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Celtic Solstice
Paul Winter
Celtic Solstice
Genres: World Music, New Age
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1

Paul Winter is a global eclectic who picks from the world's traditions, maintains their integrity, and at the same time retains his own distinctive voice. Few musicians could, in the span of two years, venture from the sol...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Paul Winter
Title: Celtic Solstice
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Living Music
Original Release Date: 2/9/1999
Release Date: 2/9/1999
Genres: World Music, New Age
Styles: Celtic, Meditation
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 010488003622, 010488152924

Paul Winter is a global eclectic who picks from the world's traditions, maintains their integrity, and at the same time retains his own distinctive voice. Few musicians could, in the span of two years, venture from the solo saxophone improvisations of Canyon Lullaby to the bossa nova of Brazilian Days and now Celtic music with Celtic Solstice and not sound like a dilettante. Winter sounds as committed as ever. He has been infatuated with Celtic music for years, and since 1996, some of the greats of Celtic music have participated in his annual Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Most of those musicians appear on Celtic Solstice, and many of the tracks were recorded in the cathedral. From the opening notes of Winter's soprano echoing in that reverberant space on "Triumph," it's clear this isn't your typical contemporary Celtic album. Winter is joined by organist Paul Halley and Irish uilleann piper Davy Spillane, and it's an impassioned, intuitive improvisation that swirls in echoing harmonies that lift to the cathedral's ceiling. And that's just the first track. Winter has put together a series of solos, trios, and larger ensemble pieces that work a similar magic. He's joined by singer Karen Casey from the group Solas on the serene "Golden Apples of the Moon." Tin whistle player and flutist Joanie Madden from Cherish the Ladies offers one of her loveliest compositions, "Running Through the Woods with Keetu," named for Winter's toddler daughter. But Celtic Solstice isn't all serene evocations of the Celtic spirit. Riverdance fiddler Eileen Ivers, harpist Carol Thompson, and uilleann piper Jerry O'Sullivan join a full ensemble of Irish, African, and South American percussion on "My Fair and Faithful Love/Blarney Pilgrim," which slow-builds to a full Irish stomp. Paul Winter has tapped into the communal nature of Irish music. It's the same spirit he takes from his jazz background. When he joins the pipes and whistles in dizzying improvisations or contemplative ruminations, there's a sense of shared exploration that takes you with him. --John Diliberto

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CD Reviews

"Boiled Potatoes for the Soul"
Bob Zeidler | Charlton, MA United States | 04/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I became hooked on Paul Winter's music some four years ago, when it was recommended to me that I listen to "Prayer for the Wild Things." That album grabbed and has yet to let go, and it led to my acquiring all of Paul Winter's albums, most recently "Celtic Solstice."

I have now had "Celtic Solstice" for some four weeks, and have since lost count of the number of times it has been played. More-or-less coincident with St. Patrick's Day, and purely as a lark, I decided to be a "music reviewer" for the album, without in mind. (The original intended audience was significantly smaller.)

Being able to write this review is a double treat: If it happens that I am an early customer to write an review of "Celtic Solstice," that would be a personal honor. At the same time, it gives me an opportunity to share my opinions with other browsers, which I trust can be helpful to them. It is difficult for me to imagine just who would be disappointed with this album.

The results ended up being equal parts whimsy, comments on the musicianship evident in the album, heart-on-sleeve reaction to the music's effect on me, and "referential" in terms of how each new album by Paul Winter succeeds in bringing to mind his earlier works. But I let you, the readers, judge for yourselves. Below are some excerpts:
"Karan Casey's... is a voice that comes straight from Heaven. She-and Paul Winter and Paul Halley-in `Golden Apples of the Sun,' will move you, quite probably to tears. Twice."

"...a 20-year odyssey to find ever better acoustical magic in this massive edifice (the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC). Winter has raised to an art form the ability to use this vast space to intimate perfection. being there!"

"...alternately bluesy and toe-tapping; a romp!"

