I recently asked a friend and one of my regular Saturday Soundtrack readers what music he was listening to these days. He replied, “I sure am missing the annual Celtic Christmas concert by Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton” at Dumbarton United Methodist Church. Tell me more, I said, and soon I was online, listening to delightful duets between the Celtic harp of Linn Barnes and the guitar or lute played by Allison Hampton. Perfect music for the season, as heard in the classic In the Bleak Midwinter.
Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton have played for thirty-five years as part of the acclaimed Dumbarton Concert series, where their annual Christmas program, A Celtic Christmas was described by The Washington Post as “a Washington institution.” In 2015 they released a compilation of the same name comprised of favorite tunes recorded from 1995 to 2011 and performed annually at the Christmas concerts. Here’s a lovely version of the Sussex Carol.
The duo have played at stages across the country and in Europe, appearing in 1988, 1990, and 1996 at the prestigious Inter-Celtic Festival in Lorient, Brittany, France. They have made frequent appearances on both Washington and national radio and television. For something outside the holiday realm, I enjoyed their version of the medley Fraher’s Jig and Garret Barry’s Jig. The interplay of the harp and Descant lute is arresting and lovely. From the same recording session comes I Lost My Love with Hampton on the Terz guitar, a small 19th century instrument tuned a minor third higher than a regular guitar (i.e., the same tuning as if you put a capo at the third fret of a normal guitar).
Barnes and Hamilton have also played in larger groups, as heard in this recording of Madame Maxwell by The Celtic Consort.
I’ll end this exploration with the beautiful mix of Celtic and Renaissance music from Spain in Espanoleta, which is included in their Galicia CD as well as on A Celtic Christmas.
More to come…
Correction: An earlier version of this post had the Dumbarton Concert series as being held at Dumbarton Oaks. My apologies for the error.