Interview with Lisa Ward covering her new album Black Swan + exclusive track

Black Swan is the debut album by Lisa Ward, a Senior All-Ireland Fiddle Champion from a family steeped in the tradition. All four of her sisters are also very much involved in the music scene and have won numerous All Ireland titles. Alongside her sisters, Lisa performs regularly in the group ‘The Ward Sisters’, who perform an array of Irish Traditional Music, Song, and Dance (Céili and Sean Nós).

This debut album has been some time in the making by her own omission and we spoke to her on this point.  

“Overall it took just under two years to complete the entire album” she says.  “Just as recording commenced, I started a full time primary teaching job. As a result my recording time was limited to weekends and getting dates to suit featured musicians and the recording studio proved difficult at times.

"In studio I often played track after track without stopping to listen back or make edits – everything was recorded.  I’d take these recordings home and spend a significant amount of time listening back to see which ones I liked/disliked, variations I’d keep/take out, etc.  I didn’t want to rush the process just to get it finished – I wanted something I would be 100% happy to release.”

Lisa often left listening to the initial recordings for weeks.  When she finally returned to listen to them she would hear melodies differently or find something new, and this further delayed the album release. Eventually the edits were made and the project progressed.

Included below is Track 9 from the album and it is a pair of Slip Jigs called Heart Shaped Wood and The Wing Flapper. The first tune was composed and recorded by flute player Michael Mc Goldrick.  The Wing Flapper was composed by Alan Kelly and both were learnt from the playing of Siobhan Peoples.

Decisions on aspects such as the tune choices, album cover, graphics, mastering and duplication also took time. She wanted to incorporate, explore, and combine melodies and techniques that were new and old to her, while staying true to her own style.  “The music unconsciously instilled in me was of significant importance” she said. “Again, I wanted a product that I myself would be satisfied to own.”

“Recording is a very different experience to performing live.  Especially when recording solo – there is no atmosphere or buzz from a live audience to bounce off.  Although you can re-record and make adjustments and edits, I placed a certain amount of pressure upon myself to play to the standard I know I can achieve."

"Listening back allows you to hear positive and negative aspects of your playing – aspects you want to keep and things you would change.  Habits you were unaware of can be removed for the better as a result of recording. While I adjusted to recording easily, the experience of a live performance would be preferred.”

"The music unconsciously instilled in me was of significant importance"

The album starts with a solo track.  Just Lisa her fiddle and a couple of jigs called The Humours of Glynn and Tommy Peoples. On the majority of the other  tracks she is joined by Paul Meehan on guitar, Brian Mc Grath on fiddle, Niamh Ward on accordion and Orla and Sarah Ward on flute and bodhrán. Was a solo album ever on the cards?

“I considered doing a full solo album of raw fiddle music, but decided against it for a few reasons.  Thinking ahead to the finished product I asked myself as a listener if I would prefer an album with all solo fiddle or with accompaniment.  While I love listening to and playing solo fiddle, I feel both the piano and guitar add to my performances on the cd. I left two tracks unaccompanied as I preferred these without backing."  

"It was important that my sisters also featured as we grew up playing together.  The connection you have with a family member when performing is often difficult to replace. Orla on flute has always been my duet partner and I love the sound from a flute and fiddle combination. It adds another depth to the album." 

"As it is my first cd, the inclusion of variety and accompaniment were important to me.   Having said that, a full solo album of raw fiddle music would entice me and something I have considered should I decide to make another record.”

Making a solo album was something that had interested Lisa for quite some time before actually commencing recording.  “I am passionate about Leitrim style of fiddle playing and feel that it is not as well-known as it should be in the Irish music scene. I love enhancing and making tunes my own, and learning unique and rare compositions that are unknown to the majority of musicians.”

“Sharing these tunes with others and making musicians more aware of Leitrim composers and Leitrim fiddle style forms an important part of my fiddle playing. Music education is extremely important to me."

"I hope to encourage younger generations to play traditional music and to realise the all-round experiences and opportunities possible from playing an instrument. It gives me great pleasure to pass what I’ve learnt to others.”

“My time as a student on the MA in Irish Traditional Music Performance at the World Academy of Music and Dance, Limerick, definitely spurred me on to start recording.  

Listening to and learning about all sorts of styles of music taught me the importance of retaining my own style, and gave me a greater confidence to perform tunes how I like to perform them – be it in relation to tempo/dynamics/ornamentation/variations, etc. Everything I had learnt technically was also fresh in my head at the start of recording which helped greatly.”

To find out more about the album visit www.lisawardmusic.com

Downloads will be available shortly.

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