Brian Boru The High King of Tara
With Attention Deficit
Disorder seemingly rampant among artists and audiences alike these days,
it's the brave musician who would embark on a musical project that extends
beyond the 3 minute holy grail. Maurice Lennon has never been a musician
to shy away from that particular challenge. His long years of apprenticeship
with Stockton's Wing (phenomenally successful in the early 80's), and
his impeccable genetic and geographical inheritance (son of the renowned
Ben, nephew of Charlie Lennon, and flagbearer for the tradition in Leitrim)
have served him well. These days, Maurice Lennon sets his sights on the
broad canvas, all the better to dig deep into the tradition and marry
it with the 21st century music that coarses through his own veins.
Brian Boru: The High King of Tara sees Lennon embarking on his most ambitious
project to date. A musical portrait of Boru, a 10th Century Irish hero who
defended his country against the pillaging Vikings, Lennon's sweeping suite
captures the passion, the terror and the sheer villainy and epic heroism
of the times with all the laconic ease that we've grown accustomed to expect
from this most understated of fiddlers and composers.
- The High King of Tara
Wing Live - Take One
- STOCKTONS WING
of Irish Jigs, Reels & Songs (3 CD set) - STOCKTONS WING
Go - STOCKTONS WING
Rose - STOCKTONS WING
A Chance - STOCKTONS WING
Wing - Jigs, Reels & Songs
Swing shifting from the mournful to the celebratory in the
opening piece, 'Brian's Theme', Lennon's fiddle marks Boru's territory
and his charismatic leadership with mantra-like chord sequences, bolstered
by Noel Eccles' tiptoeing percussion. From the opening sequence, it's
the organic ensemble playing that leaves the deepest impression. Orchestral
in its sweep, yet more akin to the cosiness of the session in its tone,
this is a musical journey that would welcome entreaties from snug and
concert hall alike.
accuracy is a lynchpin of Brian Boru. Painstakingly retracing key events
such as the burning of Boruma - a ring fort on the west bank of the Shannon
near present-day Killaloe - and gathering the Dal gCais, or faithful followers,
rise to a gallop, fueled by Máirtín O'Connor's trademark featherlite accordion,
and Anthony Drennan's lithe guitar. Donal Lunny lends his customary conglomeration
of offerings from bouzouki to bodhrán, guitar, keyboards and vocals, while
Brian Lennon's flutes and whistles cross-stitch their way through the
tunes with the agility of a Juillard graduate.
Then there's Sean Keane's guest vocals, sparingly applied
and pitch perfect on 'Aisling', an ode to the unfailing commitment Boru
felt for his native land, replete with foreboding for the impending triumph
and tragedy that was the Battle of Clontarf.
Maurice Lennon's meticulous scholarship and creative energy
are what define Brian Boru: The High King Of Tara. This collection is
a confluence of musical and historical passions that reaps richly from
the seeds Lennon has sown. Creative peaks seldom rise from nothing, and
Maurice Lennon's been tipping around its perimeter for long enough to
know a gemstone when he uncovers one.
Reflective, restorative music. Balm for the soul and fodder
for the imagination.
"There must be something in the Lennon Genes;
they've been great exponents of the Leitrim style of traditional music
for decades and now Maurice has finalised a 20-year old idea. This is
a musical biography of Brian Boru, certainly the greatest of the High
Kings of Ireland. Whatever about his methods, he certainly made the office
something to be reckoned with. No Ard Rí before or since, made
such an impact. We remember the battle of Clontarf in 1014 the way the
Scots remember 1314, and the English remember 1966.
With the exception of Brian Boru's March', which is given the menacing
treatment it deserves, and extracts from an ancient poem said to have
been written by Brian's own bard, this is all Lennon's own work. The tunes
are traditional in style, but they translate into something much deeper,
I suppose it would have been easy enough to shoehorn tunes into place,
but there's plainly been a lot of thought gone into this work. It hangs
together really well.
There are more instruments on this than you'd find at a fleadh, played
by the cream of the crop of musicians. There's not one I wouldn't trust
with my favourite tune. This has the feel of a concert version of a much
more complex production; I'd like to see it as an open-air show. If Bill
This isn't a CD to dip into; it needs to be heard as a complete work.
Pour a glass of Jameson's or, better still, open a bottle of Tyrconnel,
and immerse yourself in a dark and bloody episode of Irish history."
Mick Furey - The Living Tradition
"I don’t know why but on ‘Brian’s Theme’ the opening
track of Maurice Lennon’s Brian Boru project I’ve got the song ‘Go Tell
It On The Mountain’ running through my head. But I digress. This is an
album that has obviously been a labour of love full of subtle nuances
and decorative interweaving of rhythm changes. This isn’t a case of just
being clever for the sake of it as the palette of musical colours creates
an aural soundscape. With Maurice’s fiddle at the helm surround by such
luminaries as Donal Lunny, Mairtin O’Connor and Anthony Drennan (taking
time off from his role in The Corrs) you couldn’t really fail. Noel Eccles
brooding percussion is used to full effect throughout without overwhelming
the listener with heavy-handed intrusion. In fact, the whole album is
wonderfully restrained and brings back memories of the Irish TV programme
The Session. On the vocal tracks ‘Aisling’ and ‘My Reign Is Over’ Maurice!
sounds uncannily like Dick Gaughan leaving you wondering why he didn’t
include more. OK, so it’s not an album that will push the musical boundaries
in say the way Stockton’s Wing did when they were going but it is a worthy
contribution to any Celtic music collection."