"...the perfect instrumental trio for this venue. The combination of Spillane's reedy pipes, Winter's limpid sax and Halley on the Cathedral organ is guaranteed to reduce the listener to quivering jelly. If you are one who thinks that `The Sea of Dreams,' `Sun Singer' and `Nightwatch' represent the best work to date of these three, then I have very good news for you."

"...Mar bhrata sróil le seolta gleásta..."

"Paul Winter recently wrote `...our best work is yet to come.' It has already arrived. `Celtic Solstice' is the apogee of a very long arc, ...distillation of a lifelong musical vision and a credo that `less is more,' and again demonstrates that his circle of friends is boundless."

"...not an ordinary desert island album, this is the one I'll take with me to my old brown earth."

"This album finds Paul Halley at the top of his form. It has been the better part of two decades since we last heard him commit improvisations this good to recorded posterity."

"...brilliantly conceived, perfectly recorded and flawlessly performed, from the first note to the last fading echo."

"A Blues Cathedral dweller's dream come true. ...instant Grammy..."

"...the one that hits home. Had you been there, by dawn you would have been changed forever."

"...Boiled Potatoes for the Soul..."
The true Paul Winter aficianado will recognize many, if not all, of the references buried within the quotes. (Unless you are fluent in Irish Gaelic, one quote does demand that you dig into the text of the liner notes for "Celtic Solstice" for decoding. Once having done that, you will likely agree that the quote is apt.)

For the Paul Winter newcomers among you willing to accept the above "reviews" as a purchase recommendation, you are about to go on a fantastical musical journey. I feel comfortable in stating that "Celtic Solstice" will be just the first step of this journey and that the journey will be enjoyable indeed.

It is with some bemusement that I find this remarkable artist and impresario to be not better known or appreciated. An explanation may lie with the fact that his music knows no conventional genre barriers, and defies pigeonholing; another would appear to be related to what I perceive to be his modesty and absolute lack of interest in self-promotion. That his music typically ends up with the "New Age" rubric is misleading and unfortunate, since virtually nothing in this genre can be taken seriously, whereas his music wears amazingly well under repeated listening (surely a must for music to be considered "good"). His Consort members, collaborators and musical circle of friends have come from all fields, including classical, folk, jazz, pop, gospel, ethnic and world music. His albums have encompassed musical forms and forces both large and small. I most readily connect with what I choose to call "world chamber music," utilizing very reduced forces to convey small-scale yet vivid tonal pictures, as well as what I call "Cathedral blues." This latter describes the sense of the music that he and Paul Halley, his long-time collaborator, keyboardist and Consort composer, have achieved time and again, both in performance and on recordings. It is also a tongue-in-cheek take-off of a title in "Callings," the first album he produced and recorded in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine nearly twenty years ago.

"Celtic Solstice" is Cathedral blues perfected.

Bob Zeidler"
Beautiful, peaceful. The Soundtrack of Ireland.
Bob Zeidler | 04/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I got this albmu shortlyafter it won the 1999 Grammy award and I must say, I'm glad I did. This music is very soft, quiet, soothing, and very peaceful. It filled the atmosphere with wonderful sounds from the uillean pipes, organ pipes, low whistle, harp, and many other wonderful instruments, even the soprano saxaphone. I was very amazed that the soprano saxaphone, played by Paul Winter, made such a serene heavenly sound. There were many talented musicians like Davy Spillane, Eileen Ivers, Carol Thompson, and many others. Karan Casey very beautifully sang "Golden Apples of the Sun" and "Sweet Comeraghs". This music expressed the Celtic spirit and emotions. It transported me all the way to Ireland and sounded so much like the soundtrack of Ireland. It is pure Celtic. The only problem is that this CD has been labeled "New Age" rather than Celtic. This music expresses the many feelings of the Celts, today and long ago."
This is a wonderful, relaxing visit to Ireland !
Bob Zeidler | 04/14/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The combination of soprano sax,organ and pipes is an awesome sound.One is transported to Ireland with sound. Hauntingly beautiful! We have listened to it a number of times and with each session a new image appears. Paul winter is magical and the voice of Karan Casey is breathtaking!"