FROM WHENCE WE CAME
Crazy instruments. Diverse backgrounds. Musicians born in four different decades, who live in six different states. As my brother, the publicist said, “But what’s the connective tissue?”
Here’s the thing—the connective tissue is us. It is our sensibility. Our musical curiosity. Our commitment to each other’s passion. And we aren’t the same. We aren’t even from the same generation.
Isaac Alderson, the youngest of us, was the first person to win the All Ireland Competition in three divisions, in one year. Yep, he kills. Uilleann pipes, whistles and flutes.
Kathryn Montoya is a much sought-after early music performer for both studio work and on stage. With wicked chops on baroque oboe and recorder (and now penny-whistle) she can read music like the wind, is insanely brilliant, speaks two languages, and is very intense.
Ryan McKasson plays Scottish fiddle but he’s more than that. And as anyone who has worked with him will tell you, he has a prodigious mind and is constantly listening for the most compelling harmony line, the most beautiful melody, the most interesting orchestration. He is focused like a laser beam on the music in the room.
Jackie Moran has been a member of some of the great traditional Irish bands in America. He has played with everyone, knows thousands of tunes, loves the most hated instruments in Irish music (bodhran and banjo), can install light fixtures and drive all night in a snowstorm, and is steady like a rock.
Those are the people in their thirties and forties.
Then you have Sue and me. The people in our fifties and seventies. The Celtic harp and the viola da gamba people.
For a long time I have referred to Sue as the four-time U.S. National Scottish Harp Champion, but that was twenty years ago. We are older now. We have not only been through touring, and raising families and recording CDs and creating special projects and playing with some of the finest Irish and Scottish musicians in the world. We have found our voices. And our voices are our instruments.
She teaches. She adjudicates Scottish harp competitions. She tours with Ensemble Galilei. She writes tunes. She will not stop thinking until she has found the most perfect chord progression. She brings beauty to every recording. We each bring something. She brings beauty. I am the ground upon which we walk. She is the air, the wind, the sun.
So we sit down, everyone brings the tune that they love the most that day, and we work. We play, we arrange, we obsess, we give in, we give up, we start again. This is not a recording of Celtic music. It is not a recording of early music. It is an Ensemble Galilei recording. It is the best of us. Our best tunes, our best performances, our best arrangements. Each track on this recording tells a story that one of us wants to tell, needs to tell.
And yes, the instrumentation is unlike any other. And the repertoire is all over the place. And we are an unlikely group of people assembled in a studio. But in this year, with this recording, we brought our true selves, bright and shining, battered and lost, and we celebrate From Whence We Came.
-Carolyn Anderson Surrick Ensemble Galilei
From Norway and Ireland Peru and Germany England, Scotland and Sweden
our ancestors carried in their satchels a few possessions, hope and tragedy in their hearts.
the mirror reflects her eyes his jaw their cheekbones
the music we make is ours but also theirs
melodies comforting holding us close harmonies drawn from a past we do not remember
we play on and are left to wonder and celebrate from whence we came.
SURROUNDED BY ANGELS: A Christmas Celebration with Ensemble Galilei
2 Disc Set: Audio CD and Blu-Ray Surround DVD
Captivating. Monumentally expressive. Powerful. Passionate performances.
From the opening unison strings of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence to the last note of Silent Night, this CD courses with the extraordinary arrangements of Ensemble Galilei, created by musicians whose musical sensibilities have been shaped by their personal histories. Each renowned in their fields – two winners of the All-Ireland Senior Championship, two winners of the U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championship, a four-time winner of the U.S. National Scottish Harp Championship, one Fulbright Scholar – they bring phenomenal talents to bear. What comes from this wealth of experience and expertise is an astonishing recording.
A set of whimsical Irish slip jigs follows Greensleeves. The uillean pipes, soulful and wild, solo on the familiar Wexford Carol. The violin, viola and viola da gamba transform I Wonder as I Wander. Each track a revelation, Ensemble Galilei has made Surrounded By Angels so rich and so deep that it transcends the genres of Irish or Scottish or Early Music. So much more than the sum of its parts, this is the recording that will stand year after year as the most beloved recording for the Christmas season.