The Turning Year: Pandemic Sessions Unplugged

"Beautiful original songs and fabulous arrangements of traditional songs
...all wonderfully performed and recorded.
I'm a fan of The OCEAN Orchestra and The Turning Year!

Tony Barrand (Nowell Sing We Clear)

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The Turning Year: A New Year's Toast (Official Video)

Extended Liner Notes

1.The Turning Year: A New Year’s Toast [Unaccompanied version] (Words by Jennifer Cutting, melody by Mick Ryan, arr. Windborne)

Vocals by Windborne (Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig, and Jeremy Carter-Gordon) and OCEAN (Steve Winick, Lisa Moscatiello, and Jennifer Cutting).

We recorded two versions of this song, as bookends to open and close this EP. It is a song that acknowledges the pain and loss of living through two years of a horrific global pandemic, but expresses hope for a better year to come. It reflects the bittersweet stock-taking we do at the threshold of a new year while it celebrates friends both present and departed, and invites us to raise our voices together in a toast to the coming year. For this unaccompanied version, we invited the talented New England vocal quartet Windborne to arrange it and perform it with us—although, through the miracle of modern recording technology, we were able to remain socially distanced by about 400 miles.

2. The Birth of Robin Hood (Traditional, arr. Winick, Cutting, Moscatiello, McLeod)

Lead Vocal – Steve Winick
Guitar, Whistles, Harmony Vocal – Lisa Moscatiello
Bouzouki – Zan McLeod
Piano Accordion – Jennifer Cutting

This traditional ballad explains how the most popular character in balladry came to be born. It’s a fairly late addition to the Robin Hood canon, so Robin’s exploits and his association with Maytime were well known when it was written. It was surely created in the late 17th or 18th century to provide an origin story for a favorite superhero of the era. Strangely, Francis James Child believed that the ballad had existed for some time before anyone decided to add the detail that the baby was Robin Hood. He had no real evidence for this belief, since every traditional version he had seen was called “The Birth of Robin Hood.” Still, he did not include it among the Robin Hood ballads but instead numbered it 102 and re-named it “Willie and Earl Richard’s Daughter.” 

This song is the first completed track of Steve’s Robin Hood album project, in which he is setting traditional tunes to some of the best of the Robin Hood texts. For this he chose the tune often associated with “Tramps and Hawkers” in Scotland or “Paddy West” in England, and adapted the lyrics where necessary from Child’s A text. Steve also remembers listening to Allan Taylor’s beautiful adaptation from the 1970s, and is sure that was an influence on his own version. The OCEAN members all added their signature touches to the arrangement.

3. Je Me Ferai Une Maîtresse [I Will Take Me A Mistress] (Jennifer Cutting/Traditional Breton, arr. Y.F. Perroches and Jennifer Cutting)

Sailor Vocal – Steve Winick
Siren Vocal – Lisa Moscatiello
Piano Accordion – Jennifer Cutting

Jennifer fell in love with this traditional Breton tune recorded by Yann-Fañch Perroches while visiting Brittany in 2003.  Since then, she has dreamed of writing lyrics to it evoking the story of Ys, the lost city of Breton Legend. In her re-imagining of this old Breton song, she preserved the melody, but completely re-wrote the words to describe the voyage of a modern-day sailor who steers his ship toward the sunken city of Ys, hoping to (whatever the cost), find total transformation in the arms of the siren Dahut. Steve translated the sailor’s two verses into French, with the help of Camille Moreddu. The unusual formulation of the title is a conjugation of the traditional and archaic phrase “Je M’ai Fait Une Maîtresse,” one of the common titles for Yann-Fañch’s tune. The legend of Ys, or Kêr-Ys in Breton, speaks of an ancient city built on land reclaimed from the sea, which was flooded by the treachery of princess Dahut, and lies below the surface of Douarnenez Bay in Brittany. On certain days, the legend says, you can still hear the ringing of the sunken churches’ bells beneath the waves.

4. Springtime’s Message (Jennifer Cutting/Traditional)

Lead vocal – Steve Winick
Harmony vocal – Lisa Moscatiello
Recorders, Sackbuts, Cornetto, Tambourine – Michael Holmes
Bodhrán – Myron Bretholz

At one time, May carols were as common in Europe as Christmas carols were, but they fell out of favor in most places. Jennifer decided to help revive the May carol tradition by adapting this song from earlier carols, and Jennifer and Michael Holmes recalled its medieval roots with this courtly arrangement. The melody was published in 1582 in Finland, in a collection of late medieval songs in Latin called “Piae Cantiones.” In 1853 the English scholar J.M. Neale came across this book, and began to publish his own translations and adaptations of its carols, including “Gabriel’s Message Does Away,” an adaptation of the Annunciation carol “Angelus Emittitur.” Jennifer first encountered Neale’s words on a recording by John Roberts and Tony Barrand, and rewrote the English lyrics in order to exorcise Satan from the song! Her version became a May carol, celebrating the triumph of warmth over cold and light over darkness, comparing the coming of Spring to the opening of the gates of heaven. On this track, OCEAN is joined by our bodhrán buddy Myron Bretholz and our maestro of medieval music, Michael Holmes.

5. Planxty Drew/Planxty Wilkinson/Wreath the Bowl (Turlough O’Carolan/Thomas Moore/Jennifer Cutting)

Lead Vocal – Christine Noyes
Fiddle – Andrew Dodds
Piano – Jennifer Cutting
Bodhrán – Myron Bretholz
Double Bass – Charlie Pilzer

Specifically for OCEAN’s St. Patrick’s Day concerts, Jennifer set about the work of marrying the words of one of Ireland’s national poets with the melodies of one of Ireland’s national composers. These two Planxties were written by Turlough O'Carolan [Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin] the most illustrious composer of the 17th century Irish harp tradition. A Planxty is a tune written in honor of a patron or friend, and since O'Carolan survived through the patronage of wealthy admirers, many of his tunes are planxties. Jennifer wanted these planxties to have a song attached, so she created one. She used parts of both planxties, and added a few measures of her own composition to create an artsong arrangement that would not be out of place in a Baroque drawing room concert featuring the works of Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), French composer François Couperin (1668 to 1733) and English composer Henry Purcell (1659 to 1695). For lyrics, she searched the collected works of Thomas Moore, who was born in 1779, and considered the national poet of Ireland in his lifetime. Like his older Scottish contemporary Robert Burns, Moore wrote many prominent lyrics for traditional melodies, including “The Last Rose of Summer," “The Minstrel Boy,” and "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms." Jennifer found “Wreath the Bowl,” with its celebration of the many delights of wine, and thought it would suit both O’Carolan’s tunes and Chris’s heavenly voice, allowing us to “leave dull earth behind us.”

6. The Turning Year [Voice and Piano] (Jennifer Cutting/Mick Ryan)

Lisa Moscatiello (Vocal)
Jennifer Cutting (Piano)

This second, very intimate rendition of “The Turning Year” emphasizes the song’s contemplative lyric with Lisa’s beautiful vocal supported gently by Jennifer’s piano arrangement. We hope you’ll make this song and this EP part of your annual rituals!