carisma (and yes, they use the lower case for their name) is a trio of women from Australia who play glorious music.  I have their 2009 release titled “Celtic Dreams”, and I want to introduce you to these beautiful women, and the music they play.  I will use freely some of the comments and annotations on the CD as I describe their trio, and their music.  The annotations on the songs were written by carisma.

carisma is made up of

Anna Stoddart, flute, alto flute, tin whistle.  She is a native of Australia, where she teaches and lectures in Flute.  She also directs and performs with various renowned local ensembles.

Janice Preece, harp, is Welsh born, where she was admitted as a bard in her home country.  Her Bardic name is Telynores Dwyfor, which translates as The Harpist of Two Seas.  She emigrated to Australia, and there met Anna, where they formed carisma.

Louise King, cello, migrated to Australia from England, her home country, in 2003.  She has travelled around the world, guesting with orchestras such as the Northern Sinfonia, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and the BBC Philharmonic.

All of the ladies have performed with Orchestras in Queensland.  carisma was founded by Anna and Janice, and Louise joined them early on.  carisma is more than a name; it is the quintessence of their musical philosophy.

The Celtic Dreams CD is made up of music from Ireland, Scotland, and England, and are all tunes which we know and love.  There are 17 pieces on the CD, and I am going in depth on eight of them.

They are joined on this release by guest musicians David Jones, Percussion, and Michael Knopf, guitar.

Brian Boru’s March (the first name is pronounced Bree-ahn):  “Brian Boru was one of Ireland’s greatest kings.  He reigned for 39 years, promoting learning and the arts, and it was a time of unsurpassed glory, prosperity, and happiness.  He died when he was 89 years old, leading the Irish troops during the Battle of Clontarf, which occurred in 1014; the Irish army repelled the Vikings, but Boru was killed.  Brian Boru’s March is a military tune written in commemoration of the battle”.

The Last Rose of Summer

Skye Boat Song

Tra Bo Dau:  “This is a traditional Welsh love song, from the collection of Welsh Melodies editted by J. Lloyd Williams and Arthur Somervell.  Williams learned the song from his wife and sister who came from Criccieth in North Wales, not far from where Janice was born”.

Lift The Wings:  the song by Bill Whelan for the theatrical show Riverdance.

Erin Shore

An Eriskay Love Lilt:  I have to say that this is definitely one of my favourite of all Celtic songs.  I love the sound of the sea in its words – Bheir mi oro bhan o, Bheir mi oro bhan i, Bheri mi oru o ho, ‘S mi tha bronach ‘s tu ‘m dhith (I’ve gone away, O dear one, I’ve gone away, O dear one, I’ve gone away, O dear one, Sad I am without thee).  “Eriskay is a small island of only three square miles off the coast of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland”.    I have found that Eriskay Love Lilt is often paired with Westerin’ Home, but the ladies play it here alone, and it stands up very well in itself.

O’Carolan’s Concerto:  “Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) is the best known of the ancient Irish harpers.  He was born near Nobber, County Meath.  Although he was blind, he travelled around Ireland composing music for his patrons and playing his harp.  O’Carolan’s Concerto, also known as Mrs. Power, is dedicated to the wife of David Power who lived at Coorheen.  This arrangement is for cello and harp”.

Suo Gan:  a traditional Welsh lullaby

Be Thou My Vision

Planxty Burke:  another one from Turlough O’Carolan.  “A planxty is a song of praise”.

My Lagan Love:  “The Lagan is the river which flows through Belfast, but it is believed that the Lagan in this song refers to a stream that empties into Lough Swilly in County Donegal, not far from Letterkenny”.  Celtic Thunder fans will recognize the references to places in County Donegal.

Morning Has Broken:  “A Christian hymn, made popular by Cat Stevens in 1971”.

Water Shore Sound:  “This peaceful melody was given to Janice by Scottish harpist Margaret Knight……………It is a perfect example of contemporary Celtic music.  The composer, Frank Gray, lives in Burray, Scotland, and Water Sound is the beautiful stretch of water in Scapa Flow which is visible from her house”.

She Moved Through the Fair

The Salley Gardens:  “The Salley Gardens evolved from a poem written of the same name by William Butler Yeats……………….A salley is a willow tree (Gaelic for willow is saileach)”.


It is plain to me that the three ladies, Anna, Janice, and Louise have very classical backgrounds, and the orchestral sounds on these tunes can be very classical.  But don’t let the word “classical” scare you away – the tunes are most definitely Celtic in nature, as the guitar and percussion (I am certain there has to be a bodhran in there) will attest to.  This is a fabulous recording – I recommend it highly.


About carolstepp

Music is about the most important thing in my life, and I follow a large number of musicians, particularly Irish, Scots, Classical, Crossovers of any of these. I was writing a blog about Celtic Thunder regularly on MySpace, and now I have left them after a year, and will start writing my blogs here. I am 70, retired, living on Social Security, and have a lot of social network fans.
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