The crashing of waves on the Cliff of Moher. Beautifully expansive emerald green highlands. Hauntingly ethereal stone castles. Echoes of whale calls somewhere lost to salty-breezed, temperamental waters.
Every one of these images are evoked when listening to Celtic music. Such iconic sounds paired with gorgeous landscapes are hard to forget no matter what age it is discovered. One doesn’t even have to go to the sweeping greens of Ireland, or the rocky coasts of Scotland, or the wet hills of Wales to experience their wonders. By listening to sounds of bagpipes, flutes, and drums, one can taste the sea-salt air from the comfort of your own living room. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
It is hard to pin down, but there is something undeniable about Celtic music that just proves so attractive to many listeners. It’s no surprise that its influence on the world and the music industry is still prevalent even today. Many artists producing New Age music derive their inspiration from these Old-World tunes. A name like Enya, probably comes to mind. But she does not stand alone.
Vocalist and songwriter Emoiryah is an artist of her age. Her specialties lie in many realms; Pop, Ballad, R&B, Vocal Trance, Emotional, and Ethereal styles. This talented musician is also classically trained and dabbled in musical theater as youth. Her music and expressive vocals have been featured in movie and television scores. So, it is clear, like any good artist, Emoiryah is versatile. But it seems she has finally found her calling.
On October 10th, Emoiryah released her new album, Return To Me; a Celtic inspired, artist-defining epic. At 11 songs in total, so much is packed in, it is difficult to know where to begin. But like with every good story, the best place to start is always the beginning.
When there already exists a sea of New-Age, Celtic inspired music, it is possible that new works could get lost in the ceaselessly rolling waves. But, Return To Me is something else entirely. Emoiryah describes her journey with the development of this album, stating “This album defines me as an artist in my truest form.” What is most interesting about the album is its story.
Emoiryah describes her inspiration for this album as a vision she had of a woman from a time of old, mourning the loss of her love by a stream. The grief of her lost husband, lost to a battle, is so painful, the pain magically transforms into water lilies. Despite her loss, the woman, through her grief, manages to continue to connect with her love through many lifetimes.
This short, beautifully heart-breaking story is in itself, breathtaking. But paired with the musical magnificence of the full album, the actual music embodiment of this haunting tale, the whole production is transformative.
“Where the Water Lilies Grow” is the track that begins the telling of our tale. The start of the journey. There is no question as to the story behind this scene as Emoiryah’s vision set it up for us. From the first chord of the strings, as a listener, you know to buckle down and listen as there is nothing else to be said about the orchestration besides that it is epic. That goes for the orchestration for the entire album, but when starting the album, the sound of full strings tells a listener that there is a story to be told and it is one you will want to hear. When Emoiryah’s voice breaks the trance set by the instruments, her lament as the voice of this grieving woman pierces the atmosphere, telling her lost love, “I’ll be waiting Where the Water Lilies Grow.”
A mournful bombard, basically a Celtic oboe, leads us into the next part of our narrative in “Away from the Tide.” What follows is a lengthy instrumental introduction where you can practically see the aerial-movie pan of the Celtic scenery. Another first-person narrative from our mourning wife as she still feels the presence and strength of her lost husband with her. The wavering intensity throughout the track follows that of the tumultuous emotions running through the widow. The highs and lows of new grief expertly laid out orchestrally and vocal with no excess effort but full-bodied passion from Emoiryah.
The plucking of a Celtic harp sets the next scene, one that provides a light reprieve. “Three Lifetimes” is the love letter to the future of these separated lovers. This love would not be true if it did not expand lifetimes, and Emoiryah’s lyric describes the hopeful wait this lonely wife has made for her love. A wait that has lasted “Three Lifetimes.” And she still maintains the hope that they will meet again.
If you haven’t felt the magic of the Celtic spell by now, “The Emerald Path” will quickly remedy that. The mystic accompaniment depicts a lonely wanderer making their way through the forest. A line that is almost akin to that of an Alan Menken soundtrack. This journey on “The Emerald Path” rushes through the glen, through the forest, past sparkly woodlands under the blanket of night. And, almost, with a sigh, it is revealed this winding, dizzyingly beautiful path leads our protagonist home. But not quite yet. There is more to be told.
