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Ocean: Songs for the Night Sea Journey CD Cover
Image © SunSign Records 2004

Jennifer Cutting Image © SunSign Records 2004
 

Jennifer Cutting recently released a wonderful collection of folk/rock and traditional songs called Ocean, Songs for the Night Sea Journey (SunSign Records (USA) SCD2004, 2004). The album was seven years in the making, and certainly well worth the wait. Jennifer is the composer, arranger and director of this lovely collection, also contributing her expertise in piano, organ, electronic keyboards, button and piano accordians.

She is a formally trained classical musician and a folk musician. Apparently, Jennifer is the last in a long family line of composer/ensemble leaders (her grandfather conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra and her great-grandfather was a published composer), as well as the first woman in her family to take up the baton. She has a bachelor’s degree in band and orchestra leadership and a master’s degree in ethnomusicology (the study of the music of non-Western cultures). She chooses to compose (for groups) new settings of traditional folk music, and innovative original music inspired by the tradition.

The album boasts contributions from guest artists including Maddy Prior and Peter Knight from Steeleye Span, Troy Donockley from Iona, and Dave Mattacks from Fairport Convention. Grace Griffiths, who performs vocals and whistle, built a reputation as a singer in Irish pubs and folk coffeehouses, as well as performed at the 1991 Philadelphia Folk Festival and later became known as the voice of the Celtic trio Connemara. Another contributing vocalist is Chris Noyes, former member of the original Chesapeake Bay folk trio, Crab Alley. Also deserving mention are vocalists Polly Bolton, Lisa Moscatiello and Tatiana Sarbinska.

Jennifer has put together a collection of beautiful, soothing melodies to rival bands such as Clannad, Capercaille, and Iona. The CD is a mix of folk/rock songs and more traditional Celtic music. Beginning with "Call of the Siren," the listener is gently lured into the aura of the sea. Sounding like the ebb and flow of the ocean, you enter an ethereal sounding world. "Out on the Ocean/Rolling Waves" are lively traditional jigs, enhanced by wonderful fiddle, Uilleann pipes, bouzouki and bodhrán instrumentals.

Grace Griffiths' beautiful vocals flow in "The Gladdest Breeze" and the haunting "My Grief on the Sea." Jennifer performs the spoken word in "Dissolving/King Neptune" which is a song about coming apart and purification. The melody is quite uplifting, intertwined with a regal feel. "The Sands of Time" richly sung by Lia Moscatiello is an oceanic wedding song for lovers who are chasing one another through time.

"Sleep (On the Deep)" is a touching instrumental, and Troy Donockley's low whistle adds to the peaceful ambiance. The title track, "Song for the Night Sea Journey" is a melody by Gustav Holst. The song is sung in Gaelic and is a prayer for safekeeping and an hymn of comfort. Maddy Prior sings the lush and powerful "Forgiveness." Her exquisite vocals are a highlight in this wonderful collection of songs.

"Neptune Reel/Woman of the House" is a lively tune, complete with bodhrán and bones as well as that infectious foot tapping melody that even has some of the Adiemus vocal sound. Bach's "If You are Near," a celestial lullaby, and "The Siren's Farewell" complete this beautiful album.

Ocean is an amazing and inspiring album, showcasing Jennifer Cutting's wonderful talents. She blends the contemporary and the traditional to create a magical and magnificent work that can be listened to and relished over and over again.

 
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