In early September Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres released Mandorla, an album which features tunes from across the world. Schryer is one of Canada’s leading traditional fiddle players with a wealth of awards to his name; Dobres is a guitar player with a similarly broad international background and an easy skill, on this album mainly on acoustic guitar.
Mandorla, I gather, is a noun which means “an almond shape made by the intersection of two circles of the same radius creating the outline of a lens; a dynamic symbol that signifies the overlap of two entities and their commonality” – you can see the linked letters ‘O’ and ‘D’ in the album cover above. The title clearly relates both to the interlinking of musical styles, different countries – and the playing of Schryer and of Dobres.
The album has ten tracks and there are plenty of lovely tunes and playing throughout. The video below takes you to ‘Bruach na Carraige Baine’ (The Edge of the White Rock) which I’ve picked out to show how the two musicians complement each other on this haunting love song from southwest Ireland.
But I could have picked most of the tracks. The opening ‘Berber Tune/Blue Fiddle/ Trip To Dingle’ is also one of my favourites. As the title indicates, the track is a medley of tunes from different parts of the world a traditional north African tune pairing with a slip-polka and a contemporary polka. This is much more upbeat than ‘Bruach na Carraige Baine’ and, in a different way, just as delightful.
The album as a whole, then, is a lovely mix of styles and origins which Schryer & Dobres lift through their playing. ‘Fleur de Mandragore/Berthier-sur-mer’ are a couple of tunes from a French-Canadian heritage, similarly ‘La Valse Des Jouets’. Elsewhere traditional tunes are blended with newer music. ‘Orca’s Jig/The Humours Of Glendart/The Banks Of Lough Gowna’ mixes a Dobres tune with the two from the Irish tradition – and will get you wanting to dance; ‘Twas Within A Furlong Of Edinburgh Town/My Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe/Carolan’s Concerto’ mingles Scottish, Irish and baroque. Dobres’ ‘Freda’s Journey’ is influenced stylistically by the voyage his Jewish grandmother took from Russia to Canada; likewise, ‘Lapp’s House of Music/Whitefish in the Rapids’ combines Schryer’s composition with a traditional reel.
I’ll conclude by quoting the sleeve notes for the final track, ‘Sheepskin & Beeswax/The Easy Club Reel/Tico Tico’: “Tunes from different parts of the world written at different points in time meet in the “mandorla” of commonality. This set represents the natural transformation of music as it passes from ear to ear, hand to hand. An old Irish reel arrives in Quebec, a contemporary Scottish tune finds its way to the west of Canada, a Brazilian choro becomes a North American favourite” – those notes give you a good sense of Mandorla the album, a melting pot of music which two skilled musicians make a delight to listen to.
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‘Bruach na Carraige Baine’: