Traditional Irish Music
In 2015 we launched the new album by The London Lasses and today we make it available to over 85 broadcasters that are members of our Download Centre on Tradconnect.
The One I Loved The Best is the new album from The London Lasses and Chris O’ Malley, and as part of this online launch we caught up with fiddler Karen Ryan from the band. This is their 5th album and with it comes a few changes to the lineup including the addition of Chris O' Malley on keyboards. We started by asking were the Lasses looking for a different sound on this recording as it feels that the album has a different dynamic from what has gone before.
“In some ways, yes” she says. “The sound for this album was different in the sense that it was more varied - this came about for a few reasons. Firstly material came together at different points over the last 5 years, some while Pete Quinn (keys) and Maureen Linane (box) were still members of the band, some while working with Cavan box/ flute player, Aileen Geoghegan and more since we started playing with new permanent members Brogan McAuliffe (concertina) and Chris O’Malley (piano/ guitar).
“For this album to be a true snapshot of what we’ve been getting up to in recent times we invited Maureen and Aileen to play on a number of tracks and we also invited Belfast harpist, Colm McGonigle (who has guested with us at a few gigs) to play on a few tracks – so there are 9 people in total featuring on this album. Then some new instruments came to be included which we hadn’t used before – Brogan has brought the addition of the concertina, Elma and Karen have used some low whistles for the first time behind one of Brona’s songs, while Elaine and Karen adopted the use of mutes on their fiddles to make their presence more subtle on some of the more traditional vocal material.”
“I have been playing a bit more mandola in recent times and this input alongside Chris’s addition of guitar on some tracks has brought a different ‘strings rich’ approach in supporting some of the tunes and songs. There’s still lots of lovely textural piano accompaniment in there. Probably the most radical development of our sound on a couple of tracks on this album is the addition of saxophone and banjo – after sharing concerts, ceilis and generally great company with the Shaskeen at a Festival in Alsace, France a number of years ago, Elma and myself were inspired by the playing of Tony Howley and Tom Cussen to dust off our own sax and banjo respectively and try to recreate a bit of that sound. It’s been great fun.”
Pete Quinn was a crucial part of forming the sound of the Lasses since 1999 and we ask about his departure and how this has affected the dynamic within the group.
Karen recognises that “he provided sensitive accompaniment using a wide array of chords, harmonic settings and textures, but with respect for the traditional songs and tunes at the centre of what he did. When he decided to leave the band to make himself more available for other projects (including a new 4 piece called Artisan Row featuring Conor Doherty, Elma McElligott and myself) we had to search hard to find a pianist on this side of the water, with a similar wide experience of music and knowledge of the tradition rolled into one person.”
“We had played with Chris O’Malley a few times during our trips to Leeds and were well aware of what a great player he was, that he had a different approach to many other pianists (influenced by his wide musical tastes) and yet was well informed by the strong traditional music scene he had grown up in. The fact that he also played guitar was a bonus for us to experiment a bit with something new.”
“Our other line-up change has been from Maureen Linane on accordion to 19 year old Brogan McAuliffe on concertina. Busy motherhood was the reason for Maureen’s departure (thus is often the way in an ‘almost’ all female band), she is now expecting her 3rd baby with her two other lovely little fellas pre-school age. I’ve known Brogan since she was very young, coming to attend workshops at Return to Camden Town Festival, alongside her sister, flautist, Órlaith down the years.”
“Both Brogan and Órlaith played with me on a number of outings for my youth project, The Trad Gathering (in the Royal Albert Hall, at the BBC Proms, Royal Festival Hall and more) and this is where I really got to know them and their wonderful talent. The use of concertina in the band lends itself to a gentler approach to some of the newer tracks compared with how we might have treated the same tunes with the box. It feels very special that Brogan learnt much of her music as a child from lessons with Maureen (who was 19 herself when she first joined the band) – it feels like it has come full circle.”
This highlights the difficulties of keeping a large group together. Karen feels that it takes a lot of effort to co-ordinate six people whose lives are extremely hectic outside of the band setting for working on material, gigging and recording. The pace of life in London is very fast and everyone in the band has day-jobs/ commitments that would really be enough to keep them busy (between their various roles they have a Head Teacher, Finance Director, Director of a Charity, 2 Festival Directors, 2 Music Teachers, Undergraduate student, 3 mothers and more …).
Karen says that “despite the fact that it can be difficult to co-ordinate diaries to get the six of us in one room (never mind on a plane) the band activity has become a welcome break in routine in everyone’s lives – an antidote to city life stresses. There is nothing we love more than heading away for a weekend to play at a Festival, meet and hear other musicians, make new friends, play tunes til the wee hours and all the fun that goes with that. Promoting the new album gives us a chance to do more of that.”
The London Lasses and Chris O’Malley continue to promote the album with their next appearance at the ‘Irish Hooley in Bloomsbury’ at Islington Assembly Hall, London on Tuesday 28 June, a fundraiser concert at Ballymoney Town Hall, Co Antrim on Sat 8th October and Return to Camden Town Festival in late October plus more 2016 dates to be agreed..
The album is also available to broadcasters as part of our Download Centre. Simply log into your Tradconnect account and follow the link below.
The London Lasses are:
Karen Ryan (fiddle, mandola, banjo, whistle)
Elma McElligott (flute, saxophone, whistle, backing vocal)
Elaine Conwell (fiddle)
Brogan McAuliffe (concertina)
Brona McVittie (vocal/ harp)
Chris O'Malley (keyboard, guitar)
Special guests featured on the album are:
Maureen Linane (accordion)
Aileen Geoghegan (accordion/ flute)
Colm McGonigle (harp)
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