Ghosts come alive

Iarla Ó Lionáird’s latest project brings depth to drone

Iarla O Lionáird’s ‘drone city’ is Ghost Trio. Photograph: Feargal Ward

Iarla O Lionáird’s ‘drone city’ is Ghost Trio. Photograph: Feargal Ward


Ghost Trio
The Grand Social, Dublin

“Drone city” is how Iarla Ó Lionáird describes the antics of Ghost Trio, and he isn’t far off. Pipes, Hardanger fiddle and harmonium coalesce to shape an atmospheric set that speaks more of the space and time inherent in traditional music than it does the momentum. And what a welcome alternative take this is.

So much of Irish traditional music’s reputation is built on its dance music, its fervour and pace, that it’s easy to forget the riches that underpin its goltraí and suantraí (sad and hushabye tunes). Ó Lionáird’s cavern-deep voice effortlessly draws us in to these recesses, and shows us how lush the growth is down there.

Although he pleads extreme nervousness on this opening date of their first Music Network tour together, Ó Lionáird slides his voice along the bow lines of Cleek Schrey’s 10-string Hardanger fiddle with the warmth and agility of an athlete long practised in stretching to his own outer limits.

Ivan Goff initially struggles to gain custody of his errant uilleann pipes, which seem to become unhinged by the temperature of the room.

The pipes are a wayward instrument at the best of times, and after initially struggling, Goff slowly takes possession, the loose-limbed quality of his playing in keeping with the wiry limbs of Schrey’s Hardanger.

The trio luxuriate in the funereal pacing of the first half, basking in the intimacy of Abha An t-Oileán , and the beauty of Nora Críonna . Schrey’s old-time tunes are a delight: Cluck Old Hen and Advance No More (Was Hanged) showcasing a musician utterly at one with his instrument and his music, and yet equally at ease with ours.

Bess Cronin and Peadar Ó Riada magically colour Ó Lionáird’s songbook, and the languid evening draws to a close. This is a fine reminder of what atmosphere lurks within and without our tunes and songs.

Siobhán Long