O'Regan Acallam na Senorach (Tales of the Elders)
English composer Tarik O’Regan has collected a large and enthusiastic following among choirs on both sides of the Atlantic. As well he might. His music is both accessible and original, maintaining interest by never quite settling into one clearly defined idiom. There are bits of American minimalism and contemporary rock alongside glimpses of ancient chant, folk melody and the English choral tradition. Thus far he has confined himself to relatively short pieces, some of which might be accused of placing beauty of sound above musical substance, but with this, his first really substantial score, O’Regan reveals that he is capable of sustaining interest over what amounts to a 60-minute time frame.
Acallam na Senórach (roughly translated the Gaelic title means ‘Dialogue of the Elders’) sets a medieval Irish epic using both English and Middle Irish words, accompanied by some florid classical guitar-playing from Stewart French and traditional Irish drumming from Jim Higgins and Frank Torpey. The music avoids cliché yet still evokes a palpable sense of ancient history and obscure rites.
O’Regan achieves this through considerable economy of means. Beyond the two basic instrumental colours, the musical argument is conveyed through a 16-voice chamber choir, with only occasional voices emerging in brief solos. It is a highly effective and, in places, inspired piece, beautifully delivered by Paul Hillier and the National Chamber Choir of Ireland, and cleanly captured in this fine Harmonia Mundi recording.