Live Review Maurice Lennon Glór Centre Ennis Co Clare
Saturday May 25th 2002
"Having read Morgan Llywelyn 's historical novel 'Lion of Ireland
' some twenty years ago ex Stockton's Wing fiddler Maurice Lennon has
been fascinated by the legend that was Brian Boru. His one wish in all
that time was to try to put his life story to music. His desire has been
fulfilled with the release of his first solo album Brian Boru -The High
King of Tara. A 'concept' album telling in music (with some words) the
life story of Brian Boru -it highlights Maurice Lennon's giftedness as
a musician and composer within a neo -traditional vein.
The first public concert airing of Brian Boru -The High King of Tara took
place in Ennis' new Glór Centre on Saturday May 25th 2002 as the Flagship
evening concert of this year's Fleadh Nua. Coming into Glór and eying
its amenities-a long theatre bar, a gallery and the auditorium one cannot
but be impressed. Ennis at last has a concert venue on par with any major
arts centre/theatre in Ireland, up to now a sorely lacking amenity in
a town so renowned for traditional music.
The second, half was devoted to Maurice Lennon's epic work Brian Boru
The High King of Tara. While the first half radiated the relaxed informality
of Comhatas concerts, this half was a fully concentrated contemporary
work. Maurice Lennon's majestic fiddle lead Kincora a full band complete
with Rod Quinn's extensive percussion array, Seamus Brett's keyboards,
electric and acoustic guitars, uilleann pipes, flute and accordion. When
listening to Brian Boru The High King of Tara on disc shades of Donal
Lunny, Shaun Davey and Bill Whelan's epic compositions seep through occasionally.
However, Maurice Lennon's work is imbued with a greater concentration
of the melodic nuances of traditional music. The Burning of Boruma and
Gathering of the Dal gCais hit supreme traditional/contemporary fusion
form while St. Patrick's Cross bathed in its melodic simplicity. Introducing
vocalist Sean Keane for the gently resigned My Reign is Over, the event
took on a fresh new colour. The lack of songs had not been noticed until
then but Keane's brief cameo was short sweet and stunning in that order.
While Brian Boru The High King of Tara scales the musical heights, to
make the proverbial good thing better leads me to the following conclusion-the
possibility of using a narrator for live concerts could be investigated
to heighten the sense of occasion and help an audience unfamiliar with
the subject matter enter fully into the underlying concept.
For Maurice Lennon the realisation of Brian Boru -the High King of Tara
both on CD and on stage is a triumph on a personal as well as creative
level. The adaptation of Brian Boru -the High King of Tara for stage presentation
marks his re-emergence both as a composer and a musician. However, the
treatment of the project from here on in is what will mark its rise or
fall - tonight was an impressive start but much of Brian Boru -the High
King of Tara's future success and viability lies in the efforts made to
reach out and capture a wider general audience. Musically Brian Boru -the
High King of Tara contains work of immense compositional worth and value
but this show screams for a marketplace such as a Lorient, Celtic Connections
or Celtic Colours premiere-such is its major stance- anyone out there
willing to rise to the challenge? "
© John O'Regan June 2002
"Qui, s'intéressant un tant soit peu à
l'Histoire de l'Irlande, n'a entendu parler de Brian Boru, le grand roi
de Tara, surnommé le Lion d'Irlande? C'est en 1002 que Brian Boru
se fit proclamer roi d'Irlande, Il y a 1.000 ans exactement. Et c'est
l'année du millénaire qu'a choisie Maurice Lennon pour commémorer
l'histoire de ce roi de légende.
Originaire du Co. Leitrim dans le nord-ouest, Maurice
Lennon est un fiddler reconnu dans le monde de la musique irlandaise,
qui a fondé dans les années 80 le célèbre
groupe Stockton's Wing. Depuis toujours il compose musique et chansons.
Bill Whelan, Cherish The Ladies ou Natalie McMaster comptent parmi les
interprètes de sa musique.
Brian Boru voit Maurice lennon s'embarquer dans un ambitieux
projet : un portrait musical en 12 tableaux du héros irlandais
du X siècle. Pour ce faire il s'est adjoint les services de quelques
amis et non des moindres. Donal Luny en multi-instrumentiste et producteur,
dont on reconnait incontestablement la "patte". Mais aussi Máirtín
O'Connor, Noël Eccles ou Anthony Drennan... ainsi que le chanteur
Bref, une bien belle fresque historique qui se conclut
pars les vers du barde de Brian Boru, ecrits juste après la mort
de ce dernier."
