Concept albums within the traditional Irish genre would not be the norm and the inspiration that brought Zoë Conway and John McIntyre to this project must be commended. Zoë's interpretive spirit and high regard internationally as a musician leave her well placed to take on and deliver with integrity and honesty 12 tracks of newly composed music. Back in November 2010 they commissioned twelve leading Irish composers to each compose a piece for fiddle and guitar with the aim of collectively presenting a snapshot of today's traditional Irish music. The renowned composers who took part in the project are Liz Carroll, Steve Cooney, Frankie Gavin, Andy Irvine, Charlie Lennon, Donal Lunny, Máirtín O’Connor, Peadar Ó Riada, Mícheál Ó Súilleabhán, Tommy Peoples, Niall Vallely and Bill Whelan.
This collection of tunes is the result of that collaboration and what's presented here is a brilliant concept album, stripped bare to fiddle and guitar and presented as fresh new music. Whether intentional or not the personality of the composers shine through and the patina of their life and music can be felt and heard within the tracks. The magic of Liz Carroll is evident within the opening reels Heath & Bernie’s/Half Day Road – Reel for Jim DeWan. The joy and majesty of Tommy Peoples is retained within the air and jig One For Sorrow, Two for Joy which is outstanding. Played without accompaniment it displays not only the beauty of the composition but also Zoë s pure touch, control and phrasing as the music rises and falls in a most beautiful set. John’s intro on Lago Puelo Jig – Twenty Two again seems to pay homage to the composer Andy Irvine. Freedom of interpretation was given by the composers with Peader Ó Riada suggesting “humming or diddling it quite a bit on your own so that it takes your shape and fits you like a good coat". Frankie Gavin's Kilkenny Station/Lally's Fancy and Charlie Lennon's Moonbeams are likewise worthy of mention. This is an evenly balanced duet with John's guitar work being a central component to the success of the recording. His style has evolved and developed over time and he perfectly balances his playing with just the right amount of passion and exuberance. His subtle touch on Bill Whelan's April in Roundstone provides a perfect counterbalance to Zoë's melody .
Zoë and John's ability to absorb, internalise and express the music of quite diverse composers speaks volumes of their journey to this point and of their artistic skill. Making a break from the normal recording process and presenting new music was likewise an inspired decision. It's different and it's interesting and makes you think about and appreciate the composers themselves. With passion and thought they bring their work to life. Together these musicians have created a great recording that captures the tradition alive and well in present day. If you want something a little different and want to hear new compositions by some of our leading composers played by two outstanding musicians then get this. It’s a musical delight from start to sublime finish.
This album will be launched in Whelan's, Wexford Street, Dublin on Monday 26th November 2012 at 8pm