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“A Star in the East”
Mykola Leontovych/Traditional English/15th century Burgundian (arr. R. McFarlane): God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/L’Homme Armé (medley)
15th century French/Traditional Polish/17th century English: O Come, O Come Emmanuel/Infant Holy, Infant Lovely/I Saw Three Ships (medley)
Ronn McFarlane: A Star in the East – Grinch on the Run – Early Christmas Morning Gigue
Traditional English: Greensleeves
Samuel Barber: Sure on this Shining Night, opus 33, n° 13
Piae Cantiones: Personent Hodie
Southern Harmony/Howard Blake (arr. R. McFarlane): What Wondrous Love is This/Walking in the Air (medley)
Traditional Irish (arr. R. McFarlane): The Wexford Carol
Carolyn Surrick: Mizzie Mine
Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane (arr. R. McFarlane): Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Johann Sebastien Bach (arr. C. Surrick): Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light
Robert Croo: Lully Lullay (The Coventry Carol)
Piae Cantiones Tune (arr. D. Merceruio and B. Doser): Good King Wenceslas

Ronn McFarlane (lute), Carolyn Surrick (viola da gamba), Jackie Moran (bodhrán, banjo)
Recording: WBEZ Studio, Chicago, Illinois (May 2021) – 39’82
Flowerpot Productions 012021 – Booklet in English

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, sipping mulled wine, stoking the fire, falling snowflakes or the wind rushing through a forest of pine trees are just a few of the inviting reminders when turning the final page of the yearly calendar…all heartwarming images to say the least, but the brilliance of these memories seemed to be transfigured into something vastly different as the world’s scourge began to surface in 2020.

Sometimes, however, devastation has silver linings and silver hope. In this case, it brought together the talents of Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick in their first construction, “Fermi’s Paradox”, that sorted out musical solvency during the current teetering state of affairs. Now with a more promising outlook, the duo returns to re-engage the memories of Christmas through music that has deep profundity. The venture wasn’t an easy task, but the end result touched a wider galaxy. The folksy, well-articulated booklet preambles the music, and it allows a spiritual awakening for every listener.

Christmas, the central focal point surrounding “A Star in the East”, gives occasion to transfigure traditional music into relevant optimism. Reciprocity is that dignified jewel glistening throughout: M. McFarlane and Mlle Surrick take turns at the melodic helm. Several of the pieces, arranged by the lutenist, are soothing and slightly contemporary. When adding the viola de gamba’s bass harmony, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is one of the most endearing extractions on the album. Personal stories are integrated into the matrix, adding shavings of nostalgic sweetness and semisweet reflections such as Mizzie Mine. [It should be noted that the viola de gamba resonances get a tad “over-domineering” and boisterous in several selections]. In addition to the percussive bodhrán, M. Moran opens Lully Lullay with his tangy banjo plucks that give strong tartness to the score. Medleys are also a returning favorite which have interesting transitions and refreshing variations.

“A Star in the East” is pure joy.

Christie Grimstad




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