Album: Celtic Fairy Lullaby
Artist: 2002

CD_Celtic_Fairy_Lullaby_279Celtic Fairy Lullaby is the eagerly awaited new release from the award-winning group 2002, one of the world’s premier new age music ensembles. While husband and wife Randy and Pamela Copus have produced many albums as a duo, their last few releases have featured their daughter Sarah in supporting roles, particularly their most recent, Trail Of Dreams. Now at the age of 11, Sarah, who is truly a rising star, shines in the spotlight as the lead vocalist, as well as on harp, in this enchanting collection of soothing ancient melodies sung in Irish Gaelic, Welsh and English. As always, the album’s production is superb; enhancing the lush soundscapes the group is so well known for. Fans of Enya, Loreena Mckennitt, and Clannad will find a lot to like in the magical music of Celtic Fairy Lullaby.


In preparation for this feature article I had an interview with Randy, Pamela, and Sarah, who I’ve often called 2002“the first family of new age music.” I was interested in how this album came about, being a bit different from much of their other music. According to Pamela, who also plays harp and flute on the album: “Sarah has been taking voice lessons with Karen Ballew and singing in the Gaelic Youth Chorus for 4 years. We have had the pleasure of enjoying these lovely songs floating about the house and began thinking how sad it would be not to capture them and have a time capsule of this magical time in Sarah’s life. That’s how the idea for the album came about. It’s a memento for us from this part of Sarah’s journey.” On a related note, a few years ago I had the opportunity to write about an album called Winter Air , which Sarah was featured on along with her fellow students at The School Of Irish Music.


12046689_10156091884710023_1037215191760094150_nAnd in Sarah’s own words: “I think that Gaelic is a beautiful language, and I felt it would be nice to sing mostly in a foreign language so that people would not hang on to the words while they are trying to relax or sleep. The voice becomes another instrument rather than the focus.” I thought this was quite an astute and insightful perception for an 11 year old. But then again, Sarah seems beyond her years in many ways. While she has been focusing intently on Irish and Celtic music for a while now, she adds:” I am inspired especially by famous composers from the past like Beethoven, or today’s film composers like John Williams. I love cinematic music.”


The group’s albums are recorded at their own well-equipped facility that is overseen by Randy, the studio wiz controlroom_voc_medof the family, in addition to playing guitar, bass, piano, and keyboards. This particular project really put his engineering skills to the test in the unique way it was produced. As Randy explains: “Usually, we record like most musicians do nowadays, overdubbing each track until the music is more or less complete, then recording the vocal on top of that. With Celtic Fairy Lullaby, we did the reverse. We had to orchestrate all the music around Sarah, with no roadmap apart from the voice itself. For most of the songs, Sarah came into the studio and sang her lead vocals, with no metronome or accompaniment, or even a starting pitch. Though it made the album more difficult to produce, it was worth the effort. In the end, all of the magic and nuance of her vocal performances were supported by the music in an absolute way. The music ‘glued’ itself to the voice.”


The first track on the album is actually a medley of two songs. The first, “Seoithín Seo Hó” (Hushaby, Hush) is an old Irish lullaby. The second song, “Gartan Mother’s Lullaby” is an old Irish song and poem written by Herbert Hughes and Seosamh Mac Cathmhaoil, first published in Songs of Ulster in 1904. Having written about many of 2002’s albums over the years, I was curious to hear what direction they would take with these traditional songs. With this first track, they definitely put their own unique spin on it with a lush orchestral arrangement, accented by harp and cymbal swells. It was quite different than the usual fiddles and pennywhistles commonly associated with Celtic music and was perfectly suited for a lullaby. And in this regard, Sarah’s lovely ethereal vocals created a warm and soothing ambiance that was indeed relaxing.


12047109_10156091886050023_5140821121435329910_nNot surprisingly, the next track, “Cariad,” has an endearing quality, since the name means “darling” in Welsh. On this one, Sarah sings the lyrics in English. The song’s melody has some of the slightly bittersweet vibe often heard in Celtic music. The mellifluous atmosphere tinged with just a trace of sadness, are some of the ingredients that give Celtic music the emotional resonance it evokes in so many people. Pamela’s dreamy flute solo drifts gracefully over this heathered musical landscape. A track called “Bí Thusa ‘Mo Shúile” is a traditional Irish hymn that is translated as “Be Thou My Vision.” With Sarah’s lofty layered vocals, I found this song to be particularly Enya-esque.


Two of the twelve songs on the album are titled in English, and the first of these is “Away from the Roll Of the Sea.” Reflecting on the title, I imagined what it must be like for sailor to be on solid ground after being out on the ocean for a long time. In our interview, Sarah had mentioned being drawn to cinematic music and this song certainly fits that description. I could easily see this piece in the soundtrack to an animated Disney movie. And speaking of evoking imagery, a track called Éamonn an Chnoic (Ned of the Hills) is about Éamonn Ó Riain (Edmund O’Ryan -1670 – 1724), a Robin Hood type figure in Irish history. Interestingly, unlike most of the songs on the album, there are no lyrics, other than wordless background vocals, making this primarily an instrumental composition featuring some lovely harp playing. Another instrumental piece is the second English titled song, “My Singing Bird.” Its sweetly serene ambiance made it perfect of an album of lullabies.


However, most of the songs are a sweet soothing blend of Sarah’s angelic vocals accompanied by rich orchestration with strings, harp, flute, and more. In the way these elements were blended, I was often reminded of Sarah’s comment about the voice becoming just another instrument rather than the focus. It is also true what she said about how singing in a foreign language takes the listener away from the literal meaning of the words and more into just the sound of her voice. I think this worked well and achieved the goal in a context of music that was made for drifting off to sleep.


Anyone who has read my feature articles on previous albums by 2002 will know that I am a huge fan and have10273544_10154152390335023_1324554469277656669_n tremendous respect for their musical and compositional abilities, as well as the uplifting and spiritual energy their music is imbued with. In Randy’s words: “Music is the language of spirit, and I’ve always been drawn to, and compelled to create, spiritual music. New age as a genre has always embraced the spiritual side of music, but in a way that is maybe not as limiting or predefined as more traditional religious music can be. Also, this genre and its fans are really into beautiful music, and bringing beauty into this world is something we strive to do with every project.” To which I say, mission accomplished!


Over the past few years, I’ve watched Sarah slowly integrate her emerging talents into the group. On Celtic Fairy Lullaby, she truly rises to the occasion and takes on a much more major role than ever. What she achieves here would be considered remarkable for anyone, let alone an 11-year old! Although, considering the gene pool from which she has emerged, it is not entirely surprising. The synergy of her budding talents with the musical maturity and artistic vision of her parents, Pamela and Randy, is as beautiful as it is inspiring. With Celtic Fairy Lullaby, 2002 has created yet another stunning album that explores new musical terrain and integrates ancient melodies with contemporary elements for a truly transcendent listening experience.


Click the links below to hear samples and/or purchase this album:



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