When asked where the Celtic music in Canada is, fingers are invariably pointed to the east coast. Although this where most of this traditional music is produced, it is not the only place. The Scottish and Irish heritage that strongly influences Celtic music is distributed throughout the country and even the farthest point from the east coast; the west coast, has it. A relatively new group, the Vancouver-based Shenanigan, perform Celtic music, and on their debut CD, Mortal Daze do a decent job of it.
Shenanigan was formed in early 2000 and consists of six members; Ruth Boggild on flutes and whistles, Clare Brett on lead vocals and guitar, Ewan Clark on fiddle and vocals and Graham Johnston on banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, guitar, piano and whistles (Johnston also produced the CD). Bassist Stuart MacDonald and Revellie Nixon on percussion and vocals round out the remainder of the group. The sextuplet are all experienced musicians that decided to pool their talents and form the band. Collectively the crew is focused on the Celtic tradition, yet all of them have different influences that determine how they interpret that tradition.
For a debut CD, this release is good. The instrumentation shown by all of the members is strong. Such a variety of instruments within the group add intricate layers to the music as a whole. The songs are largely traditional although both Clare Brett and Graham Carver (a guest musician on the CD) make forays into original compositions which can be an intimidating experience when one looks at the age of many traditional Celtic music compositions. ‘The Dragon and the Phoenix’ is a delicate song sung by Brett and Nixon which makes good use of their harmonic abilities. ‘The Long Road Home’, composed by Carver and performed by Ruth Boggild is a very nice flute composition which invokes the sadness of leaving home – a motif that was embodied by much of the Celtic heritage long ago.
Shenanigan has produced a good initial effort. They create fine music by combining their wide instrumental ability with powerful vocal skills. Mortal Daze combines both intense tunes and slower laments to fine effect. With a little more time to perform as a group and polish their interpretation skills, Shenanigan will only get better.