Pianist Barry Douglas wonders at the rare communicative and emotional power of Celtic culture
Strong prevailing winds blow at the behest of the change of seasons, and many unidentified flyers land in foreign lands. Many are meteorologically encouraged on to Ireland’s shores.
Some of these out-of-town birds didn’t necessarily intend to be found dawdling around Irish landscapes, but us nosey humans can delight in spying on these gorgeous creatures. Indeed, some of the most powerful and exotic feathered immigrants, no matter how transitory, are the regal Canadian geese who regularly prance about near Lough Neagh, Co Armagh. We are all agog!
What wind blew human creatures toward climes afar? What turned our GPS direction suggestions? What onslaught wrenched us from the bosom of our family and community? Many are constantly haunted by these old stories and forces. To this day people face tragedy and feel the need or are forced to abandon their communities. How to document people’s displacement is unfortunately not my forte.
My immediate and biased passion is to salute and empathise with the history of Celtic people dating back to BC. I am still counting on luck with weather and schedule and of course, my resolve that I could be present in person on December 21 to see the Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Ireland – witnessing the incredible illumination by the piercing sun’s rays of the burial chamber – remember that this is a structure built before the Egyptian pyramids!
The music of the vast Celtic historic region beguiles us and haunts us all. But why is this? For example, why do Asian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Latin-American – not to mention all other peoples of this complex planet feel touched by these magical utterances?
It is possible that the Celtic Odyssey could have been an event of which Odysseus even could have been proud. France (Gaul) has markers to this day that show us where the great Celtic leader, Vercingetorix fought the Roman armies.
What is the latest breaking news on the state of Celtic music and culture? I hasten to add that this CD collection of mine ('Celtic Reflections') is not any sort of answer to such a question. The plethora of impressive Celtic festivals in Europe and elsewhere show the richness of Celtic music and art-forms.
This CD is simply and unashamedly a collection of music with which I have grown up and a few and arrangements I have toyed with over the years of travel as an itinerant and happy musician. We are inestimably grateful and fortunate to have been handed down the collection of Edward Bunting - thanks to the Linenhall Library, Belfast - for the ancient Harp Festival of late 18th century at which harpists from all over Ireland gathered in Belfast.
What we can be happy about is the wealth of great culture that lives on and provokes and inspires a whole new generation. We can catch a glimpse and enjoy the smell and taste of a bygone moment.
Why does this music seduce us? Whatever our culture or ethnic background there is a very strong pull and feeling of synergy with Celtic culture. All of us identify with timeless truths and images - whether you are a supporter of Jung or Freud, whether a pragmatist or intellectual - the primeval truths of all culture, and in this case Celtic culture, touch us all.