Celeste Ray & Celtic Legend Ensemble
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Celeste Ray & Celtic Legend Ensemble

Band Classical Celtic


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The best kept secret in music


""Celtic Sentiments" Los Angeles Times"

World traveler Celeste Howard (Ray) is a songsmith and habitue of that warm-spirited gray area where folk, world music--with a leaning toward Celtic--and traces of jazz meet. She's also a multi-instrumentalist who studied classical music, jazz and world music, sings and plays keyboard.

In her thrid album, "Celtic Blessings, her voice is a warm, pleasant instrument...one of her distinct calling cards is her skill with the relatively obscure bowed psaltery.

Listen to the odd, alluring character as she plays the traditional tunes "Ten Penny Bit" and "Southwind Air/Erin Shore"--the sound is at once fresh and other-worldly." - Los Angeles Times

""The Gateway" The Green Egg"

The Gateway

"Celeste Howard opens a gateway with her adept fusion of Celtic folk , world, and jazz. Her second CD features Paul McCandless and is inspired by Arthurian and Celtic legends. Her compositions include music for a variety of instruments, including voice, piano, psaltery, cello, oboe, and recorder. Her melodic arrangements and vocal harmonies are eclectic and impressive."

Muse Reviews, Green Egg 1998
- The Green Egg

""The Artists Studio, Rockaway Artists Alliance""

"...I hope you had the pleasure of attending the concert by Celeste Ray with Celtic Legend. It took place last Saturday at St. Francis de Sales Church and was very well received by the enthusiastic audience. The talented Ray sang and played bowed psaltery. The other musicians in the group were equally splendid. They included James Gilchrist on guitar, Norbert Satchel on flute, Eric Mauriello on bass and Andrew Potenza on percussion. A special treat were dancers from the Connelly School of Dance under the direction of Elena Marion. Kudos to Sophia Skeans for organizing the event and to Apryl Green for her technical expertise. Special thanks to Monsignor Gerhaty, St. Francis Church and Mrs. Brenna for providing the space, the refreshments and the beautiful, warm atmosphere to the concert. RAA was happy to lend its assistance..."
- The Wave

"Brooklyn Heights Press/Celeste Ray Enthralls Audience"

NEW YORK CITY:-----The next time the Celeste Ray Ensemble gives a concert in Brooklyn, or anywhere, really, I hope it takes place outdoors. The music of contemporary compositions and traditional Celtic songs, accompanied by James Gilchrist and Kyle Sanna on guitar, Ben Kono on flute and oboe, Eric Mauriello on bass, and Andrew Potenza on percussion, should be enjoyed in the environment that inspired it--in nature. Outside, where people can dance freely to the music they are hearing, is where this music belongs.

Celeste Ray, the group's vibrantly spirited leader, introduced the exotic and ancient sound of her signature instrument, the bowed psaltery. Known to be simple and easy to learn, the bowed psaltery is the most recent incarnation of the earliest instrument to use a bow, and was designed to teach children music theory. Despite its simplicity, in the hands of Ray the psaltery's sweet, ethereal sound became an instrument capable of fierce expression. Ray admitted that she came upon the psaltery by luck. Then, as a piano player, she was drawn not only to its unique sound, but also its convenient compact size: She wanted an instrument she could bring with her wherever she went.

Her piece "Cliffs of Tintagel" came about in a moment of inspiration in southwestern England at the castle where legend says that King Arthur was born. Fortunately, she had her psaltery there with her, and thus began to compose the lively yet other-worldly medieval song right there on the spot. This song was among several of Ray's own compositions, two of which were piano pieces inspired by Celtic music and other world traditions such as flamenco guitar.

Pouring herself into these pieces, Ray seemed as if she would float into the air along with her music. Slow, searching and mystical, or fast and light-hearted, the songs were energetic, accessible, and beautiful.

The ensemble as a whole worked well together. Most notable was the flutist Ben Kono, whose gentle ornamentation complimented Ray's psaltery and voice. James Gilchrist quickened the pulse with a rock number inspired by the John Keats poem "La Belle Dame sans Merci." Is it possible that another source of inspiration was Ricky Martin's "Livin' la Vida Loca"? Despite its Celtic roots, this piece had a distinct Latin flavor.

The audience appreciated the modern compositions, but truly came alive with the traditional numbers, keeping the beat with clapping hands and tapping feet. True to Celtic tradition, two songs encouraged audience participation. Ray welcomed the efforts of the audience and complimented them on their singing and enthusiasm for the Scottish traditional "Loch Lomond," and the famous Irish Lullaby "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral."

