The Phantom Tollbooth

Starkindler: A Celtic Conversation through Time
Artist: Michael Card
Label: Myrrh/Covenant Artists
Time: 10 Tracks/ 34:09

Today we are in the middle of a Celtic rennaissance of sorts.  Everywhere you look--in books art, and music--there seems to be a newfound love of all things Irish.  In the midst of this, Michael Card has released Starkindler: A Celtic Conversation Across Time.  Using traditional instruments and ancient melodies, Card has made an attempt to frame our 20th century faith with the music of believers of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.  In doing so, his hope is to build a bridge between their understanding of faith and ours.
Only one song on this project was written by Card.  "Starkindler" is a song Card says he wrote for his wife shortly after acquiring a Celtic harp. After writing the melody, he came upon an old poem and referred to it for the lyrics:

A billion bright and holy beams
From a light that's traveled far
Began the trip from His fingertips
O the wonder of the stars.
The rest of the songs are old hymns and songs of worship ranging from the classic "Be Thou My Vision"  to the more popular "Morning Has Broken."  Many of these songs prove the timelessness of the Celtic vision, expressing a faith in God that is fueled by the beauty of the world around us and lived out in the day to day of our existence.  Coming from a time when there were no distinctions in Christianity, neither Protestant nor Catholic, these songs can be a bridge for all Christians.  Included here is "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" a Welsh tune with lyrics by the 18th century preacher Charles Wesley, and the hymn "Holy God We Praise Thy Name," a 4th century melody with 18th century
lyrics used even today by Catholic Christians.
Lovers of Celtic music will particularly enjoy this project as Card aptly represents the genre in each song.  There are lovely melodies highlighted by tinwhistles, the strains of celtic harp interwoven with piano and strings, and several songs with the joy of the Irish fiddle.  The songs range in style from the ballad-like feel of the hymns, to the jigs and reels which are so characteristic of Celtic music.

Although very much a praise and worship CD, the listener would be best informed to know that this is much more in the spirit of The Chieftains than most praise music.  The listener who does not prefer the music of the Irish will probably not appreciate this album.
In Starkindler, Michael Card has given us an education.  He has attempted to teach us that, even across the centuries and across the world, we can learn lessons of our own faith by listening to those of others.  Although packaged in the words and melodies of a particular musical genre, for those who would listen the lessons are great.
Janet Friesen  (11/23/98)

One almost gets the impression that Celtic music started with Riverdance, but interest in the Celtic form of musical expression has been sustained through many centuries through well-loved hymns based on ancient Celtic melodies. Singer/songwriter Michael Card brings this wonderful ancient music to a new generation of Christians through this project, a series of  “covers” of music from the eighth through the seventeenth centuries. Card creates warm folk-styled gentle music with a sound that is very reminiscent of Kemper Crabb’s Archangel albums. You'll find lots of Celtic instruments: bodhrans, a harp, an accordion, Uliean pipes, an Irish whistle, a hammer dulcimer. Ancient hymns such as "Morning has Broken," ''Jesus, Lover of My Soul," and "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" are set within an album which opens and closes with my favorite, "Be Thou My Vision," an eighth-century Irish hymn. There is only one new song, "Starkindler," which praises God for His work creating the stars, something that Card, an accomplished amateur astronomer, especially appreciates.

The main drawback of this release is that there is only 38 minutes of music. Card states in the insert the Celts showed a "refusal to compartmentalize their faith-it was woven into their art and culture, into their daily life." I wish this CD held more music to listen to while going about the daily chores of my life.

By Shari Lloyd (11/11/98)