Battle drums. A distant flute. A lamenting cello lines. All together, these pieces create a stirring trance in “Winter Calls.” Breathless vocals call to a lonely character, as if distant goddesses to a lone warrior to carry on through a powerful winter storm. Or perhaps, a lonely wife trapped in the eternal winter of grief. Complete with ending cold and chilling darkness. Yet a powerful voice urges this character on, towards shelter, towards light. Our character calls back to their ethereal voices, feeling the night, feeling the cold. But the journey continues, strength is regained in increments, the orchestration pushing this trial of will forward. Yet it is difficult to break the spell when “Winter Calls.”
“The Quest” seems to be an apt part two to “Winter Calls,” as our narrator asks, “Will you find your way through the shadows?” There is a quest to be completed, “A quest deep as the sea.” The most striking moment of this track is the bridge as a group of beautifully blended vocals, all provided by Emoiryah, pushes through, as if the voices in mind of our main character have come together in solidarity, in confidence as they face this quest, this realm of uncertainty and adversity.
If there was any song that was a sure-fire way to transport you to the lands of Celtic sounds, it is this next one. The sounds of waves crashing on the cliffsides drops listeners right in the middle of the Scottish geography in “Highlands.” This lilting lullaby, a siren song, tempts the listener to join our singer “down by the sea.” The sweet, smiling vocals float above the Celtic instrumentation, dream-like yet so alive. The scenery is so vivid and the voice so powerful that I don’t think it would be a bad thing to answer this siren’s call.
“Nightingale.” The inspiration for this track is one that has inspired many pieces of music, especially vocal pieces, throughout the ages and across genres. This mysterious natural beauty has haunted many composers and artists, including our guide through this story, Emoiryah. Our singer speaks to the “enchanted melody echoing heavily,” and answers with her own. Or perhaps it’s an imitation. This “mystery of the night, serenading beauty” evading our understanding with its natural vocal prowess. Much like our vocalist here.
The title track of this album, “Return to Me,” lives up to the pressure of holding the entire work in its name. The ultimate plea of our widow crying across the stormy sea. The track is a beseeching prayer of epic proportions. The lonely wife is not asking. She is telling him he will come home. These rising vocals and hopeful words filled with a desperate grief make the overture that much more heartbreaking as we, and the mournful lover, understand that he never can “come home.”
“It’s time to shine away from the Darkness.” Emoiryah’s powerhouse chorus echoes through this track as we feel the lost strength make its way back into our protagonist. The sparkle of sunrise, the call of a tin-whistle, paired with a fiddle depict this slow rise both in the Irish sky and within the soul of this lost woman. “Darkness” is the Celtic girl-power-ballad we never knew we needed, if Emoiryah’s rock-solid mixed voice has anything to say about it. Beautiful rallying of the troops to rise out of grief and move forward.
To close out the album, we have a last request from the widow to her lost husband. “Speak To Me,” echoing its name from that of the title track, is a completely different kind of request. It is that sweet, melancholic inquiry to a lost one, asking them to “Watch over me/I will not falter/Just Speak To Me.” As this is the end of our journey, the beginning strings feel like the start of a quiet morning, that trance-like period as one wakes up and is still distinguishing dreams from reality. Whereas Emoiryah throughout the album is more inclined toward Alicia Keys-like vocals, in this track she grants her talent to a technique closer to that of classic Celtic vocals. Even more ethereal and haunting. Although she keeps her signature range at full force as the thick orchestration envelops her as if being submerged in a pool of calm waters.
All in all, the album is an epic. The creation itself lends itself to that of Schubert’s Winterreise, a narrative song cycle describing the journey one man takes through the winter, combined with the traditional practice of epic storytelling. Return to Me can be seen as a sort of song cycle, telling a story throughout the work as a whole, relying on the words and how the cinematic nature of the orchestration can best aid the telling of this tale. It is no surprise the orchestration of these tracks are epic as with movie composer and music producer Stu Goldberg at the helm, they are bound to be.
As listeners hear these tracks, I want you to imagine Emoiryah as an orator, singing and telling epic tales of heroes and mythology to a group of people around a fire. It truly is not hard to imagine these vivid spectacular scenes. Just like the best orators and storytellers throughout time, Emoiryah does half the work for you.
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