Celeste Howard Ray, is the founding member of the singular acoustic band "Four Celtic Voices", lined up along with the renowned harpist Erin Hill, Carol Crittenden, and Maria Johnson, whose album "Four Clover" I had already commented on my previous post. Let's have an insight of this, her 3rd album.
A native of Los Angeles, began her musical studies at the age of six. Her main influences include Pat Metheny, Enya and Loreena McKennitt. But she has previously also issued previous solo albums such as "Strings of Gold" and "Celtic Blessings". Travels throughout Europe inspired Arthurian legendry/poetry and music to produce "The Gateway". On "Celtic Legend Ensemble" she is inspired by travels to the Celtic Lands and ancient poetry - crosses many boundaries, from eastern Indian to classical and folk stylings.
The music and vocals of Celeste are quite soothing and enchanting, Celeste Ray's piano performance, vocals and psaltery arrangements captivated long-time meantor, Paul McCandless, who expressed "Celeste's melodic compositions, and especially her vocals, give the music a sound which is instantly identifiable...I am impressed!"
Celeste Ray's third album "Celtic Blessings," was made possible by a grant received from the Arts Alliance of Ventura County. "Celtic Blessings," inspired by ancient Celtic poems, reflects both original and traditional melodies illuminating the Celtic heart and soul.
International recording/performing artist, Celeste Howard Ray performs on both coasts of the United States; she has toured Europe and Australia, gaining audiences from Pete Seeger to the Governor of QLD, Australia. She has taken the ancient-styled Bowed Psaltery to an expert level featuring double bowing. Rooted firmly in classical and jazz training, Celeste's inspiration into the Celtic-World realm began in the late 90's with the release of "The Gateway" after a mind altering experience listening to Loreena McKennitt's "Book of Secrets".
Celeste currently performs Early Music Workshops and concerts in LA and NYC areas and focuses her time between teaching, composing and performing this rich heritage of Irish, Celtic and World music.
There are two outstanding poems "Blessing of the Elements" and "Blessing for Setting Forth" which were written by St. Patrick set to original music by Celeste Howard. The first time I listened to the latter I was instantly touched by the magical feeling of this song, and realized how enlightened she was to write a melody to this most known Irish blessing!.
She renders a worth listening version of "Greensleves" played on the double bowed psaltery. Psalteries are among the oldest of stringed instruments. It is generally accepted that the psaltery mentioned in the Bible was a ten stringed rectangular zither. The fretted dulcimer, the hammered dulcimer, and the autoharp are also in the zither family of stringed instruments. During the Renaissance, the psaltery’s simple design made it an ideal instrument for teaching music and musical theory to children. The bowed psaltry dates back to Ireland about 300-400 years ago.
"Blessing of the Elements" stands as a set with "E-Jam", one of the most ethnic original tunes of the album, on which Celeste performs the harmonium, cute instrument that mingles sounds of a hurdy-gurdy, portable organ, and accordion. A tuen that reminds us of the
The harmonium evolved from Gabriel Grenie’s orgue expressif, a free-reed keyboard instrument of about 1810. The harmonium resembles a small organ and is often substituted for one. It is related to the concertina and accordion, and uses a set of free reeds whose varying lengths determine their pitch. Activated by a wind supply from hand or foot operated compression bellows, the harmonium’s ability to sustain a constant tone (or drone) is similar to that of the Scottish bagpipes.
"Celtic Blessings" is undoubtedly a stand alone on Celeste Ray's musical career, a delicate, delightful album plenty of melodies that may touch the spirit of any listener.
Track List of the album
( with streaming links)
“Celeste’s voice is a warm and pleasant instrument. One of Celeste’s distinctive calling cards is her skill with the bowed psaltery…the sound is at once fresh and other-worldly.” -Los Angeles Times; Josef Woodard
You may find out further information and samples of Celeste Ray's works on the Four Celtic Voices official site.