Loosening up at the crossroads


Irish traditional music will rub shoulders with its foreign counterparts at today’s Lá Ceoil celebration

MUSIC CAN BRISTLE if corseted too tightly. Today, as it’s Love:Live music day, a raft of musicians are intent on loosening those herringbone stays on our own traditional music. Geography has never been a barrier to the musically curious, whether it’s Iarla Ó Lionáird, Bob Quinn’s Atlantean or Dónal Lunny. And many Irish traditional musicians have long had a penchant for seeking out company beyond their own county bounds.

Today’s celebration of live music performance across the country includes a major concert in Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square. Lá Ceoil is set to take compass readings from east to west, with an ear firmly cocked for the encounters we’ve had with the New World, with orchestral music, and with other intriguing fellow-travellers along the way.

Liaisons, illicit and otherwise, with American old-time music will be celebrated by We Banjo 3. Martin Howley is intent on sharing the band’s love of that instrument that wound its way from Africa to America, crossed the Atlantic via the minstrel tradition and returned in the early 20th century to the new world, championed by musicians such as the Flanagan Brothers and Michael Coleman.

“Irish music hugely influenced old-timey fiddle playing in the Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Howley says. “That was the forerunner to modern bluegrass music, and that’s why we share so many tunes.”

The Unwanted’s Rick Epping speaks volubly of the historical ties that bind these same musical roots, but ultimately, the reason The Unwanted play American old-time and Irish music is simply because they love it. “You can only keep those barriers up for so long,” Epping says. “When you really play what you feel, and when you’re made up of different styles of music, then that’s what comes out when you play from your heart.”

Linda Buckley has been commissioned by Music Network to compose a piece for today’s concert, Cosán Na Solas Gealaí Buí (The Path of Yellow Moonlight), inspired by a poem by the late John O’Donohue. Grounded by both traditional and classical themes, with room for electronic improvisation along the way, Buckley is drawing deep from the well of her own family tradition. A sean nós singer, Buckley admits to a lifelong interest in the intersections between different music.

Buckley’s piece will be performed by members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra with the DIT Trad Ensemble and multi-instrumentalist Seán Mac Erlaine. “I love the places where musics meet. There’s a slow air, a slip jig and a march, merged with more classical string harmonies,” Buckley says. “I find I’m always thinking about [traditional] ornamentation, and the spontaneity that comes from that, when it comes to composition.”

Francesco Turrisi’s Tarab will trade percussive licks with Indian percussionist Koushik Chandrashekar. “We’ll be combining Irish, Indian and Arabic percussion,” Turrisi says, “and it’s all about creating a sound that really works, rather than trying too hard to merge different traditions.”

Love:Live Music, is celebrated in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar and other venues today. Doors 5.30pm with free admission. See lovelivemusic.ie

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