The Harper and The Minstrel
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The Harper and The Minstrel

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"CD Review "For A Moment" Motif Magazine"

Jay and Abby Michaels, who perform as The Harper and the Minstrel, are resplendent and refined on their fifth release, For a Moment.
According to Abby, the pair was greatly influenced by Sting’s recent volume of John Dowland’s seventeenth century lute compositions and they have inverted that concept by applying the Renaissance ethos to a trio of familiar, contemporary songs.
The first of these, their reading of Sting’s Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, is both faithful and timeless. Hidden harmonies and a longing that belongs to no time are teased out and laid over a simple acoustic guitar arrangement.
Among the finest songs on the disc is their take on the Led Zeppelin classic The Battle of Evermore. Performed with a combination of harp and a soft acoustic guitar, they retain Zeppelin’s menace by allowing their voices to step alternately to the front, before retreating into a flowing harmony, followed by a punchy wire-strung harp that pulls everything into the celebrated denouement.
Jay and Abby are at their best here, singing with just enough force to elicit a visceral response without tipping over into a clumsy caricature of Robert Plant’s sometimes heavy-handed vocals. When I saw them perform at The Mediator Stage, their version of Sting’s Fields of Gold was stunning.
It is the disc’s best example of how skilled musicians can make a contemporary composition sound like a two hundred year old traditional ballad that your grandmother used to hum. No tricks to tell you about, no insights: just Jay’s harp and Abby’s vocals; a great song expertly performed.
The title track, For a Moment, was inspired by a California countryside that evoked for Jay, the duo’s principal songwriter, the rolling emerald hills of Ireland.
Jay plays the harp with an elegant passion on this track, and a spry pennywhistle lead pairs well with their careful harmonies.
Abby’s fluency with the exotic bowed psaltery is something to behold on Rosemary Faire, and, at just under a minute and a half, much too brief.
Jay’s songwriting is at its best on The Man that I Remember. Jay’s cindery baritone and the six- and twelve-string guitars effectively achieve a cool clarity in which the mundanity of memories is elevated to something singularly sublime and permanent.
The narrative swings between straight biography and an even simpler exposition of memories that begin to seem random but by song’s end are revealed to be echoes: points relative to all of us, events that could be from the singer’s life, his father’s life or yours or mine.
For a Moment contains a pair of beautifully rendered Robert Burns ballads. Green Grow the Rashes, O and the unforgettable Comin’ Through the Rye, which features a melody that is a slight variation of the Scotch ballad Common ’ Frae the Town.
Abby’s loyal and bold reading of Burns’ exquisite ode to youth and alienation is a highlight of the album and perhaps the most satisfying version of Comin’ Through the Rye that I’ve heard.
You can best judge a musician’s acumen by the way they interpret music, whether that music is familiar to you or obscure. On For a Moment, Jay and Abby Michaels’ deft adaptations of songs from Sting to Robert Burns are thrilling, and they reveal the pair to be artists of some skill.

By G. W. Mercure - Motif Magazine


Discography

A SONNET FOR THE QUEEN was recorded in the fall and winter of 2010 and released on 1/1/11. Produced by Jay Michaels, this is an amazing collection of Celtic, Renaissance, Folk. Original and Classic Rock Music. This album is already getting great reviews! Featuring the songs: Caledonia, Rhiannon, The Stolen Child, May It Be, Galway Bay A La Una Yo Naci, Si Bheag Si Mhor, Bransle, Mari's Wedding, Message In A Bottle, The Bear Dance and more

THE ROAD TO LINDEMAR is an all-instrumental offering of Renaissance, Celtic and Medieval Music, with some original compositions as well! Harp, Flutes (Silver and Divergent), Recorders, Penny Whistles, Bowed Psaltery and Guitar. Featuring the tunes: Stingo, Aaron Boat Song, Eleanor Plunkett, Minuet in G, Lady Sif's Lament, Cantiga 353, Pachelbel's Canon. Stairway To Heaven and more!

BELOVED MINE was recorded in the Fall and early Winter of 2008. This CD is a collection Renaissance, Celtic and Original Music performed to perfection! Featuring the songs:
A Maid in Bedlam, Cantiga 166, The Star of the County Down, Come Again, Spancil Hill, Blind Mary and many more...

EVENING IN THE ENCHANTED GLADE is a collection of Instrumental Celtic & Renaissance Music with Harp, Flute, Recorder and Guitar. Including: Planxty Fanny Power, Jenny Pluck Pears, The Twa Bonny Maidens, Bouffons, The Skyboat Song, The Air of Londonderry and more,,,

FOR A MOMENT features Harp, Flute, Recorder, Penny Whistle, Bowed Psaltery, Guitar and Vocals The Music ranges from Traditional Celtic to Originals to covers by Sting & Led Zeppelin. An excellent CD featuring The Sally Gardens, Green Grow The Rashes O, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, The Fields Of Athenry, The Battle Of Evermore and more!!!

