The Gloaming

As we were leaving the Chan Centre last night, my husband said to me, “Well, I know what you’re going to be blogging about tomorrow.”

“Nuh-uh!” I said (mature as ever). “I am not that predictable!”

But it turns out I am, especially if you’ve been married to me for like, a billion years.

So! We are huge fans of Iarla O’Lionaird, so went to see his new band, The Gloaming, last night. It is probably not quite accurate to call it his band; the other musicians, especially the fiddler Martin Hayes, are well-known and accomplished in their own right. It’s like a supergroup of Irish musicians, and they were just wonderful. They draw on the traditional repertoire of reels and the lesser-known (on this side of the pond, anyway) seannós tradition, but they also compose their own songs around old Irish poems. It was wonderfully old and startlingly new, all at once.

Here’s a (longish) bit to get you started: “The Opening Set,” with which they ended the concert, of course. It was my favourite, and it has everything, the oddball pianist (who was wonderful, and I am not a fan of piano generally), Iarla singing like an angel, and fiddling to set the roof on fire.

The second fiddler is playing an instrument called a Hardanger fiddle, which is like a combination violin, viola, and instrument of pure awesome. As a former string player myself, I was particularly enamoured of his bowing, how he wasn’t afraid to go all breathy and squeaky and light, or conversely to land hard and crunch the string.

We went early and attended an interview with Iarla O’Lionaird and Martin Hayes, which was fun. They teased each other like old friends, which gave some clue as to how they’d work together on stage. Something Hayes said really struck me: that when they were choosing their second fiddle player, it wasn’t technical brilliance they were looking for but ideas.

That’s what I look for, too, in music and in writing — the mind behind the art. I like to see the striving and trying; I like it a little bit messy, honestly. This insight gave me things to look for and think about during the concert — how the musicians responded to each other, what role each one was playing, what they were doing to the reels (unreeling them, sometimes).

They played one encore. I would have sat through ten more, but it’s probably just as well that they didn’t play that many. My son, in the absence of thrash guitar, had melted into a puddle of boredom by the end and was oozing off his chair onto the floor. So the concert was not universally beloved by our entire family. Still, if you like Irish music and have a chance to hear them, I urge you to take it. I believe I was grinning ridiculously the entire time.


5 Comments on “The Gloaming”

  1. colomon says:

    OMG, you got to see Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh live! He’s part of one of my favorite living duets in Irish music, with Mick O’Brien. See for instance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22itbljyblw

  2. Arwen says:

    I would find it impossible to listen to that piece in a seated position. There would be uncomfortable seat-jigging, and irritation of neighbours on all sides.

    • Oh, people were clapping along and tapping feet and there was even a couple (possibly ushers) dancing together in the very corner of the hall. That’s the thing: you’re not supposed to sit still for Irish music! You’re suppose to call out “Mo cheol thú!” (lit. You are my music!) whenever you feel moved to do so. There was a bit of that. The stodgy old Chan Centre couldn’t keep a lid on it entirely.

      Even B was caught out tapping his foot, though he vehemently denies it.


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