TURNER COLLINS – Harp
(2005 Self Release)
Turner Collins is a little-known multi-instrumentalist giant who has been performing and residing in the Madison area for some time. He was formerly a member of the Celtic bands Far From Home, Keltori and Celtic House and has been associated with the Celtic vocal group Navan. Collins is an incredibly gifted and self-taught musician playing the Celtic harp, 3-row melodeon (button accordion), tin whistle, bombarde (a horn instrument resembling the sound of an oboe) and bodhran (hand drum) as well as singing.
Harp is a sheer delight, with Collins taking on all the instrumentation. Most of the tracks are instrumental and traditional works of Irish, Scottish, English or Welsh origin. The exceptions are the leadoff track and two others where Collins is joined on vocals by Navan, and another track where he sings solo.
Collins gets it off to a highlander start with “Hieland Laddie” and just vocals and bodhran. Two minutes in the tune changes drastically and becomes an elegantly stated harp piece. Navan join in on vocals on two tracks, the most striking of which is “An Eos Whek,” their three-part vocals producing perfect overtones and weaving about the harp accompaniment. Collins’ rendition of “Bunessan” (better known as “Morning Has Broken”) showcases his impeccable phrasing and timing. Likewise “DyfrwchGwyr Pontnewydd / Dyfrwch Gwyr Dyfi” spotlights the tin whistle. The harp-playing here is exquisitely intricate and precise. “Out of the Window” lets him use his expressive voice to the fullest, ornamenting the melody with beautiful trills and grace notes. It’s a striking and passionate love ballad.
The intimacy of Harp cannot be overstated. It feels as though you’re in the same warm living room with Collins, the few and insignificant imperfections coming off as beauty marks. We are fortunate to have musicians of this caliber in our midst, quietly going about their way and no doubt transforming those whose paths they cross.