Philippe COUSIN - le peuple breton
Brian Boru: A Musical Portrait
Largely based on the novel “Lion of Ireland” by Morgan Llywelyn, “Brian
Boru” depicts the life story of the most famous of all the High Kings
of Ireland through music and song. Composed by fiddler Maurice Lennon
(former member of Stockton’s Wing), the actual performance of this musical
biography is in the hands of the usual suspects, who include Donal Lunny,
Mairtin O’Connor and Anthony Drennan, as well as a welcome guest appearance
by Sean Keane. The Donal Lunny influence is most tangible – he leaves
an indelible stamp on every project he touches.
Undulating between glory, triumph and grief, the musical content is vast.
The accompanying notes are useful for those not in the know about the
history of Brian Boru, in that they provide a guideline to the process,
musical and biographical. The opening track, “Brian’s Theme” is glorious,
full of hope and expectation, with fiddle, percussion and Uilleann Pipes
taking control. “Stone of Destiny” is perhaps the most instantly accessible
of all the tracks, and marks the great occasion of Boru’s coming to the
throne. The unfaltering march of “Tree of Sorrows” depicts the infamous
and tragic battle of 1014, and Lennon captures the emotion of the event
The downfall, of course, on a set of works such as this, is that the individual
qualities of the musicians rarely get the chance to penetrate the sound
as a whole. Nonetheless this album is, undoubtedly, packed full with high
class playing and beautiful melodic moments. A great soundtrack to a life.
Jennifer Byrne - World Music
Brian Boru, a musical journey for Maurice Lennon
After 20 years in a successful traditional band like
Stockton's Wing, what's a man to do?
That's what fiddle player Maurice Lennon wondered to himself
after he parted company with the band about five years ago.
"All good things must come to an end" he told the Longford News
"I'd had enough and it was time to move on."
But he didn't sit on his rear for long. Soon he was working with Sean
Keane, whom he describes as "an amazing vocalist".
But after two years doing that, he went back to something that had been
floating around his head for a long time.
"Years ago, when I was in Stockton's Wing, I read a book by an American,
Morgan Llywelyn, called Lion of Ireland. It was about Brian Boru.
Morgan is really well known in the States and has sold 40 million books.
I loved the book and it was on my mind that some day I would put the story
to music. And that's what I have been doing for the past two years."
Along with Donal Lunny, and other well known musicians, including Anthony
Drennan (who plays with The Corrs), Maurice has been working on his latest
production, an album called Brian Boru, A Musical Portrait
For Maurice, the electrical guitar represents the spirit
of the land, and the fiddle represents Brian Boru, which is why the two
are the main instruments used on the album.
"Brian Boru stood for an awful lot that was quintessentially
Irish. And there's much more to him than someone who just died in the
battle of Clontarf." "He was crowned High King 1,000 years ago this year,
and this has not been commemorated."
Maurice's immediate plans are to bring his unusual album, which tells
the story, track by track, of Brian Boru, to America, where, he believes,
there is a growing market and a lot of interest.
Conor McHugh - Longford News
"Maurice lennon's new album, 'Brian Boru - The
High King of Tara', is a musical portrait of the great man, and features
an impressive line-up of Musicians.
The album has an all-star cast. Lennon is a relation of Leitrim fiddle
player Charlie Lennon and was a member of Stockton's Wing. The album was
produced by Donal Lunny, and features Mairtín O'Connor and Sean
As befits a 'concept ' album, the music is epic, and cinematic in its
sweep, yet, there is no trace of self indulgence. The music always sounds
powerful, emotional and purposeful. The main melodic themes are led by
Lennon's fiddle playing which impresses throughout and shows a great stock
of fresh ideas.
The opening track 'Brian's Theme' sums up all of these qualities as does
'The Burning of Boruma', 'Lá Ollamh' and a powerful reading of
the venerable 'Brian Boru's March'. There are a number of rock influences,
but this is kept to a minimum allowing the traditional music to shine
through. Sean Keane also provides beautiful vocals on 'Aisling' and 'My
Reign is Over'.
Whether Brian Boru joins O'Riarda's Míse Éire or Shaun Davey's
The Relief of Derry Symphony in the stakes of great musical interpretations
of Irish history remains to be seen, but no doubt a live performance with
the same personnel as on the album would be some event. As an album of
modern trad, Lennon can be justifiably proud of this work."
A HUGELY interesting suite from the mind of a Major fiddler....It
dose however successfully integrate modernism to several fine tunes excellently
played, particularly on fiddle. Donal Lunny is the production hand, with
a strong colouring from Noel Eccles' percussion and Mick O'Brien and Mikey
Smith on uilleann pipes.
Fintain Vallely - Sunday Tribune - (4 star rating)
"Maurice Lennon, one time member of Stockton's Wing,
stays true to his trad roots on this CD. He embarks on an ambitious task
of depicting 10th Century Irish hero Brian Boru in a musical style that
blends traditional with some classical and contemporary influences. Maurice's
great strength lies in his ability for storytelling and depicting history
through his music."
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