Karan Casey & Friends,
Seal Maiden, a Celtic Musical
(Music for Little People, 2000)

Seal Maiden tells the timeless Celtic myth of the Silkie, the seal who becomes human when she dwells on the sandy beach during the changing of the tides. After years of yearning for her mother seal and the Atlantic waves, the Seal Maiden marries a young fisherman and gives birth to a son with half seal and half human blood. One day while she's asleep, her son takes his soft, white sealskin, goes down to the beach and disappears into the cold waves.

What a grief for both mother and father, but one day the young boy comes back and returns to his mother her own skin, which she had lost in the ocean so many years ago. Full of joy, both return to the beach, slip into their sealskins and, now a seal again, the Silkie meets her mother and they live together for the rest of their lives. The young boy, though, regularly comes back on land to see his father, while the former Seal Maiden keeps her son's sealskin safe until he returns to the deep blue sea.

This poignant story, well known to many from the movie The Secret of Roan Inish, comes to life with a new and wonderful telling by playwright Marina Carr, hauntingly and beautifully animated by Karan Casey's narration and the accompanying music.

The CD opens with John Spillane's "We're Going Sailing." Casey's sublime singing is accompanied by Mick Daly's fine guitar and Mel Mercier's soft percussion. Niall Vallely lays a smooth carpet of keyboard sounds while Michael McGoldrick's flute adds the airy mood of the wide Atlantic and seems to caress Casey's voice with its beautiful sound. Dezi Donnelly on fiddle plays a fantastic duet with McGoldrick. The next song is a traditional called "The Cradle Song" arranged by Altan's Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Daly and Vallely. Ni Mhaonaigh's wonderful voice is accompanied by Daly on guitar and Vallely on low whistle, a lovely song with a Gaelic chorus. McGoldrick adds the background music on the uileann pipes and whistles to Casey's animated storytelling throughout this part of the CD.

"The Silkie Song" by Ger Woulfe is another angelic ballad sung by Casey, while on Woulfe's "The Seasons," she enchants the listener with her divine singing. The next song "The Wriggly Eels," written by Casey, is perfectly sung by a chorus of seven girls, as is the traditional tune "The Waves Down in the Ocean" -- it's a stunning a cappella performance discreetly supported by Casey. Then Martin Hayes on fiddle and Dennis Cahill on guitar play an instrumental traditional tune "Port Na bPucai," a sad but beautiful air perfectly expressing the Seal Maiden's yearning for the ocean.

"The Song of the Seal" is a traditional song and is certainly one of my favourites on this CD. Casey's voice makes this hauntingly beautiful melody with a Gaelic chorus a perfect way to show the irresistible beauty of the Seal Maiden. "Taim Cortha Bheith Im Aonar Im Lui" is sung by Iarla O'Lionaird of the Afro Celt Sound System. On the traditional Gaelic song "Seoithin," the guitar and percussion lay a carpet on which Casey's voice dances with the fiddle and flute. "Maidin Aiseach," another Gaelic traditional arranged by O'Lionaird, symbolises the beautiful singing of the Seal Maiden's son.

"The Loony Moon," a fantastic, rhythmic song written by Casey, leads us to the final euphorically beautiful episode of the story, the homecoming of the seal and her reunion with her mother. Spillane's beautiful ballad of mermaids and the ocean closes the story with a reprise.

Seal Maiden is a fantastic journey through a Celtic myth, a pleasure for children as well as for their parents, brilliantly narrated by Casey and accompanied by some of the finest folk musicians in the field. This is an excellent gift for your kids.

- Rambles
written by Adolf Goriup
published 13 March 2004

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