2023 / Brad Jacobsen Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Celtic Piano is an exceptional solo piano album by Brad Jacobsen, a wonderful story-teller both with and without words. The idea for the album came from Brad's mother's recent discovery that she is more than 1/4 Irish. Brad decided to explore some Celtic music, which includes the musical traditions of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales as well as some regions of England and other parts of Europe. He intentionally kept his arrangements of the eleven songs simple in order to focus on the melodies, some of which are familiar and some that are not. The beauty of these timeless songs shines brightly through Brad's expressive interpretations and arrangements. You might notice that I'm not singling out any favorites from Celtic Piano. That's because I really like all of them!
The album opens with "Pulse of My Heart," a gentle Irish love song that begins in the upper half of the piano keyboard with a light touch that almost dances on the keys. After the first verse, the piece moves into the more "normal" playing range of the keyboard, adding even more warmth and depth of emotion. "The Star of County Down" is a folk song from the later nineteenth century, and Brad's arrangement is passionate, lyrical, and from the heart. "Carrickfergus" was named for a town in Northern Ireland. Dreamy and wistful, this arrangement evokes beautiful images of the lush green of the countryside. "The Galway Shawl" is also a folk song from Ireland, and tells the story of a rural courtship. I love the way the flowing left hand supports the beautiful melody. "Loch Lomond" is a new recording of "By the Banks (Loch Lomond)," Brad's most popular non-holiday track on Spotify.
Although the original song goes back much farther, "The Foggy Dew" became very popular during the Irish Rebellion in 1916 with completely different lyrics (the original was a love song). Brad keeps his solo piano arrangement simple and expressive, conveying loss, mourning and sadness as well as elements of strength and pride. "Raglan Road," a poignant story of unrequited love, beautifully expresses feelings of loss and disappointment. Brad's arrangement of "The Song of the Woods" is intended to feel like a reflective, prayerful moment in the woods. Brad mentions that the lyrics are perfect for those who feel the presence of God or their Creator the most powerfully in nature. "Be Thou My Vision" is a beautiful Celtic hymn that has become exceptionally popular as an instrumental, and Brad's version is gorgeous.
Brad told me that his arrangement of "The Lambs on the Green Hills" is based on the title only and that he visualized "cute white lambs prancing around the lush green hills of Ireland." The original lyrics are much darker, so we'll go with Brad's gentle interpretation! "That's an Irish Lullaby" (aka "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral") is a classic Irish-American song that was written for a musical in 1913 and was popularized thirty years later by Bing Crosby. It's a dreamy piano arrangement and brings this wonderful album to a close.
Celtic Piano is musical storytelling at its best! The album is available to download and/or stream from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify and others. CDs and songbooks are available from Brad's website, as is the sheet music for individual pieces. Very highly recommended!
October 15, 2023