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CWazyTom
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« on: June 23, 2018, 03:06:01 PM »

Margaret Keys is a classical-crossover soprano from Derry, Northern Ireland. She's been singing since she was four. She has a Masters in vocal performance from the Royal Scottish Conservatoire of Music and Drama. She's performed all over the world, including the US. She's performed with and for some pretty big names (including a performance for the Pope in 2015).

In terms of Celtic Woman, Margaret's voice reminds me most of Meav's. It is both powerful and beautiful.

She sings classical, Irish traditional, tunes from musicals ... she does it all!

"Key" items from her discography:

- Pure Classics (2003)
- Songs from the Musicals (~2006)
- Legato (2009)
- The Gift of Music (2018)

Legato is my favorite of her older albums.

Her new album, The Gift of Music released on June 22, 2018.
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CWazyTom
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2018, 03:09:30 PM »

I really liked her new album The Gift of Music!

I couldn't wait for her pre-order CD to arrive (especially since I've been waiting about a month for Chloë's EP to arrive already), so I listed to it on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/album/3V87msbZPPHybupauTM8nE



*** SPOILERS BELOW ***

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The orchestration is phenomenal and Margaret Keys, of course, sounds like a goddess.

I greatly enjoyed all the songs that are familiar to us as Celtic Woman fans, including:
- Ave Maria ... this is truly exceptional. What a voice!
- Carrickfergus
- When You Believe ... spectacular finish!
- Going Home
- The Last Rose of Summer
- Danny Boy

Margaret's versions of the above songs are legitimate contenders for my all-time favorite versions of each of those songs.

Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) and The Old Man are devastatingly beautiful. Tissues were needed for both songs.

This album is really good!  There's not much for me that can hold a candle to Celtic Woman, but this definitely holds its own against any of the solo works of our Celtic Woman ladies.  Now that this album is released, it can take its rightful place among my cherished favorites. <3


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*** SPOILERS ABOVE ***


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CWazyTom
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« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2018, 05:51:10 PM »

I received my pre-ordered physical copy of The Gift of Music today!

I've got to say, of all the CDs I have in my collection, this one has one of the nicest album inserts and tray liners. All the photos look fantastic and have great color. The photos are a combination of ones that really pop and others that have a warm but soothing tone.

The insert booklet includes a very lovely thank you note. For me, an album insert doesn't often warrant the use of tissues, but this was one of those rare occasions. That note really tugs at the heartstrings.

I don't think we'll ever see Margaret Keys in Celtic Woman. She certainly has the voice, the personality, and the look for the part, but the tour schedule wouldn't suit her. Never say never though.

I love everything about this album to a degree that, for me, is almost exclusively reserved for Celtic Woman. It truly is a precious gift.
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CWazyTom
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« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2018, 07:03:07 PM »

Surprise!

Margaret Keys released a Christmas album today, "A Winter's Tale."

Here's a preview of her lovely voice:
https://www.facebook.com/128132743883/videos/281286759187066/

Here's where you can buy the album once you hear her voice:
http://margaretkeys.co.uk/shop/

Here's the track list:

A Winter's Tale
The Most Wonderful Time of the year
Hallelujah
The First Noel
Mary's Boy Child
Feels Like Home
Silver Bells
White Christmas
Silent Night
If
Joy to the World
O Holy Night


I don't plug non-Celtic-Woman performers that often, but Margaret Keys is really special. She really would have been fantastic in Celtic Woman if she were into the touring life. She has the the look and certainly has the voice.
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CWazyTom
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2018, 08:48:19 PM »

A Winter's Tale (album writeup)


Tonight I finally got to listen to Margaret Keys' brand new Christmas album "A Winter's Tale."

I hope you enjoy my writeup on this lovely album. Before I dive into it, I just want to say that I absolutely love this album and that I adore Margaret Keys and her amazing voice.




Cover, Insert, and Case

The front album cover is really, REALLY pretty, featuring a stunning closeup of Margaret against a wintery backdrop. The contrast between the warmth of her brightly lit face, her dark hair, and the cool, soft background is really effective. It became one of my all-time favorite album covers the moment I saw it.

The back cover features Margaret sitting cross-legged near a wall with pictures at the foot of the staircase, looking over at the track list. The list itself is in white and stands out well against the dark backdrop. I won't say the back cover blew me away, but it didn't have to. It was simple and effective.

Upon opening the jewel case, I saw that Margaret had wished me a Happy Christmas and signed the back of the album insert. It was written in black on a dark surface, but it's still definitely clear enough for me to read. I appreciate that she took the time to do that and it put a smile on my face.

