Spiro: Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow

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Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow
Real World Records (www.realworldrecords.com/)

Fiddle. Mandolin. Accordion. Guitar. That sounds like a folk music lineup. And it is, except when it isn't. Spiro is an English quartet that uses this instrumentation as they ride that artsy edge between folk and classical music. The listener who chooses to ride along this edge will be deeply rewarded.

The title comes presumably from the poem by John Keats which sets forth a number of contrasts:

   Infant playing with a skull;
   Morning fair, and shipwreck'd hull;
   Nightshade with the woodbine kissing;
   Serpents in red roses hissing;

As Spiro is a purely instrumental ensemble, they play around with aural contrasts, beyond simply the aforementioned folk and classical settings. The title track begins with a fast repeated mandolin run underpinning a slow lyrical violin. Later this is turned upside down with a fast melody falling over a slower accompaniment.

"Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow" (2 excerpts)

Fast versus slow is experienced throughout the songs in this collection, and is one of the reasons why this quartet is often compared to Philip Glass. I hear some Glass in these arrangements, and some Terry Riley, and even more of John Adams, particularly his "Slow Ride in a Fast Machine."

"Blyth High Light" (excerpt)

Many of these arrangements started as English pipe tunes, which were absorbed and worked into new arrangements by the band. For example, "Blyth High Light" is based on "The Oyster Wife's Rant." It's easy to pick out the AABB format of the original tune, and as the melody is played repeatedly the musical colors constantly change with different voicings, different instrumental combinations, different contrasts between the players.

I thoroughly enjoy this CD, and recommend it highly. However, listeners who choose to get the physical CD may need a Blyth high light and maybe a good magnifying glass to read the liner notes, in a small font with silver words on a black background.

"Flying In The Hours Of Darkness" (excerpt)

Perhaps it's best then to put the CD case away, put the headphones on, and, as another song title suggests, begin "Flying In The Hours Of Darkness." We listeners can let the old pipe tunes and the contrasts and edges and colors carry us away to a place where we can, without reservation or hesitation, welcome joy and welcome sorrow. - Greg Harness

Filmed by Michal Shapiro


All audio ©2015 Real World Records. Used with permission.  

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Spiro: cd cover

Listen to "Burning Bridge" (full song)

©2015 Real World Records. Used with permission.


Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow is RootsWorld's Music of the Month CD for July. You can get a copy of the CD and support RootsWorld at the same time.

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