An ear-catching selection of compositions with Celtic and Gregorian chant influences. Several Medieval instruments, such as the haunting gemshorn flute and recorder, combine with synthesizers to give a new sound to music which recalls an era of mist-shrouded castles, awe-inspiring cathedrals and lively peasant dances.
For the contemporary music fan there is usually a sharp division between secular and religious music.
However, the average person living in Medieval Europe was used to a cross-pollination of musical styles. Often the melodies that showed up in the ballads and dance-oriented tunes popular with peasants had their roots in Gregorian chant.
In turn, some composers of early liturgical music borrowed melodies from the love songs of the troubadours who traveled through much of continental Europe.
The result of this cross-pollination is the basis of much of the music we still hear today in Celtic music, with its selection of jigs and slower ballad-style pieces. The tunes often retain a melodic and rhythmic sense that reaches as far back as the 10th Century.
By using a variety of Medieval secular and liturgical music as a jumping-off point, composer Alice Gomez presents a unique take on what is usually considered "ancient music."
She takes such Renaissance and Medieval dance forms as the galliard and courante and faithfully presents their melodies and rhythms in arrangements that call for synthesizer as well as such period instruments as the gemshorn flute, rebec and recorder.
In addition, she has written three solo pieces for the haunting gemshorn flute, based on church music of the Middle Ages.
However, there is a historical precedent for this mixing and matching of musical styles.
Descriptions of religious pilgrimages made to Santiago de Compostela, in Northwestern Spain, relate how itinerant musicians played a variety of music for the pilgrims along the journey that took them through two sets of mountain ranges. The pilgrims' emblem was the scallop shell.
The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was the goal of the pilgrims' journey because the body of St. James, or Santiago in Spanish, was said to have been buried there.
Listening to "Miracles & Mountains" it's easy to imagine a group of pilgrims making their way across Galicia, Spain's strongly Celtic province.
"Shepherd's Danse" marks the joyful beginning of the pilgrims' journey while cuts such as "Chant for Solitude" reflect the religious nature of the journey.
"Pavane For A Dreary Night" brings to mind the constant storms that are as much a part of Galicia as its green hills.
Other cuts such as "Song of the Goatherd" and "Celtic Dreams" conjure other pictures of the pilgrims' journey culminating in the solemn "Pastoral Meditation" at the end of the pilgrimage.
All compositions by Alice Gomez. Copyright © 1995 Musiquest (ASCAP)
Note 1: "Shepherd's Danse", "Seafarer's Galliard", "Courante", "Earthly Delights", "Majestic River", and "Celtic Dreams" also appear on Iago Music compilation 207D, "French Blend: Celtic Music's French Odyssey", Copyright © 1998.