Many of you may have heard Michelle and her group at some local festivals; others may have her previous CDs. Her very successful first CD The Promise was a great hit on mp3.com and introduced the public to her rich, silky vocals and folksy guitar style.
This CD is an introduction to a series Michelle is putting out of chants for each of the turns of the Wheel of the Year. This is music for pagan celebrations, focusing on the meaning of Beltane.
There are nine tracks. This is a well produced CD, with good sound and quality studio work. The range of chants on this CD run from traditional to classical melodies with some very well developed lyrics. I was impressed with Evoking Beltane which uses music based on a Bach piece and some really nicely worked out lyrics. Michelle’s strong vocals give us a lovely introduction to this work.
Snake Woman/Spiral of Life is another strong adaptation by Michelle. I found myself singing with it before it was over, a very catchy tune and easy to learn. Yabbo is another memorable tune, and Michelle is joined by singer Heather Alexander on this track. Music Weavers is in this same vein, a kind of a round that can be learned easily enough and worked by most anyone.
Making a Connection is just… magical. A nice round with a spark of genius in the “connection”. Michelle tells me that this is a chant that has been used at “handfastings” or pagan weddings for years, usually spoken in time to clapping. She said she has always heard a melody for this in the back of her mind and she finally has put it together, quite successfully I might add.
Fireleap returns to the more traditional, and you get an idea that Ms. Mays can handle a variety of styles and do them all well. Her strong vocals shine in this piece, along with some lovely harmonies with Phebe Smith who works on this CD with Michelle.
Michelle also treats us to her ever popular rendition of Gently Johnny. I remember her and her group doing this one at some events I have attended, and I always enjoy this light hearted and very sexy composition. Michelle’s rich voice lends to the air of this being a very “titillating” song.
Creation is a story, a prayer and a lesson for Beltane. Very nicely put together and wonderfully put to music, Michelle speaks this composition allowing her rich voice to control this piece and again, a nice production.
The final track Earth My Body is a traditional piece that many folks may already know. It features sounds from “outer space”, the sounds that are made by the earth and have been recorded from space. They are added with the appropriate permissions from the University of Iowa, to allow the earth to speak for itself. Michelle creates some great harmonies, and with some help from some very special folks, presents this piece in a very pleasing and satisfying arrangement.
I can see this CD being used by groups for some nice new additions to their Beltane ritual music or for other ritual events, whether it be using the CD as a background for their celebration, or learning the material with their group to sing at their gathering. The CD itself is a great learning tool, as well as being a nice addition to a solitary working as background and sing along.
The material all relates to the Celebration of Beltane, having a very “fertile” appeal in either content or suggestion. Some of the pieces are clever in their lyrics and composition. There is good material here for group chanting.
If you love Michelle Mays work, as I do, this is a must add just for her arrangements and vocals. If you have a group and are looking for something different and upbeat to add to your Beltane Celebrations, this is an excellent choice to work with. Either way, this is a great CD.
by MA Foster