Born in Oklahoma, raised in the Midwest, and now living in the Northeast, singer Pan Morigan has great affection for the land of her birth and she speaks of it in the glowing narrative of a songwriter. "I miss the vast skies, rough winds, storms and lakes of the North American Midwest where I grew up," she says. "I miss the loud, friendly, easy-going ways of the people there. I even miss the bitter cold winters with snow piled to the rooftops and trees covered with glittering, magical icicles." Perhaps because she knows so well the longing for a place you have left behind, it was natural for her to want to create an album like her debut, Castles of Gold (GLCD1218) , an account in spoken word and song of the Irish immigration experience.
Although Castles of Gold is an album of traditional Irish music, and Irish music was always present in her house, Pan grew up with a wide range of musical influences. She credits her father as a huge inspiration in her musical journey, taking her to see such varied performers as Isaac Stern and Muddy Waters, and exposing her to recordings by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Ravi Shankar and Irish traditional music such as the Chieftains, Clannad, and the Bothy Band. She also grew up dancing to Greek and Macedonian music, as well as classical Persian music, again thanks to her father who made hammer dulcimers (Santouri) for local players.
With a foot in both the Irish and Greek culture, Pan discovered that her interpretations of Irish music were tinged by the rhythms and modes of Middle Eastern and Greek sounds. "I improvise the way a traditional Greek singer would: singing a word over and over on a modal scat. This is also why you will find some songs in 9 instead of 4/4 or 6/8, and why you will hear a tendency to stretch the melodic line in my vocal interpretations. A desire to be lazy and easy with rhythm."
As soon as she began to learn about and sing Irish songs, Pan knew she wanted to record an album of Irish immigration songs. "They spoke of history, adventure, life-altering journeys and losses. These songs were full of brave and passionate people. I absolutely had to sing them." Castles of Gold: Songs and Stories of Irish Immigration was born of that desire. The album is a collaboration with playwright Katerie Morin, and features readings by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt and actress Roma Downey (star of TV’s "Touched by an Angel"). The songs include four of Pan’s originals and six of the many traditional ballads she has collected over the years, with accompaniment from such top Irish-American musicians as Liz Carroll, Joanie Madden and Jerry O’Sullivan.
Pan’s plans for the future are just as ambitious as the Castles of Gold endeavor. She is recording an album of original songs with producer William Zukof that will include many of the musicians who performed on Castles of Gold, including Larry Campbell, Glen Velez and Ben Butler. Next year she plans to record with her sister, composer and cellist Adele O’Dwyer.