These lively songs expressive of nature and folk music traditions invoked the history, people and natural beauty of the countryside of Ireland and Scotland. As she sang and danced and played, Ray's apparent enthusiasm for her music invigorated the small hall, and gave a taste of another time and place...

# # #
- Brooklyn Heights Press/Music Review

"Broncos VP on a Musical Kick"

Former footballer and current vice-president of the Broncos Leagues Club, Gary Balkin, has added a new string to his bow, having spent the past few months scripting a musical.

Called "Duram Boy--The Kangaroo Rat", Mr. Balkin said the work would be ready fo major production early next year.

Mr. Balkin recruited American-born Celeste Howard (Ray), a master of the unusual Irish instrument the psaltery, to set his tale to music.

"It is like a piano and has 25 strings, she said. "The right bow works the equivalent of the white piano keys and the left hand bow hits the black notes." She taught herself the instrument.

Now in Australia on a musical tour which has included performances at the Government House and The Bass Note in Brisbane, Ms. Howard is devoting her time to composing and arranging Mr. Balkin's musical. - The Sunday Mail

"Place With A View"

"This mellow, jazzy album becomes a warm friend very fast and is a delight to anyone who loves clear, bright saxophone tones. Its lush harmonies give it the feeling of a sunny day, and the lively beat is uplifting to the heart like a constant companion. This elegant, vital music serves as an excellent backdrop for creative pursuits and small get-togethers."
- Heartsong Review

"Psaltery: A Sound Ethereal/NY Newsday"

a classically trained pianist, Ray started playing the psaltery only about seven years ago. she will play and sing traditional and original ongs with guitarist James Gilchrist at Pier 92 in a benefit show for the Rockaway Museum.

An ancient precursor of the zither or autoharp, the psaltery has an ethereal sound that is perfect for the traditional Scottish and Welsh songs that Ray plays... - New York Newsday


See this site for interview with Celeste Howard-Ray and several other terrific artists! - Judy Jones


"Place with a View" featuring Alex Acuna on the Access Music Label
"The Gateway" featuring Paul McCandless on the Access Music Label
"Celtic Blessings" independent CD
"Celeste Ray with Celtic Legend" Independent CD


Feeling a bit camera shy


Born in Los Angeles, Celeste Ray began her musical studies at the age of six. She was influenced by parents who played classical piano and flamenco guitar. Celeste's imagination was captivated early in life by the creative potential of the piano. As a teenager expertly trained in classical music, she explored contemporary composers. Bill Evans, Paul McCandless, and Pat Metheny continue to color her musical compositions. Celeste's current influences include Loreena McKennitt, Bill Whelan, Enya, and Michael Hedges.

Ms. Ray's first internationally released CD features a lineup of impressive guest artists including Steve Kujala (Chick Corea) and Alex Acuña (Weather Report). On "Place With A View" Ray plays piano, handles all the writing, and introduces her unique vocal style. About "'View," her long-time mentor Paul McCandless remarked, "Celeste's melodic compositions, and especially her vocals, give her music a sound which is instantly identifiable...I am impressed!"

Inspired by her travels in Europe in the 1980's and 1990's, Celeste transformed her compositional emphasis from solo to ensemble-based performance. "The Gateway", Celeste's second internationally released CD, features McCandless and is inspired by Arthurian and Celtic legends. "'Gateway" captures Celeste's first performances with the bowed psaltery (a 25-stringed Renaissance instrument combining the ethereal sound of a harp and violin). Throughout the CD, Ray is accompanied by musical talent employing both ancient and contemporary instrumentation.

Celeste's diverse and eclectic background includes a six month tour of Australia where she was commissioned to compose a Celtic Musical. Her tour included guest performances on Australia's national radio "ABC" (Australian Broadcast Radio), and for the Governor during "Melbourne Cup Day" at the Government House in Queensland.

She has also performed abroad in Hamburg, Germany and Tintagel, England. In the US, she has toured extensively on the west coast and in New York City, and performed at Carnegie Hall under the direction of John Rutter. Her music is included in a European CD Sampler published by "New Age and New Sounds" and has received outstanding reviews in international publications.

"While living and touring in Australia," says Ray, "which has a prominent Celtic population, I drew upon the local Scottish/Irish ideas and culture." The Los Angeles Times described Celeste Ray's third CD "Celtic Blessings" as having "...a sound at once fresh and other-worldly. [Ray's] distinct calling card is her skill with the relatively obscure bowed psaltery and her voice is a warm and pleasant instrument."

Celeste Ray, a recipient of several grants (including The Dept. of Cultural Affairs in New York City), is currently busy producing and performing Celtic concerts in the state of New York where she resides. She continues to interpret Celtic heritage through music. She believes this art form crosses many boundaries.