Jennifer Magaret Barker: Nyvaigs

Jennifer Margaret Barker is a musical pilgrim on a completely original path. In her music, one hears the passion and strength of her Celtic heritage, yet the colors are fresh and her style engaging.

The greatest of the Celtic influences found in Barker's music is the overwhelming sense of national pride felt by the Scots. The openingwork on this CD, Naibh Beags/Nyvaigs (1997), is also the most dramatic and narrative. It depicts the eleventh- and twelfth-century Celts of ancient Scotland as they struggle against the fierce hands of the Norse and Danish Vikings.

The calm of the opening narration sets the stage for the impending sea battles that were fought up and down the west coast of Scotland.The music brightens in hue and intensity as the performers engage inan ever-growing sense of urgency, depicting the Celts' gain over theVikings. Because of the invention of a mid-ship rudder on the NaibhBeags (Gaelic for “little ships”), the Scots were able to maneuver more quickly than the Vikings, whose Drakaars had a starboard mounted rudder that was little more than a steering oar. In 1156, the two fleets fought for two days with the Naibh Beags out-maneuvering the Drakaars and winning. The battle is portrayed by Barker through the rising intensity of the music.

The eventual decline of Norse influence culminated in 1263 with the Battle of Largs when the Norsemen were, at last, expelled from Scotland. The music fades to the quiet strains of its beginning as the Vikings retreat up the East Kyle onto the Burnt Isles in the Kylesof Bute where they cremated their dead. Little grows on the Burnt Isles to this day, an island inhabited only by sea gulls and the lost souls of the Viking dead. Throughout Naibh Beags/Nyvaigs, there is a haunting air of authenticity. Ancient history is blended with modern musical expression, to depict a terrifying chapter in the long and bloody history of Scotland. Naibh Beags/Nyvaigs was commissioned by American saxophonist James Richmond.

The Scots have always felt a profound love of nature, especially ofthe breathtaking beauty of their beloved homeland. Earthtones (1993)is a suite of vignettes that depicts the vibrant colors of the earth—orange, brown, red, and emerald green—through ever-changing musical colors and levels of intensity. Each instrument explores its full range of dynamics and technical capabilities; yet, the musical timbres interweave much like the elements of nature itself. Although composed in a rather strict form and with traditional notation,Earthtones possesses the freshness and whimsicality associated with unbridled improvisation.

Geodha (1992, 1998) is embedded with pure Celtic folk tradition. The plaintive yet soaring melody portrays a more gentle side of Scotland,and the listener might readily envision the country's jagged inlets, deep bays, and mist-filled lochs and valleys. The melody comes from an earlier work, Geodha air chùl na grène (1987), for Gaelic soloist,choir, string orchestra, and folk band. The poem is of and read by the celebrated Scottish poet, Derick S. Thomson. Geodha was premiered by The Scottish Chamber Orchestra String Trio on the Island of Hoy inthe Orkney Isles, Scotland, to an audience of over two hundredfishermen, farmers, and island families who made the journey from neighboring islands clinging to the sides of fishing boats.

A particularly poignant aspect of Celtic heritage which Barker also encompasses in her music is the charming and clever wit of the Scots. Three Highbrows We (1996) is a musical setting of a farsical text by English poet Herbert Farjeon. The poem bemoans the fact that society places more value on the culture of Mickey Mouse than on works by the world's greatest artists, authors, and musicians. Staged in a dialogue between three stodgy and inane women—Tessa, Vanessa, and Gertrude (changed from Farjeon's original male character,Egbert)—these ladies snub the classics while expressing their heartfelt passion for Mickey Mouse. Although tongue-in-cheek, the music leaves no doubt to the listener as to the intentions of the poet. Three Highbrows We was commissioned by the Christopher Newport University Chamber Performers.

The Enchanted Glen (1993) is a creative and playful tableau intended to encourage children's imagination of fairies, goblins, castles, and magical landscapes. The performers engage in music that is rich in color and fresh in rhythmic drive. The Enchanted Glen won the 1996 Cambridge Contemporary Music Festival Composition Competition.

Blue Waters (1998) depicts the calm, spiritual elements of nature and, in particular, the one element of nature—water—most associated with the land inhabited by the Scottish people. The work was commissioned by percussionist Heather Corbett.

