal ingenuity -- render language barriers irrelevant and swiftly lead listeners to a world of timeless music and soulful refrains...

... The ensemble has developed a truly distinctive repertoire, first by drawing from a wide variety of traditional sources, then by arranging the material in a colorful and often unexpected fashion. The band's new album, for example, opens with a performance of Scottish "mouth music," a curious slice of Gaelic life punctuated by a delightful jig. Similar pleasures and twists pop up throughout the recording, with the band frequently bridging, juxtaposing or reharmonizing tunes. Though deeply interested in the cultural roots of the Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton music it explores, Iona also has a passion for creating highly personalized interpretations. As a result, much of the band's music, including the medley here of "Bonnie Charlie," "Song of the Travelling Beggars," "Ma Mackenzie" and "Walking the Floor," allows both familiar and obscure tunes to shine in a new light...

... Save for the haunting ballad "Lark in the Morning, Wild Geese at Night," the album comprises traditional pieces, rendered with vitality and emotion by lead vocalist Barbara Tresidder Ryan, piper Robert Mitchell, harpist Mary Fitzgerald and flutist Bernard Argent. Two guests, cellist Abby Newton and vocalist Nolwenn Monjarret, further contribute to the music's multihued power and beauty...

Celtic Beat Logo
By Art Ketchen
Celtic Beat Magazine
Volume 5, Number 5 Nov/Dec '98; Page 4


The Sounds of Iona, the newest offering from that Pan Celtic quartet Iona from Virginia does a remarkable and skilled job of bringing those traditions together. Right from the start, with the opening set, Iona draws you in with skilled singing, instrumentals and pipes. I enjoyed "Brewers Lament"/"Queen Among the Heather"/"The Ate is Dear" with a modernized pibroch and dramatic treatment. Haunting - indeed chilling, and an appropriate tune for this time of year is the combination of "Lark in the Morning" with "Wild Geese at Night" bringing back to mind the dark and terrible days of the Penal era. Iona skillfully weaves back and forth between, grimness and gaeity, Brythonic and Gaelic, as when they move from a rolling Welsh tune "Y gwcw fach/nyth y gog" to a lonely Highhland pipe tune to the 19th century "pop" anthem "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shores." to "An Alarc'h" a grim Cornish song, about 3 knights which has nothing in common with the 3 knights song of by Liam Clancy.

An appropriate finish is provided by the too seldom heard Nolwenn Monjarret of Brittany. The Breton tune "The Month of May," a kan ha diskan tune, is combined with an andro (dance) and finished with a laridenn collected by Nolwenn's father. Nolwenn's clear, beautiful voice is here complemented by those of the band members, with a finale by Robert Mitchell(chanter) and Bernard Argent(bombarde) which is rousing. For a good musical meeting of Celtic nations Sound of Iona is tops.

© Copyright 1998 Celtic Beat Magazine

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Page updated July 21, 2012 - Bernard Argent