As it says on the packaging, Iona is a special place.
This is highly-acclaimed traditional musician, composer and teacher Paul Anderson’s impassioned interpretation of the people, history and landscape of this sainted island, and is part of his broader artistic programme ‘In the Footsteps of Colm Cille (St. Columba)’ which also includes paintings (island scenes by John Lowrie Morrison adorn the sleeve and notes) and poetry, all celebrating the renowned spirituality, scenery and almost touchable weight of history to be found on Iona. Nine musicians back Paul on the tracks and their contribution is knowing and generous.
Paul’s captivating compositions form a wide and compelling panorama, calling up songs of welcome and songs of parting, troubled seas, the diversity of nature, the coming of the longships, times of slaughter and days of peace. Adding extra hues to the tapestry are the insightful and lyrical poems of Francy Devine. All of these conspire with the sheer variety of form – airs, reels, jigs, poems or rowing songs, a jaunty march, a hornpipe or a hymn, to make a striking mixture, from the sparkling reel set ‘Iona Dance’ to the movingly subdued ‘The Ross of Mull’ and all senses in-between. In the reprised pibroch air ‘The Tomb Of The Kings’ Paul and piper Jack Taylor offer their tributes to old stones and hallowed bones. Ali Napier’s sensitive mastering is, well… masterful.
Whether you have visited Iona or not, the atmosphere of the place will be upon you from the moment when the other-worldly notes of the opening piece beckon, to the last words of ‘Light of the West’, a peaceful hymn of farewell.
A light-hearted musical travel advert? No. A magical journey freely and happily made? Definitely.