Live Review - Zoë Conway and John McIntyre in Whelan's 26th November 2012

The album by Zoë Conway and John McIntyre titled Go Mairir I Bhfad_Long Life To You is good, very good.  The live experience on the other hand takes it off the page and allows it to fly.  As a concept album it took several years to complete.  With the help of the Arts Council and Music Network, 12 composers were approached to compose 12 new pieces of music reflecting modern day traditional Irish music. The renowned composers who took part in the project were 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. Over a long period of time the music was fed through to the two artists in various formats from detailed sheet music to your humble cassette tape. The result of this process is a great concept album.

In the environment of a live performance in Whelan's Zoë Conway may not realise it but she is quite the raconteur. My last visit to Whelan's was to see Arlo Guthrie who it has to be said was good.  Zoë comes a close second with her between-set-tales about the making of the album.  This communication forms an immediate connection with the audience, drawing them into a collective musical experience, and indeed the music comes to life.  There are some stunning pieces by these present day composers. Zoë’s ability to overlap the boundaries between traditional and classical without losing the uniqueness of either genre is a key component to the magic of the night. It allows for a more expansive serving of modern day traditional music.  She delivers some testing pieces by Bill Whelan, Mícheál Ó Súilleabhán and Niall Vallely and carries it off with artistic ease. John's classical background allows him to envelope these tunes with a very subtle touch on guitar which is on the night perfectly pitched volume wise. This performance was an album launch for Go Mairir I Bhfad_Long Life To You and the music and stories have provided great material for their future live sets. A memorable evening with the best story going to Donal Lunny who submitted a tape of his composition with a hand written note which read "New End." This was in reference to an alternative ending to the piece. Zoë and John took this as the title and so it ended up on the album with the title "New End" much to Donal's surprise.  A great night, long life to you both.


Read the full album review here

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