Reviews of Amala Music

Here are some of the things that have been written about us in the press and other places.

Irish Times review of our CD “resonance”:

Irish Times Review of Resonance by Amala“This fine collection is full of glorious barrier-breaking music. Reidun Schlesinger and Paul de Grae break every rule in the book, to glorious effect, as they bridge the gap between baroque tunes, traditional, tantalising original compositions, and even one borrowed from Dave Brubeck.

The subtlety of their various arrangements of Irish, English and Belgian tunes underscores the natural bedfellows that guitar and harp can make. Amid the forensically researched and delicately woven tune sets, Schlesinger’s chromatic harp carves something deliciously new from Brubeck’s (I’m Still in Love With) A Girl Named Oli.

And that’s not even the half of it. Yielding riches with each return visit, Resonance insinuates itself deep into the subconscious. No requirement for sledgehammers here.”

Siobhan Long

First published:Wed, Jun 15, 2016, 16:30 The Irish Times

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In the Autumn 2016 “Harpes Mag”, page 35:

(the review is in French; there’s a translation below)

Reidun Schlesinger nous a fait l’immense plaisir de nous envoyer, tout exprès d’Irlande, et avec une jolie carte du Kerry où elle habite et travaille, Resonance, le premier CD d’ Amala, le nouveau duo harpe-guitare qu’elle a formé avec le guitariste Paul de Grae.

Une riche collection de compositions traditionnelles irlandaises dont plusieurs pièces de O’Carolan et l’unique Miss Hamilton de Cornelius Lyons , avec pour le même morceau quelquefois plusieurs versions de diverses provenances, un vrai travail de recherche, et tout cela interprété avec un sens parfait de ces rythmes de danses endiablées et subtiles à la fois. La guitare de Paul apporte un soutien rythmique des plus efficaces et ajoute vibrato et à l’occasion modulations folk au jeu virtuose de Reidun.
Les deux musiciens ont mis aussi dans ce disque des morceaux d’origines variées, mazurkas, polkas et même bourrées auvergnates…On sent qu’ils s’amusent à jouer tout cela tantôt de façon traditionnelle, voire puriste, tantôt dans des arrangements très personnels et audacieux, jazzy ou bluesy à souhait. Aussi au programme une très belle pièce du pianiste de jazz Dave Brubeck I’m still in love with a girl named Oli qui prend à la harpe chromatique et à la guitare un relief surprenant, et même un morceau attribué à Henry Purcell !
Quelques improvisations et compositions personnelles, notamment à la fin du disque cette biguine aux accents celtiques…qui prouvent que, dans la musique folk, tout est possible…
Reidun joue sur une harpe celtique à crochets pas toute jeune, on dirait, mais dont elle extrait une sonorité superbe, et sur une chromatique 6/6 construite (en Allemagne, bien sûr!) par Henrik Schupp. Paul joue sur une guitare folk Martin qui date des années 80, et qui a du coffre…
A noter aussi une prise de son très réussie, sans artifices ni montages ; voilà ce qu’en dit Reidun :
ʺIl était important pour nous d’enregistrer cet album complètement en direct…seulement nousmêmes. Ce que vous entendez sur l’album est ce que vous entendez quand vous venez à un concert. Nous avons choisi d’enregistrer dans le studio de Garry O’ Briain, au bord du Burren, un homme et un lieu d’inspiration ! Garry a compris exactement ce que nous voulions et nous a mis en place dans une situation de jeu naturel, avec juste un panneau comme barrière acoustique entre nous et les microphones, placés prudemment, produisant un véritable son Amala. Nous aimons le résultat, nous espérons que vous l’aimerez aussi !ʺ
Here’s a rough translation (better at least than Google Translate, which thinks that “bourrées auvergnates” means “stuffed Auvergne”!):

Reidun Schlesinger pleased us greatly by sending us – all the way from Ireland, with a nice postcard of Kerry where she lives and works – “Resonance”, the first CD of Amala, the new harp-guitar duo she formed with guitarist Paul de Grae.

A rich collection of traditional Irish compositions including several pieces of O’Carolan and Cornelius Lyons’s unique “Miss Hamilton”, with sometimes several versions of the same piece from various sources, a real work of research, and all interpreted with a perfect feeling for those dance rhythms, frenzied and subtle at the same time. Paul’s guitar brings effective rhythmic support and adds vibrato and occasional folk modulations to Reidun’s virtuoso playing.

The two musicians have also put in this record pieces of various origins, mazurkas, polkas and even bourrées from the Auvergne … One feels that they have fun playing all of this, sometimes so traditional or purist, sometimes in very personal and daring arrangements, jazz or bluesy if you wish. Also in the programme is a very beautiful piece by jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, “(I’m still in love with) A girl named Oli”, which with the chromatic harp and guitar gives a surprising contrast, and even a piece attributed to Henry Purcell!

