“Revel & Ritual: Holiday Music for the World” by Greg Herriges, is a groundbreaking collection of traditional and original music for holidays of many faiths, places, and seasons, including Hanukkah, Holi, Ashura, Chinese and Ukrainian New Year, Sakura Matsuri, Basque and Catalan Christmas carols, and the Winter Solstice. Majestic, epic, gorgeous, inspirational. These are the words that I come up with when listening to the music on this recording. This is truly a masterpiece. Quite possibly the single best collection of these type of spiritually inspired songs on one album, by one artist. Herriges clearly has a way with stringed instruments, and he showcases those skills with his guitar and bouzouki work on this album. He even tales the time to illustrate his vocal prowess on the original composition “Bright Night”.
It’s just the right balance of ensemble and solo instruments and does not seem over produced which is nice. Greg’s talent is natural and flowing, from slow to more upbeat. What I like best is each track is different and nothing really sounds the same like what happens with so many albums.
So if you want a nice music for your ear adventure, something to drive to, kick back with, read with a cup of your favorite morning brew, “Revel & Ritual: Holiday Music for the World” fits those purposes. It will make you dream, hum, reflect, and who knows…maybe even dance with righteous joy.
From the opening track, “Birjina Gazetto Bat Zegoen” (Trad. Basque) – a Basque Christian song about the Annunciation, Greg Herriges shows why he is the master of this kind of music. He manages to make the stringed instrument sound like so much more than what it is. And he takes it to places that few have imagined.
On “Garuda/Khelat Rang Holi” he celebrates the Hindu Holi Festival of Colors in Indo-Balinese fusion style, and then heads off to Japan for the Spring Cherry Blossom Festival with “Sakura, Sakura” (Trad. Japanese). His guitar picked and plucked with consummate skill and passion.
But the voyage has just begun, and next up Herriges exhibits a style, grace, and maturity that really adds to the energy of “Sevivon, Sov Sov Sov” (Trad. Hebrew). Greg Herriges is an amazing musician who happened to choose traditional instruments for his craft. What’s amazing is how he has expanded the range of possibilities with those instruments.
The key is that he’s able to look forward and still hold the traditional methods, songs, and styles. This is blatantly apparent on his composition “Ashura”, commemorating the Muslim holy day, and events in the Old Testament, the Koran, and Islamic history. The playing and the sonics is as inherently progressive as its themes are stooped in tradition.
Of course the idea of putting the Hebrew and the Muslim songs back to back, is a thoughtful touch, and one that did not elude my all-embracing sensibility. “Foom, Foom, Foom” (Trad. Catalan), an age-old Catalan Christmas carol obviously puts us in front of the splendid strumming guitar.
Which eventually brings us to the vocal track “Bright Night”, confirming that Herriges is also no slouch when it comes to using his most natural instrument – the voice! Celebrating the end of winter’s hardship and the joy of spring, “Gong Xi Ni (Trad. Chinese)” is yet another opportunity for Herriges to explore his virtuosity and versatility as an instrumentalist, as well as the beauty of the sound of six strings.
A triumph of the ensemble, “Shchedryk (Trad. Ukrainian)”, features the bandura (harp lute), tabla drums, and a Hindustani vocal by Pooja Goswami Pavan. All-round, this album is wonderful. The music is a treat for the ears and Greg Herriges is a true artist. He has brought into the spotlight, some lesser known motifs to the humble ears of World Music laymen like ourselves.
MORE ABOUT: Greg Herriges is a recipient of composer and performing artist fellowships and grants from the Bush and McKnight Foundations, the Metro Regional Arts Council, and MN State Arts Board He is also a soundtrack artist and music director for film and theater, as well as an author of seven internationally published music books.
Greg Herriges: guitar, bouzouki, guitalele, hoses, vocal
Michael Bissonnette: drums and percussion
Rundio: Chapman Stick, atmospherics, beard
Pooja Goswami Pavan: vocal
Abhinav Sharma: dholak, tabla
Tatiana Riabokin: bandura