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Music Spotlight: Winifred Horan

In this new section, I’ll feature music that I love to dance to that is a bit out of the main limelight in the Irish dance world or brand new music.

Music Spotlight: Winifred Horan

I first heard Winifred’s music when I was listening to Ceol na nGael on WFUV, Fordham University’s radio station. For those that don’t know, Ceol na nGael is a radio program that features Irish music and updates on Irish events in the greater NYC area. It also does a rundown of the latest news and sports results from Ireland. The program airs on Sunday from 12-4pm, Eastern Time. However, you can listen live to the program here from across the globe!

They often have a general theme and last week’s theme was the members of the band Solas. Solas are a fabulous Irish band that were founded in 1996 and have continued to rock the Irish music world. But don’t take my word for it, here are some of the reviews that are featured on their website:

“Even before the release of its first Shanachie CD, the Boston Herald trumpeted the quartet as “the first truly great Irish band to arise from America,” and the Irish Echo ranked Solas among the “most exciting bands anywhere in the world.” Since then, the praise has only grown louder. The Philadelphia Inquirer said they make “mind-blowing Irish folk music, maybe the world’s best.The New York Times praised their “unbridled vitality“, the Washington Post dubbed them one of the “world’s finest Celtic-folk ensembles” and the Austin American-Statesman called them “the standard by which contemporary Celtic groups are judged.

Big praise! Their latest album, The Turning Tide, came out in 2010 and you can listen to samples here.

Winifred Horan plays the violin with the band and also does vocals. Her solo album, Just One Wish, came out in 2002 and is the inspiration for this post! The album is full of etheral songs that would be perfect for an Irish dance show. The song that I first heard was Giants Fall. It’s a powerful song in which the almost tragic sounding violin is matched by a powerful backbeat. It gives a feeling of a sad, but revengeful story. Here’s a youtube video featuring the song:

I’m thinking a strong, powerful hardshoe would go great with it! Maybe something like the Countess Cathleen number from Riverdance. It would be perfect in a dance drama. Soft shoes could come in around 2:26 to add some variety too. It’s not typical Irish dance timing, but that’s what makes show choreography fun! You don’t have to follow all the rules!

In terms of the other songs on the album, The Sparkling Fairy/Taro’s Blue Eyes is a very pretty light jig. Sean at the Wheel/Life on the Road is a lively reel that a lot of energy to keep you practicing. It sounds fast, but from my quick practicing with it, it’s actually pretty on par with Irish dancing music. And I’m not positive if you could dance to it, but Into Your Eyes/Django Twango is just a fun song to listen to! Very relaxing – imagine you’re on a beach!

Her other album is Serenade with Mick McAuley, also from Solas. Again, another album full of Irish tunes creatively and smoothly combined with other music sources. Jug of Punch Set would be perfect for a figure choreography number. Fast reel with plenty of pauses and music changes to choreograph to. I love The Joyous Waltz which brings Irish music to the streets of Paris! Perfect for a dance drama set in Paris! I know I always struggled with trying to find fun music for beginners and The Peerless Hornpipe is a really nice fast hornpipe. Perfect for practicing those first steps! Serenade is another song that would be hard to dance to, but is absolutely lovely.

What do you think? Any other songs from Winifred that you like? Ever used them in choreography or to practice with?

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