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'My Heart's in the Highlands': Music of Scotland and — Ireland

The Southern Oregon University Chamber Choir is joined — by notable Celtic musicians Pat O'Scannell, Brian Freeman, and Jim Finnegan — for a concert of Scottish and Irish music "My Heart's in the Highlands" — at the SOU Recital Hall, — p.m Sunday.

The concert includes solo performances by each of the — guest artists as well as choral arrangements of Scottish and Irish folk — songs and newly composed works by Scotland's greatest living composer — of vocal music, James MacMillan, performed by the SOU Chamber Choir.

Chamber Choir Director Paul French lived as a boy in Glasgow, — Scotland, where he sang his first solo in his grandfather's church in — Springburn and sang in his first choir, the Scottish Junior Singers. French's — love of traditional Scottish music is directly tied to his love of the — Scottish countryside.

"There is something of a haunting beauty to the highlands — that is perfectly captured in the music," French said. "When I hear a — traditional Hebridean melody, I get a powerful visual image of the land. — The simplest melody can take me directly to the islands."

This transporting quality was also felt by Pat O'Scannell — via her mother and grandmother, both of whom were singers and who "knew — from memory every New York Irish song you could name," French said.

Among O'Scannell's earliest childhood memories are the — times he was "dressing up in kilts and rushing around with my crazed friends — pretending we were part of Bonny Prince Charlie's crew through the Sugarloaf — Mountains which began in my neighbor's yard, listening to Scottish and — Irish music," O'Scannell said.

Guitarist and song writer Brian Freeman has Scottish and — Irish heritage on his father's side of the family but was not exposed — to Celtic folk music till 1978. Since that time, while never abandoning — other kinds of music, the Celtic influence has been at the forefront of — freeman's singing and can even be heard in his original tunes, many of — which have a decidedly Scottish flavor. After living for a time in Scotland — from 1979-80,

Freeman remembers fondly the "epiphany of seeing that — the rhythms of the music were so tied to the people and the countryside," — he said.

Finnegan is well known for his acting and singing and — is the only one of the three guest artists never to have actually been — to Ireland or Scotland, physically that is. When Finnean sings, it is — obvious to all that he is there in spirit, and his passion for this music — transports his audience there as well.

"It is actually quite difficult to transfer the emotional — directness of folkmusic to art music arrangements," French said. "I looked — at a a number of pieces where the core beauty of the folksong was basically — ruined by the attempt to turn it into 'art music.' But in those few pieces — where the composer manages to retain the heart of the folksong while adding — fresh and interesting colors and sounds, there you have a very special — world where folk art and classical art enhance one another. I believe — this program is such a program."

The beauty of high-quality choral music and the directness — of folkmusic is a great combination and a natural one.

"Folk music is community music, the more voices the better," — Freeman said.

O'Scannell goes even farther expressing what many feel — about this beautiful music.

"The Celtic music is a part of me now." O'Scannell said. — "It's not so much something that I do, but something that I am. It is — deep and refreshing, and I must return to it for sustenance. It will always — be there."

Tickets for "My Heart's in the Highlands" are $7 general, — $4 student and senior, and are available at the SOU Music Department or — at the door. Call 552-6101. Profits from the concert go toward Music Department — scholarships.