The insert is pretty simple. It's a booklet with the 2-page spread essentially being an enlarged version of the back cover, including the track listing. Again, simple but effective.

The jewel case itself was pretty loose. There isn't any resistance to it swinging open, so when picking it up, I have to remember to clutch the back of the case instead of just the edges. That could be a condition unique to this unit and possibly could have been shipping-related (they REALLY scrunched the package to get it into my mailbox over the holidays and they may have bent or damaged the case a bit in the process). In any event, I have plenty of spare jewel cases to work around that should it become an issue. The insert itself is a little loose because it's thin, but I could easily pad it if to give it a more snug fit and prevent it from getting damaged from sliding around in the case.



Tracks:

1. The Most Wonderful Time of the year
2. Hallelujah
3. The First Noel*
4. Mary's Boy Child
5. Feels Like Home
6. Silver Bells
7. White Christmas
8. Silent Night
9. If
10. Joy to the World
11. O Holy Night

* It's actually spelled "The First Nowell" on the back of the album and the insert. I've never seen it spelled like that before but apparently it's an accepted (although seldom-used) alternative spelling.



The Music

If the other sections in my writeups often seem more detailed than my writeups of the actual music, it's usually because I loved it, there was very little to criticize, and there are only so many words to express the joy that this amazing music brings me.

Margaret Keys' voice is astonishingly beautiful and I just don't have gift enough with words to express how much I love it. If you've heard her sing before, she sounds every bit as pretty on "A Winter's Tale" as she does on her other albums, including "The Gift of Music."

Her voice is strong and has a classical flavour to it. She has a tasteful amount of vibrato. While I find some singers tend to overuse the skill, Margaret uses it plentifully but effectively to communicate emotion. Her voice has some of the qualities of an opera singer, but while I personally don't like the sound of some opera voices (Mairead Carlin being an exception), Margaret's voice never approaches anything that sounds remotely shrill, ear-piercing, or cringeworthy. It's spectacularly lovely at pretty much any volume and register. Her high notes are among the very best, not just because of her outstanding range, but because they come across so pure and pretty without the slightest bit of shrillness or sense of strain. Her voice is, for me, a perfect balance between impressive and beautiful.

One of the strengths of Celtic Woman albums is that they provide additional variety that a normal solo album can't (different voices to listen to, different vocal styles, and of course, gorgeous harmony). Margaret sings each song in a similar vocal style (though the pacing and arrangements have variety), but there's never really a point during the album when I get tired of listening to the way she sings.

I enjoyed every track on the album. It has a good balance of fun, head-bobbing medium-tempo songs and powerful slow songs.

Margaret is backed by a full orchestra and in some cases a choir as well. The sound reminds me a lot of her "The Gift of Music" album, so if you loved either, I think you'll really enjoy both. The sound also reminds me a lot of Celtic Woman: Voices of Angels (albeit "A Winter's Tale" has more subtle use of percussion). The album has moments of really big, powerful sound that reminded me of my favourite parts of "Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas." The arrangements overall are very well done and the backing does a great job of complimenting Margaret's voice.

It seemed like the orchestration and Margaret's voice were recorded separately and while that's not unusual, there were a few times during the album when it felt like they didn't quite fit together right. I can't put my finger on it. Either the sound qualities or some other aspects of the different layers didn't seem to blend perfectly as I was conscious of the different layers more than I should have been. Some of the percussion in particular seemed like it might have been synthesized as opposed to a live recording. That said, it never sounded bad, and overall, it was a minor and seldom-noticed issue. It may not even be noticeable for most (or anyone else but me).



Overall

"A Winter's Tale" can now take it's rightful place among my favourite Christmas albums, including the Celtic Woman group and solo Christmas albums and Lindsey Stirling's "Warmer in the Winter." I'm really glad I ordered this album. In typical Margaret Keys fashion, it is lovely in almost every way. The highlight, as always, is her voice: it's breathtakingly beautiful. It's very rare for me to love someone's voice as much as a Celtic Woman performer, but that's how I feel about Margaret Keys and the way she sings. It's truly one of the most gorgeous sounds in the world.



I Want It! Where Can I Get It?

You can buy this musical gem from Margaret's web site!

http://margaretkeys.co.uk/shop/

If you plan to get A Winter's Tale but you don't have the Gift of Music yet I'd strongly recommend the bundle of those two albums (should it still be available when you purchase). The Gift of Music is one of my favourite non-Celtic-Woman albums and even up against many of the Celtic Woman albums, it would be up there on my list of favourites.

I hope you enjoy this music and the astonishing vocal talents of Margaret Keys as much as I do!
« Last Edit: December 30, 2018, 09:49:06 PM by CWazyTom » Logged
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