THE CIRCLE OF FAE is a collection of Music about Faeries, Elves and other Magical Beings featuring Vocals, Harp, Flute, Guitar, Bowed Psaltery, Penny Whistle and Recorder. Enjoy songs like The Lady Of Shalott, The King of The Faeries, Sir Topaz and The Elf Queen, Five and Seven, Lavender In M'Lady's Garden and more..

THE LAST DAY OF THE FAIRE features Harp, Guitar, Flute and Vocals. Irish Pub Ballads and beautiful Renaissance Music such as the Renaissance Festival Favorite The Last Day Of The Faire, The Wild Rover, Come By The Hills, Westlin Winds, The Blacksmith, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, The Whistlin' Gypsy Rover, The Hobbit Drinking Song and many others!

OPENING THE HARP CHAKRA is Jay Michaels' second solo Harp album. It is a collection of Instrumental New Age Music performed with Celtic Harp and Ambient Synthesizer. Ideal for Yoga, Meditation and Massage. Music from this CD was used on the Network TV Programs Parenthood and Lie To Me. Featuring: Opening The Harp Chakra, Two Faeries Dancing, Flowering Lotus, Across The Universe, Imagine and more!

SOMETHING THE ELF SAID is the debut solo Celtic Harp CD from Jay Michaels. The album features instrumental solo Celtic Harp versions of South Wind, The Lark In The Clear Air, Greensleeves, The Faeries Reel, Sakura, Come Again and many others!

To listen to samples from the CD's listed above, go to:
http://www.cdbaby.com/all/jaymichaels

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Bio

The Harper and The Minstrel are the Husband and Wife duo team of Jay and Abby Michaels. Abby's angelic alto and Jay's cindery baritone are accompanied by a variety of instruments including Celtic Harp, Silver & Divergent Flute, Recorder, Penny Whistle, Bowed Psaltery and Guitar.

The duo specializes in beautiful airs and ballads, the occasional jig or reel, many of their own original compositions and their unique arrangements of Traditional Celtic tunes, Baroque and Renaissance Music and songs by artists like Sting and Led Zeppelin.

For almost a decade The Harper and The Minstrel have brought their music to Renaissance, Medieval, Celtic and Folk festivals throughout the New England area. They have also performed in Florida and California. In additional to festivals, this duo has been a favorite at New England Farmers Markets, Senior Living Facilities and Coffee Houses.

Jay and Abby Michaels have performed together since 2002 after meeting in 1998 while Jay was performing as a solo Harper at a Medieval Festival at Hammond Castle on the north shores of Massachusetts. The meeting quickly developed into a deep friendship and was the inspiration to perform and record together. Jay and Abby were married in 2005 and reside in Southern Massachusetts.

In 2007 The Harper and The Minstrel won the Soule Homestead Emerging Artist Showcase and were featured at their Fall Festival in Middleboro, Massachusetts.
In 2010 this duo played a sold out show at the opening Concert of the Tower Hill Botanical Gardens 5 Star Concert Series in Boylston, Massachusetts.
The Harper and The Minstrel have been featured performers since 2007 at Florida's Fort Myers Medieval Festival, The Hoggetowne Medieval Faire and The Florida Renaissance Festival.

Jay plays the nylon and wire-strung Celtic Harps, Guitar and he sings. Abby sings, plays Flutes, Recorders, Penny whistles, Guitar, Harp and Bowed Psaltery.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Anna Maria College, Jay has given private lessons in Guitar, Piano and Harp. He has performed in various musical ensembles over the past thirty years including several acoustic rock duos, a 20-piece big band, choral groups, community bands and, as a solo Harper, for weddings, restaurants and Renaissance Festivals. He has written Music for TV programs such as NBC's Parenthood and Fox's Lie To Me.

Abby earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from Westfield State College where she studied opera. Before becoming a full time musician she taught music in the public and private school systems, and has also taught recorder and voice privately. Abby's performance background includes rock bands and various choirs, she was a popular soloist for church services.

"You can best judge a musician’s acumen by the way they interpret music, whether that music is familiar to you or obscure...Jay and Abby Michaels’ deft adaptations of songs from Sting to Robert Burns are thrilling, and they reveal the pair to be artists of some skill."
-Motif Magazine

"Sheer uniqueness" -Dirty Linen Magazine

CD Review of "The Road To Lindemar" in Renaissance Magazine issue #79 2011:
"This all-instrumental collection by Jay and Abby Michaels, together known as The Harper and the Minstrel, is surprisingly varied. Between them, the Michaels play Celtic harp, silver and divergent flute, recorder, penny whistle, bowed psaltery, and guitar, and all of them quite well indeed.
Though most of the tunes are traditional, there are surprises, foremost among them an arrangement of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Classical pieces include Bach’s “Minuet in G,” Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” the ubiquitous Pachelbel’s “Canon,” and two pieces by English renaissance composer William Byrd. Harpers are probably inclined to include the Turlough O’Carolan pieces among the classics, and the arrangements here are graceful and straightforward."
-Renaissance Magazine

Their music is enjoyed, and their musicianship is appreciated by audiences of all ages.