Some improvisations and original compositions, especially at the end of this disc – biguine [a rhythm-centric style of music that originated in Guadeloupe and Martinique in the 19th century, fusing 19th-century French ballroom dance steps with African rhythms] with Celtic accents … proving that in folk music, everything is possible …

Reidun plays a Celtic lever harp – not very new, it seems, but she extracts a great sound from it – and a chromatic 6/6 built (in Germany, of course!) by Henrik Schupp. Paul plays a Martin folk guitar dating from the 80s, and which has a great sound …

To be noted also, the sound recording is very successful, without special effects or overdubs; here’s what Reidun says:

“It was important to us to record this album completely live … just ourselves. So, what you hear on the album is what you’ll hear when you come to a gig. We chose to record in Garry O Briain’s studio on the edge of The Burren in County Clare – an inspirational man and an inspirational location. Garry understood exactly what we wanted, and set us up in a natural playing situation, with just a low sound baffle between us, and a careful microphone placing, producing a true ‘Amala sound’. We like the result. We hope you do too!”

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American author (“Paddy on the Hardwood”) and fiddler Rus Bradburd:

Is this the best Irish CD of the year? Probably….

(Facebook post, 21 October 2016)

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In the UK magazine fRoots, December 2016:

Irish/Belgian duo of guitarist Paul de Grae and harpist Reidun Schlesinger playing music from Celtic and outside sources. Exhilarating duet interplay with deft touches and intriguing material from Irish and European to Playford tunes make for challenging listening.

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In the German magazine FolkWorld #61:

Reidun Schlesinger is a Belgian artist who plays the Celtic harp since 1989 and the cross-strung chromatic harp since 1999. She has performed with several folk groups in her native Belgium such as Amorroma,[47] and she has written a tutorial for the Celtic harp, which is already available in German (“Mein Schlaues Harfenbuch”), with an English version in the pipeline. Reidun moved to the Irish Co. Kerry in 2008, where she first formed a duo with uilleann piper Barry Lynch, and recently teamed up with guitar player Paul de Grae. Paul is originally from Dublin, but is also based in Kerry these days. Way back in 1989, he has published “Traditional Irish Guitar,” the first ever tutorial for Martin Carthy tuning DADEAE. “Resonance” is their debut album, at the heart is traditional Irish music such as Sliabh Luachra polkas, Carolan harp pieces and clan marches from Playford’s 17th century English Dancing Master. There is “The Blackbird” played as slow Jacobite song air, its Appalachian version and Donegal fiddler John Doherty’s reel version. The Amala duo looks beyond the channel with Belgian bourrées, French mazurkas and Swedish polskas. They also feature jazz pianist Dave Brubeck’s “A Girl Named Oli” and two experimental compositions, the first a series of improvisations, the latter a mix of 7/8, 9/8 and 4/4 metres. Thus they span different traditions, time periods and genres, slide from faithful renditions to fancy variations and jazzy improvisations, and create their own particular soundscape, which is nevertheless connected with its traditional base.
© Walkin’ T:-)M

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Brian Hughes, presenter of “Ceol go Leor” on Liffey Sound 96.4FM:

It’s a pleasure to play music from your gorgeous CD – one of the best of 2016.

(Facebook post, 5 January 2017)

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In “The Living Tradition”, February 2016:

Private Label AMCD01

This new partnership between Irish guitarist Paul de Grae and Belgian harpist Reidun Schlesinger is a strong musical association, as evidenced by a cracker of a debut album, featuring harp and guitar music from multiple sources, but primarily Irish in origin. A sublime set of Belgian dances (Bourrée De Theux and Maclotte De Habiemont) gives the pair of them an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how they can harmonise their two instruments to effect. Playford is represented by a cracking trio (Once I Loved A Maiden Fair/The Hole In The Walls/All In A Garden Green). The variations on the Jacobite tune, The Blackbird, are another highlight, but my personal favourite must be the medley, The Galway Hornpipe, The Golden Eagle and The Independent Hornpipe.

There are even a couple of jazz selections – Rève d’Automne (Autumn Dream or Autumn Leaves) and Brubeck’s I’m Still In Love With A Girl Named Oli, as well as the customary Carolans.

This entire album was recorded in a ‘live’ setting (primarily so that it reflected their touring set and can thus be readily reproduced), without overdubs or guest musicians, and this is incredible when you appreciate how full the sound of the finished article is. It’s a long time since I heard so accomplished a first album, and having heard some wonderful offerings by other artistes over the past year, I can hand on heart say that this is my favourite, just sneaking under the wire at the tail end of 2016. Happy listening.

 Grem Devlin

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On Belgian website, Folkcorner den Appel:

We kind of knew the name Reidun Schlesinger already: she was harpist on the earliest three Amorroma CDs. In 2008 she moved to Kerry, where she was joined by Paul de Grae, Dubliner and well-known guitarist, session leader, with a series of important publications about guitar techniques to his name. Yet on this particular duo debut he is co-arranger, supporting player and accompanist; Reidun’s harp clearly gets the lead. Its flowing soundplay mostly goes back to the Baroque, mid 17th and early 18th centuries, featuring among others the usual suspects Turlough O’Carolan and John Playford. Besides that are their own compositions, Henry Purcell, also even Dave Brubeck, and traditional melodies ranging from Wallonia, France and Sweden. Guitar and harp, classical, traditional, a dash of jazz and original composition, harmonize perfectly with each other in an often playful way. And even if such a combination, harp and guitar, seems very minimalist, it is pleasant to float along with, the whole CD through. Light-stringed music for dark winter hours. And if they were to be on tour soon: ideal for intimate clubs and similar small scale. (Miel Appelmans)