Nobody Told Me (1997) is a setting of an evocative text by the English writer Walter de la Mare. The music is heavy swing,reminiscent of the dance bands of the 1940s. Nobody Told Me demands from the performers extremes in range, technique, and style. The work was commissioned by the Christopher Newport University Chamber Performers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              —Mark U. Reimer

In remaining active as a Scottish composer on both sides of the Atlantic, JENNIFER MARGARET BARKER has received commissions and awards from ensembles, soloists, and musical organizations in the United States and Europe. Her works have been performed by, among others,The Virginia Symphony with The Virginia Children's Chorus; the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; the Bearsden Burgh Choir with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Brass and Percussion Ensembles; The Scottish Chamber Orchestra String Quartet; The Scottish Chamber Orchestra String Trio; The Holywell Ensemble; Marimolin; The Hardwick Chamber Ensemble; the American contemporary music ensemble, We Don't Get Out Much!; Penn Theater Arts; and numerous solo artists. This is her premiere recording.

Currently she is Director of Theory/Composition at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. She holds a PhD and a Masters degree in Music Composition from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds Masters degrees in Piano Performance and Music Composition from Syracuse University and an Honors Bachelor of Music degree from theUniversity of Glasgow in Scotland. Barker has studied composition with composers George Crumb, Melinda Wagner, and John Maxwell Geddes.

MARK U. REIMER, conductor, is Director of Music at Christopher Newport University. The author of numerous published articles on wind literature, he received the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University, the Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and the Bachelor of Music Education degree from Drake University. Reimer has appeared as guest conductor with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, The Virginia Symphony and Symphony Chorus, The Williamsburg Symphonia Chamber Ensemble, the Hampton Bay Days Festival Ensemble, and the Zuid Nederlands Jeugd Fanfare Orkest, and he is the conductor of the contemporary music ensemble, We Don't Get Out Much!

Scottish Artists:                                                                                                                                                                 J. CRAIG BARKER, a founding member of the Scottish blues band Big Vern`N The Shootahs, currently performs with the British soul band, The Chain Gang. An experienced trumpeter, singer, and public speaker, he has been invited to speak on topics both musical and legal throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. Barker is a Lecturer in Public International Law at the University of Reading, England. Highly sought after for his expertise in the area of Diplomatic Law, he has been interviewed on `News with Brian Williams' for MSNBC and by the Associated Press.

HEATHER CORBETT, Section Principal Percussion with the BBCScottish Symphony Orchestra, is renowned throughout the United Kingdomas a soloist and champion of contemporary music. A truly remarkable cimbalom player, she has toured Europe playing solo cimbalom with Pierre Boulez in Eclats/Multiples, and has been featured inperformances at the Royal Festival Hall under Boulez's baton. In 1995 she performed the world premiere of Howard Blake's Diversions for Marimba and Chamber Orchestra, and in the same year the United Kingdom premiere of Gabriela Ortiz's Concierto Candela for percussion and orchestra. Her orchestral credits include appearances as Guest Principal with the London Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

EILIDH MACKENZIE, the renowned Scottish Gaelic folk singer, recently joined forces with her two younger sisters, Gillian and Fiona, to create the vocal trio, Mackenzie. The trio recently released its debut album, Camhanach, on the Macmeanmna label to rave reviews. In 1992 she signed with Temple Records and released her first solo album, Eideadhna Sgeulachd. She then joined Gaeldom's first supergroup, Mac-talla,and released the album Mairaidh Gaol is Ceol, which was voted `Best Gaelic Album of the Year'. She has sung in Barcelona and Provence at the invitation of the British Council, and has given concert performances, television and radio appearances in Germany, France,Spain, Portugal, Canada, Sweden, and Scotland.

DERICK S. THOMSON (Ruaraidh MacThomais in Gaelic), Scotland's leadingGaelic poet, was born in 1921 on the Isle of Lewis in the OuterHebrides. He has published seven collections of his Gaelic poetry,with English translations, including his Collected Poems (1982) and Meall Garbh/The Rugged Mountain (1995). Professor of Celtic at theUniversity of Glasgow in Scotland from 1963-91, Thomson has also authored numerous academic books and articles. In 1951 Thomson was a prize winner in the Festival of Britain poetry competition, and in 1974 he wasawarded the Ossian Prize by the FVS Foundation in Hamburg.