We know, we know…it’s not even past Halloween yet! But we are just so excited to celebrate Tradvent again this year that we thought we’d put out the offer early and let you know we’re available for holiday events, concerts and parties in Eastern MA and RI throughout the season. And hey, early bookers get the best dates, right?
Get in touch today if you’re interested in having us for your holiday event!
The first thing that I simply need to get out of the way is that Edel Fox, Neill Byrne and Dylan Foley are all consummately musical individuals. It’s not much of a revelation. Dylan’s fiddle playing has been loudly praised up and down the eastern seaboard with the release of both his solo album (the aptly-titled Hup!) and the first project by the collective Irish music-playing youth of New York, The Yanks; but just a few nights past I had the pleasure of hearing him ably accompany on guitar. Neill, a Waterford native, has done all of his hard work in the regular competition circuit in Ireland, and his fiddle-playing shows it. Heavily influenced by the collective musicianship of the Dywer family, his style is astoundingly fluid and impeccably controlled; I’ve never seen a fiddler with so effortless a bow-hand. And Edel, of course, has become something of a latter-day Elizabeth Crotty: when Clarewomen and the concertina are mentioned in the same breath, Edel Fox’s name is almost certain to follow. Her music, erupting merrily from a Wally Carroll instrument, remains powerful, crisp, and deeply sensitive to the playing of the people around her.
That’s not really saying much of anything, though. The perfunctory descriptions of careers, styles, accomplishments, all sort of melt away in the moment. You could have learned any of that first paragraph from the terrific show at the Burren Back Room, where the trio enjoyed a wonderful double-booking with the Murphy Beds. Brian o’Donovan hosted the event and recorded it for WGBH, and as part of his duties, he too sang the praises of these respected guests. But in point of fact, it was the Murphy Beds who moved me that night. Edel and Niall and Dylan all played fantastically, of course, but playing is only half the thing, if that. There are countless musicians, in Ireland and abroad, with the pyrotechnical skill and confidence of character to produce some astounding Irish music – more people are playing Irish music now than ever have previous, and unlike days past, it is no longer an afterthought, slipped into a few moments of leisure between the milking of cows and the twisting of hay-ropes. We’re spoiled for choice – particularly in Boston – when it comes to good music and good musicians. So for us to perceive something as great, then, we require something more.
I might go so far as to call Kathleen Conneelly a great musician. A member of the vibrant London scene in her youth, she maintains, for me, a deep connection to the music of previous generations, and she remains heavily invested in nurturing the music on the local level. Armand and I had the distinct pleasure of visiting her at her home in Rhode Island, where she occasionally hosts concerts in a tiny pub in her back yard. The scene is perfect: the property is quiet, rolling and green; the pub stands by to the fence, good hard wood with a little stove in one corner and a bar to the back of it; with the door open and the music in full lash you can sit out on the grass and hear it skipping over to you. That night, the pub was crammed full of Rhode Islanders, mostly set dancers – older folk with a keen appreciation for the thing itself – and some of our good friends: Pat Hutchinson the piper; Deirdre Corrigan, the flute player from New York; Jimmy Devine, our old fiddle teacher; and Jimmy Noonan, who brought his young son down from Boston for a taste of the music.
After the music was done, most of the crowd cleared out, leaving us few – the three of them, Armand and myself, and Kathleen reminiscing with Jimmy Noonan, at the bar. We discussed some of those typical post-concert concerns, sussing out those connections and interests you share as a musician (“oh you know so-and-so? Yeah I saw him in Ennis a little while ago when I was there visiting so-and-so” “oh yeah, so-and-so! She’s lovely, I just heard her album the other day”), but after a few minutes it turned to a reflection on older musicians, some of the modern greats whose music has done a lot to shape the current scene, the current styles, and Irish music generally. Here, then, is where I came to really respect Edel and Neill. They are fine musicians, and they are lovely people; but what I appreciated most was their vociferous flaying of a well-known player who had spoken out of turn to some younger people at a session. Their concern was not with his personal habits, his character, the comments themselves even, although all of those points came under discussion – but what Neill and Edel both insisted, what got their blood up, was the effect of an older musical generation on the younger. The pair of them drove home the degree of responsibility which those older musicians have to encourage, inspire, and nurture the younger. Indeed, the two of them are still quite young themselves, and they’re not far removed from their own memories of being adolescents, hearing CDs at home or players in the sessions that moved and astounded them. Their gratitude to those older players, the ones who have gone before, is palpable, and in turn, so is their insistence that accomplishment, that fame, carries with it a clear responsibility to give back to the community that supports you. Neill and Edel are not wonderful Irish musicians because of their ability to play instruments; they are wonderful Irish musicians because their sense of tradition is not musical but familial, communal, and personal. Everyone pays lip service to this idea, but not everyone is thoroughly invested in it. These two are.
So we played one tune together, I think, just us fiddle players. We spent the rest of the night chatting and laughing in Kathleen’s tiny backyard pub, talking school and Facebook and doing impressions of our favorite Youtube videos. As strange and stupid as it sounds, that’s what the music is about. It’s a vehicle – it’s a good car. It can take you to some wonderful places that you couldn’t get to otherwise, and there’s a visceral pleasure to the ride; but sometimes it’s best to get out and go strolling together.
If you can’t get around to that, of course, buying a CD’s just the next best thing.