Brigit's Well:
The Performers


Brigit's Well, formerly known as Syrinx, has been captivating Southern California audiences for four years with their elegant, acoustic arrangements of traditional Celtic music. They are currently celebrating the release of their debut, self-titled CD, produced by Changeling Records. The duo is composed of two versatile musicians: Barbary Grant on vocals, Irish harp, piano, and fretted dulcimer, and Aimee Aul on flute, backing vocals, and recorder. Their musical collaboration as well as their friendship began in the mid 1980's when they met as undergraduates in the Music Department at Cal State Fullerton. Since that time they have moved from classical repertoire to the rich heritage of traditional Celtic music.

Says Barbary, "When Aimee and I began playing together we performed classical music for flute and piano. This was both challenging and fun, and gave us a framework for building our musical partnership. Yet we found ourselves relegated to playing background music in a restaurant (to the refrain of 'Hey, you guys are playing too loud!')". While learning how to play piano very softly for the benefit of diners, Barbary had begun to discover her beautiful singing voice as a more direct means of access to her audience's emotions. But singing classical repertoire from the piano just isn't done. So what to sing? "My best friend from childhood, Cyntia Smith, had long ago purchased a fretted dulcimer and together with her partner, Ruth Barrett, began performing music from the British Isles. I was struck by the beauty of their melodies, particularly the Irish and Scottish songs. Although it took many years for these early seeds to take root, when I began looking for material I remembered these songs. Then, two years ago, I bought the biggest Irish harp I could find. Soon I was drawn head over heels into the Celtic repertoire. As one listener recently put it, 'This music really grabs the heart.'"

Aimee also came to Celtic music after a certain disillusionment with the classical world. "There's some gorgeous stuff out there in the classical repertoire, but all the time we were doing the Bach sonatas and the Mozart and all that, I kept wondering about all the other music. That music they didn't teach us about in college. When I started doing the Celtic stuff with Barbary, and also got a chance to play a little rock and roll a few years ago, I began to experiment with my sound. I realized I wanted a woody, earthy tone, and a less perfectionist approach to music than had been so instilled with all those years of study and lessons. This repertoire has been marvelously liberating. I think the audiences like it too. When we did classical performances, people would be appreciative, and sometimes impressed with our technique, which was gratifying. But when we do traditional music, people are truly moved. It's such an incredibly rewarding experience to share that with an audience."

One of the treats about a Brigit's Well performance is listening to the many pieces sung in Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx. Barbary began studying these languages privately in 1997. "I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last two years," says Barbary. "I needed an intellectual pursuit to counter the insidious effects of Barney!" "Taking the time to learn lyrics in their native languages shows my respect for this music and its heritage," she continues. "And we want to be taken seriously by even the most hardcore Celtic-music lovers." Barbary’s efforts won her first place in the sean n�s competition at the 1998 Great American Irish Fair. (Sean n�s - which means "old style" in Irish - is a highly ornamented style of traditional a cappella singing.)

"I think this music is especially approachable for Americans too," adds Aimee. "So much of our own folk music tradition comes directly from Ireland and Scotland; it's not that much of a leap for Americans to really connect emotionally to this music."

The name Brigit's Well is the duo's homage to one of the most important bridging figures between Pagan and Christian Celtic traditions. In Ireland, St. Brigit is called "the Mary of the Gael" and is second in importance only to St. Patrick. Both pagan goddess and 6th century saint, she is a matron of healing, smithcraft and poetry; she is lauded by the poets as the mistress of inspiration and prophecy. Her primacy within Britain and Ireland is marked by the many springs, wells, and rivers dedicated to her. Brigit is believed to make the world soft again after winter, by dipping her hand into waters on her Feast Day of February 1. Aimee and Barbary hope that their music will reflect Brigit's gentle inspiration and creative spirit.