Oct 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By David Weiss
MASTER OF VOCAL, STUDENT OF SOUND
Prepare to meet one of Ireland’s most audacious exports in some time, but first a little history—or rather, a lot of history when you’re talking about singer, composer and orchestrator Julie Feeney. Of course, you could simply absorb her most recent album, Pages (2009, mittens), without knowing any history about Feeney, and that alone would be sufficient. A 12-song collection, Pages instantly hooks listeners with its remarkably adept merging of influences classical to thoroughly modern.
Fittingly, Feeney’s roots lie in Galway, a west coast region known as “Ireland’s Cultural Heart” for its highly concentrated collection of dance, festival, film, visual arts and music groups. Being born into such a vibrant artistic center no doubt had a multitasking impact on Feeney: While establishing herself as a singer, composer and dancer, she earned three master's degrees quickly, including one in Music and Media Technologies, on the way to a 2002 graduation from Trinity College Dublin.
While her power to connect the dots can clearly be heard on Pages, Feeney has co-created another far-less abstract reflection of musical history in a radio series called High Fidelity: A Century of Recorded Song for Irish Public Service Broadcaster RTÉ. “On many levels, music is crucial and central to people’s lives,” Feeney says. “It’s indispensable. It’s vibrant, it’s the core, it’s a pulse. And music has an innate importance to me; it’s constantly pulsating through me.”
With her Bach-fueled biorhythms (“You can’t live your life until you’ve heard every piece of Bach music”), Feeney and High Fidelity co-host Jack L make every 50-minute episode a continuous source of discovery for the listener. In each, the pair eschew a rigid timeline for an unfolding train of thought, one where Leadbelly, Van Morrison, Nirvana and Woody Guthrie may coalesce in one show; Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt, Judy Garland and U2 in another; and Thomas Edison’s landmark “Mary Had a Little Lamb” meshes with Miles Davis, Enrico Caruso, John McCormack and Scott Joplin in another.
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