Ken, in his own words
I first learned of the Irish Whistle from the movie score to Titanic. The production of Lord of the Dance exposed me to the greater world of Irish music and dance. I was hooked. I obtained a CD of Joanie Madden’s album, Song of the Irish Whistle, bought an inexpensive whistle, and learned to play and then compose.
My first album, Winds of the Irish Whistle, was produced, but never publicly released, except to family and friends, including Joanie, who said it sounded so much like her playing, it freaked her out.
In 2010, Portals to Heaven, was produced and received with glowing accolades. Outside of the Grammys, a group known as the Zone Music Reporter (ZMR), was the primary industry reviewer for instrumental music at the time. They placed the album in their list of the Best Instrumental Music Albums of 2010.
As rewarding as that was, people all over the world told me it helped them. Autistic and people who suffered from mental depression and anxiety have told me they play Portals twenty-four, seven and have for years. It brings them soothing and calm. People tell me it helps them when they pray. Students tell me it helps them as they study. Even video gamers tell me they turn off the music to their war games, and play Portals because it calms them down.
Anamcara carries on that tradition, this time with a little more rhythm from traditional Irish instruments and even some modern ones.
The entire album is created to help the listener journey to another place and time. Play it on a mild spring day as you open the windows and lay in the sunshine on your bed. Or play it as you take a bath with just candles flickering. Ride through the countryside with it playing in your car.
I like to think of castles and cathedrals towering amid lush, green countrysides, majestic, blue mountains, or on cliffs overlooking the misty waves of the ocean. Here I see God’s beauty melded with Man’s best architectural creations—where the atmosphere is filled with music created from the collaboration between the inspired one and the Giver of the gift.
Ken's Musical Influences
On Anamcara, you will experience a variety of musical styles.
Several movie score composers are on my list, including Harry Gregson-Williams (Chronicles of Narnia); John Williams (Star Wars) Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings), the late James Horner (Titanic), and Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean).
Irish dance show composers:
Bill Whelan (Riverdance),
Ronin Hardiman (Lord of the Dance, and Feet of Flames).
Composers Rolf Loveland and Fionnuala Sherry of the Norwegian music group, Secret Garden.
Irish musician, Joanie Madden (Cherish the Ladies, music group). Pianist and producer, David Foster.
A Tribute to Patrick J. O’Riordan
This album is dedicated to Ken’s friend, the late Patrick J. O’Riordan, maker of the whistles Ken plays. Pat’s whistles are perhaps the most desired and highly-valued whistles in the Celtic musical world for their tonal quality and craftsmanship. They are the Stradivarius of Irish whistles.
Patrick once told Ken to always clear a whistle by blowing out, not in, for he once inhaled an ant, which produced a violent coughing spell. Such was the deprecating humor of the genial and genius whistle maker. He is missed, but beautiful music will be made in his honor and on his instruments for years to come.
History of the Irish Whistle
The modern penny whistle is indigenous to the British Isles, particularly England, when factory-made "tin whistles”, which cost a penny, were produced by Robert Clarke from 1840 to 1889 in Manchester and later New Moston, England.
The flute, whether end blown via a fipple, or side-blown, dates back to the eighth generation from Adam. Jubal is the first human mentioned in Genesis 4:21 as the “father of all those who play the harp and flute.” Jubal means the “crest of a flood”, or “one who brings forth a flow”. Jubal, is the Hebrew root from which comes the word Jubilee. Truly, music was intended to bring forth a spiritual flow.
The Way of Love 5:21
Flight of the Swallowtail 4:06
Stay The Course 6:42
Ride Across the Glenn 4:27
How Great is Your Love 4:28
Shores of Dunmore 1:33
All the Glory 5:56
Leaving Ireland 1:28
Waterfalls of Eternia 7:17
Dance of the Angels 3:44
Dawn Treader 3:48
Te Ata 1:16
Ⓟ & © 2021
Kenneth Wayne Wood Music, ASCAP
Background of the Tunes on ANAMCARA
Anamcara is the combination of two Irish words, Anam - Soul, and Cara - friend or mate. Anamcara describes the ultimate love bond between a man and a woman, and also the strong bond between the closest of friends or family members.
The Way of Love
I travelled to Jerusalem, Israel and walked down the road Christ took from Pilate's judgement hall to the place of his crucifixion, burial and resurrection. It is known as the Via Dolorosa.
Down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day
The soldiers tried to clear the narrow street
But the crowd pressed in to see
The man condemned to die on Calvary
He was bleeding from a beating, there were stripes upon His back
And He wore a crown of thorns upon His head
And He bore with every step
The scorn of those who cried out for His death
Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King
But He chose to walk that road out of
His love for you and me
Down the Via Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary
Flight of the Swallowtail
Nothing exemplifies the possibility of resurrection more than the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. As Christ rose to eternal life, so shall we. The Swallowtail has had an Irish jig named after it. Now it has a slow air.
Stay The Course
Inspired by the movie, The Patriot. When Benjamin Martin finds his son, Gabriel, has been killed, he nearly gave up fighting for American independence. However, he is successfully encouraged by the Colonel to Stay the Course.
Ride Across the Glenn
The grass of the glenn tossed and
Swirled like waves of the sea.
On our two regal horses
We set sail on the greatest of adventures.
How Great Is Your Love for Me
As morning breaks and the shadows flee
You drive away every fear from me
You are my light and my Prince of Peace
How great is Your love for me
Your love is ageless and forever
Reaching out through time
Touching hearts like mine
You love, forgives and keeps on giving
You’re the reason why I’m living
How great is your love for me
How great is your love
Shores of Dunmore
At the very southeast tip of Ireland is the inspirational village of Dunmore East, and the quaintest bed and breakfast you’ll find. This song is a tribute to our hosts and to the school girls who performed an impromptu Irish dance for my wife and I. There is another Dunmore on the west coast of Ireland where many left to go to America leaving family, friends and country behind.
