Review Of Metis Ireland Festival Concert

The concert that I went to was the 2019 Metis Ireland Festival Concert. The concert was held in Bunratty Castle Hotel on the 19th of January 2019 at 8. 00 p. m. and was part of the annual Shannonside Winter Music Festival, which is held every year in the villages of Bunratty and Sixemilebridge.

The concert was opened by Limerick singer-songwriter Mick Hanly. Hanly has been singing, writing and playing the guitar since the 1960s. He formed his first duo, called Monroe, with Mícheál Ó Domhnaill in 1972. He went on to play in many different bands and duos, most notably Planxty and Moving Hearts. One of his compositions, “Past the Point of Rescue” was covered by Mary Black and American artist Hal Ketchum. I really enjoyed Hanly’s performance. He gave the audience a good background to each of his songs, telling us why he wrote and often the story behind each song. My favourite songs were “Attention Sous” and “Uncle John”.

The main concert was given by Matt Molloy, John Carty, Arty McGlynn and Brian mcGrath. Matt Molloy began playing the flute at the age of eight, and went on to win the All Ireland Flute championship by the time he was eighteen. He has produced numerous solo albums and has worked with groups such as Planxty, the Chieftains and the Irish Chamber Orchestra. He was one of the founding members of the Bothy Band. John Carty is another highly accomplished traditional musician. He plays the fiddle, guitar, banjo and flute but at played the fiddle throughout this concert. In 2003 he was named the TG4 Traditional Musician of the Year. Arty McGlynn is a traditional Irish Guitarist from county Tyrone. In 1979, he recorded “McGlynn’s Fancy”, his first solo album. This was the first ever recording in which the guitar is played in a traditional style, and is now regarded as the norm throughout Irish Traditional Music. In addition to his solo work, McGlynn has collaborated with groups such as Patrick Street, Planxty, Four Men and a Dog, De Dannan and the Van Morrison Band. He has also collaborated with players such as Noel Hill, John Carty and his wife, Nollaig Casey. The fourth performer was Brian McGrath, a piano and banjo player from Fermanagh. To date, he has played on over 120 albums, and collaborated with the likes of Noel Hill, Matt Molloy, Dolores Keane and Charlie Lennon. He is a member of Irish Traditional music band De Danann.

The structure of the performance varied, with the group taking solo leads and playing as an ensemble at times. For the most-part, Molloy and Carty were playing the flute and fiddle respectively, and played the melody of each tune while McGlynn and McGrath played accompaniment on the guitar and banjo. Molloy played a slow air, with guitar accompaniment. Carty also played an interesting composition and was accompanied by both McGrath and McGlynn. For many of the tunes and sets they played, the performers gave the audience some background information, such as where they learnt the tune the stories behind the name of the pieces. In my opinion, for the tunes they played together, the fiddle and flute complemented one another very well. One of the first CD’s that was given to me when I was younger was Matt Malloys album “Matt Malloy”. I would say that I took great inspiration from this album when learning to play the flute. I believe that his flute style is very unique, filling his tunes with ornamentation powered by his quick paced fingers. This ornamentation is harmonised with a subtle nature to his playing, not making his tunes overly-complicated. This was evident in his playing at the concert. The balance of Carty’s subtle ornamentation in his playing and Malloy’s flowing style led to a very balanced performance, one that I took great learning from. Malloy’s use of accompaniment was also a very good choice as it complimented the main melody lines nicely.

The concert opened with a set of four reels: “Johnny Gorman’s”, “The Galway Rambler”, “The Crosses of Annagh” and “McFadden’s Handsome Daughter”. The group then went on to play a set of three jigs: “Pathway to the Well”, “The Pride of Rockchapel” and “The Gold Ring”. Next was a set of three tunes: “The County Tyrone”, Bonny Scotland and The Lady’s Cup of Tea. Molloy introduced the next set of tunes as a set of unnamed reels he had learned from the McDonagh brothers, who were from an area of Sligo called Ballinafad. The next tune played was John Carty’s own composition, and he played it with McGlynn and McGrath as accompaniment. I thought it was a very interesting piece, as it began slow, almost like a slow air with no fixed rhythm, but halfway through it picked up the pace and became a very lively tune. Molloy then played a solo of his own composition, a haunting slow air called “Paddy’s Rambles through the Field”, accompanied by McGlynn on the guitar. I really loved this tune, and learned it myself as a result. He went from this air straight into a reel, “The Pigeon on the Gate”, a tune which I had already known. For the next set, they went back to playing together and performed a set of two lively polkas from their shared album, “Out of the Ashes” and “Frankie Campbells”. The next set played consisted of a clan march type tune, “Napoleon Crossing the Rhine”, and a reel in honour of Tommy Peoples called “The Green Fields of Glentown”. Molloy introduced the next set as a set of three jigs, “Willie Coleman’s”, “Pull the Knife and Stick it Again” and “The Goldfield”. I really liked “Pull the Knife and Stick it Again”, and learned it myself the next day. They finished off with a set of mixed tunes, a reel and a jig “The Battering Ram”, and “Jim Donoghue’s”. They played this last set, and left the stage, but then came back for one more set of four reels: “McGovern’s”, “Tansy’s Favourite”, “Tom Ward’s Downfall” and to finish, “The Grand Spey”.

I really enjoyed this concert. Matt Molloy is one of my favourite flute players, and I had never seen him playing live before so this was a great experience for me. I picked up a lot of new tunes that I hadn’t heard before, and heard some that I had already known played in different ways. I think that this concert had a significant impact on me as a flute player, as I feel that I learned a lot from watching and listening to Molloy play. I also enjoyed John Cart’s fiddle playing, as the fiddle is one of my favourite instruments to listen to. I would definitely like to go to this concert or one like it again. </p>

10 October 2020
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