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Album Review

The pungent wailing of uillean pipes and the plaintive sighs of a pennywhistle had become frequently overused Hollywood clichés by the time this album of Irish-themed symphonic "pops" came out — and naturally, you'll find plenty of those sounds here. Though the CD opens in a manner most unlike an Erich Kunzel/Cincinnati Pops album — with a Carlos Santana-like guitar solo from Ted Karas on "Celtic Dream" from Lord of the Dance — soon everyone gets down to business with a selection of native tunes and Irish-flavored film and show music cushioned with symphonic upholstery. On one track apiece, the specialty instruments have celebrity performers. Sir James Galway mans the pennywhistle (and also his flute) on a mist-shrouded, elaborate arrangement of "Simple Gifts" — which he stoically overdubbed in New York City on the day of the 9/11 attacks. On "Chasing the Fox," the team is the Irish superstar band the Chieftains (also recorded separately, in Dublin), combining with the Pops in a muddled din of a track. However, uileann pipes/whistleplayer Kieran O'Hare, fiddler Liz Knowles, and the Celtic band Silver Arm take care of most of the folk sounds with equal expertise — and the advantage of recording with the orchestra in the same place. There is also one bona fide Irish tenor (actually he's from Canada, but no matter), John McDermott, performing "A Little Bit of Heaven," "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra/Galway Bay," and, of course, "Danny Boy." Intriguingly and gratifyingly, the album ends with a flashback as to how earlier generations experienced Irish nights at the "pops" — two sumptuously played movements from Leroy Anderson's "Irish Suite," expertly crafted with dignity and humor. But why just two? There is more than enough room left on the SACD and CD for the rest of the suite. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi


Formed: 1977 in Cincinnati, OH

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra has roots going all the way back to the 1870s, but was not officially distinguished from its parent organization, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, until 1977. The early Cincinnati orchestra society programmed popular music concerts and that continued with the Cincinnati Symphony, particularly under conductor Max Rudolf, who became its director in 1958. In 1965, Rudolf hired Erich Kunzel as assistant conductor and asked him to conduct the first "8 O'Clock Pops" concert....
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