All the Glory
As one who has been given the gift of creating music, I can only say that all the glory really belongs to the Giver of such an amazing gift. As the Irish call Him, “The Great Himself”.
As Irish people began migrating to America, they experienced the heartache of leaving their homes and loved ones behind. However, they carried their strong musical traditions with them and often used music to express their feelings, whether extreme elation or deep sorrow.
Watching white Lipizzaner stallions perform, inspired this song. One of the greatest tributes to the horse is from God, Himself as recorded in the Book of Job.
Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrifying.
He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
he goes out to meet the weapons.
He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
he does not turn back from the sword.
Upon him rattle the quiver,
the flashing spear, and the javelin.
With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.—Job 39:19-25
Avalonia was the name of the ancient land the Celtic tribes settled in before it became known as Southern Ireland, Wales, and England.
Waterfalls of Eternia
Come to this place of sublime rest and inner tranquility from burdens and grief. Here in this realm God invades earth with the atmosphere of heaven.
Dance of the Angels
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.”—Exodus 23:20 Not only did God rescue the Israelites, but numerous historical accounts testify to the intervention of angels to rescue individuals and kingdoms from impending doom. Word is each of us has one.
This tune is inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia character, “Reepicheep”, the valiant mouse, who senses that his time is at an end, and so, joins Prince Caspian in a voyage on the Dawn Treader in search of the unseen land known as Aslan's Country. For, this will be his eternal destination.
As I began to play the Irish Whistle, I was taken by how close it was to the American Indian flutes I grew up hearing in Oklahoma. When the inspirational movie about the Chickasaw woman, Te Ata, was filmed in Oklahoma, I composed this tune as a tribute to this amazing woman, who became a goodwill ambassador for the Indian people during the presidency of Franklyn Delano Roosevelt. Te Ata means, Bearer of the Dawn.
To say that composer Ken Wood’s new album Anamcara is
immersive is an understatement. I can best describe it by saying
imagine if music was made out of water and you could bathe in it.
That’s what Ken’s Irish whistle and light electronic ensemble
collection feels like.
Additionally, it sounds divine. I first got acquainted with Ken’s music from his first album Portals to Heaven and his subsequent work, Acoustic Retreat 1.
On Anamcara, his fifteen track Celtic flavored music is faith based and deftly produced giving it a reverent, yet dynamic sense. Each time you listen you feel you are in a different sonic environment, and you can easily lose yourself within. Frankly, that’s just where I want to be.
Anamcara or “soul friend” is the Celtic concept of someone who is with you on a spiritual journey, not necessarily guiding, but sharing the pilgrimage. So welcome, friend.
Anamcara, the title tune, is a friendly invitation, an offer to do this together and see it through to the end. The music is so blissful it is impossible to turn down the offer. Tin whistle and guitar gambol together in quiet poise. There’s the path. Let’s see where it leads.
A bright, sunny day and the brightest jewel you can see is the golden wings of the butterfly as it dances in the sky around you. Button accordion accompanies tin whistle on the fanciful Flight of the Swallowtail. It a humming background to the butterfly who lives on the edge of fantasy. Which flower is next?
One of the more driving tunes on the album is called Stay the Course. Popping percussion and a forceful melody, it feels like you are going ever forward and with plenty of energy to spare. This theme reminds us that we should not only advance, but also keep positive no matter what the challenges we are given.
Let’s join Ken up in the Scottish Highlands, but first, we’ll take a Ride Across the Glenn. This mid-tempo excursion through the lush, green valley is just a way to get to a better place. This valley is secluded. You won’t find it on the map, but you will delight it its peaceful beauty.
One of the loneliest tunes on Anamcara is called The Shores of Dunmore. Ken’s melancholy instrumental gives us a sense of yearning, to go back there again. You can stand at the tall, stone wall and look out to sea past the hooked pier and there is Wales in the distance. So many ships left from there. Some for fishing, some bound for the colonies never to return. A quick wave and a smile, and it’s off you go to the New World, Laddie.
Guitar, piano, and Wood’s animated penny whistle come together to take you to Avalonia. Whether we think that Avalonia was real or imagined, the music lets us dream of a place of emerald fields, basalt cliffs, and quiet forests where fantasy and myths are born.
One of the best tunes on the album is called Dance of the Angels. Reminiscent of something out of the Riverdance sound track, it features echoing whistle, crystal harp, and an errant appearance of bagpipes and drums. Together they compose a scenario of swirling light and heavenly resonance. This dance is performed in the firmament of the spirit. Marching, whirling, turning, and radiating grace, this dance is one for the heart.
There is an homage in these tunes, to Te Ata. This bold, cinematic tribute celebrates the life of Te Ata, one of the greatest storytellers to ever come out of the Oklahoman Chickasaw Nation. Teacher, raconteur, and performer, she dedicated her life to imparting knowledge of indigenous cultures all over the world. When you hear that the history of a culture was handed down by native historians, they are speaking of Mary Frances Thompson Fisher. Te Ata.
There. Through the gift of emotionally-rich music, you have just traveled from the western shores of Ireland to the highlands of Scotland to the heartland of America. All in the blink of an eye and with a wonderful sound track to accompany you.
Anamcara is the musical companion for any journey you wish to make. This “soaking music”, i.e., music that lets you have a spiritual relationship with your God, offers a transcendent cleansing and communion. This is what Ken Wood does. I for one, am ready to go again. Highly listenable.
- R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews