Alison Vardy,
(self-produced, 2000)

I like the name of this musical offering -- Apasionada rolls off the tongue in soft, succulent motions. Alison Vardy's fingers ride the waves of her harp strings -- sometimes strumming, sometimes plucking, like a turbulent ocean.

Vardy stirs the ocean to motion with "Get Moving," a lively tune with Russian-influenced rhythms. This one makes me long for a challenging game of Tetris. "Dunedin" slows the pace as Vardy gives her own musical tribute to a place she knew well -- it's a soothing and reverent piece. The listener may catch a glimpse of fairies dancing in the fields while taking in "Peerie House ahint the Burn/Spoot O'Skerry," a collection of Scottish tunes from the Shetland Islands -- all with satisfying Celtic flavour.

"Yvone Yvonke/Los Bibiliocos" features a rhapsodic combination of both Macedonia and Greece and Sephardic Jewish cultures. Like the combination of oil and vinegar, this traditional love song and melancholy melody blend for a thirst-quenching sip of Middle/Eastern Europe. Although its origins stem from Brittany France, "Schottishe du Stockfish" rocks the soul in a distinct Celtic style -- a definite favourite track!

The third of Vardy's own compositions (along with "Get Moving" and "Dunedin Farewell" and the upcoming "Whimsical Breeze," "Animacion," "Kulasunda" and "Carousel") "Peace River Lullaby" delights the ear. The composer/performer attributes the sounds to the "rolling golden hills of the Peace River Country in northern British Columbia." "A Belen vinde Pastores," a charming melody from Northern Spain. combines traditional folk music with strains of Celtic -- another delightful arrangement. The tides change in "Una Luz en el Mar/Llano," which portrays the syncopated rhythm genres from South America. Alfredo Roland Ortiz a renowned Paraguayan harpist composed both familiar harp pieces. Although certainly exemplary harp music, personally, I prefer Vardy's own compositions and other selections to these two standards.

Covering the mood and feel of yet another European region, "Roly Gentle/Johnson's Hornpipe" washes upon the shores of Northumbria. Vardy credits Kathryn Tickell, a Northumbrian piper, as inspiring these arrangements. "Whimsical Breeze" flows and ebbs to lively rhythms. A contemporary Israeli dance tune, "Zemer Atik/Shalom Aleicham," provides another reason to sway, as it conjures images of silk scarves twirling in the air.

Vardy's harp strings come to life just as magically as wooden puppets turn into real boys in "Animacion." Likewise, legends come to life with fluttering, flapping wings in Ireland's beloved Celtic tune "King of the Fairies."

Then, once again the tide shifts as Vardy recreates a traditionally based "thumb piano" pop rhythm from Zimbabwe. Next, "Streets of London/Pachelbel's Canon" brings the listener to a place perhaps less exotic than its forerunners, but the music swells and bobs pleasantly.

Alison Vardy's accomplished harp playing provides a soothing, 65-minute drift on the ocean with Apasionada. "Carousel," Vardy's own composition, provides one last spin before the plug of the melodic ocean is pulled and the listener is left on dry land. But there's a cure -- immerse yourself in this CD again!

[ by Lynne Remick ]