Traditional Irish Music
Two highly respected Canadian musicians, Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres embrace a bewildering breadth of styles - mainly traditional, although much of their material is recently composed and some of it leans towards blues, bluegrass, jazz and even early classical music. Pierre comes from a family steeped in traditional French Canadian music - from Ontario, not Quebec, although his mastery extends to Montreal and Acadia as well as other parts of Canada. Acknowledged as one of Canada's top fiddlers, and a major force for festival and folk fusion events, Pierre has led his band on many tours of the USA and Europe, and teamed up with the likes of Dermot Byrne to blend Irish and Canadian music. Adam comes from an eclectic guitar background, everything from rockstar electric to redneck acoustic, and is able to bring all those influences to bear on his sensitive accompaniment, as well as picking his way through traditional airs and his own compositions. With their new album Mandorla and a series of international tours, Schryer and Dobres are bringing their stunning range of traditional music to all generations of fiddle fans, starting in Scotland and Northumberland in June. In fact, they've thrown in a Dublin gig en route - from 8pm on the 5th of June they'll be in the Sugar Club on Lower Leeson Street.
Mandorla is probably a good indication of what will be delivered on stage. It is available online, as a download or mail-order CD, and it spans most of Schryer's core competences. Starting with a North African dance popular with Klezmer players, the duo switch into two relatively recent Irish reels: Steve Cooney's Blue Fiddle which was a favourite with the young Seán Smyth, and Alan Kelly's Trip to Dingle which rapidly became the acceptable face of polkas on the Irish session scene. The Quebec classic Fleur de Mandragore, firmly traditional but again surprisingly recent, is joined to Pierre's crooked reel Berthier-sur-Mer in a storming fiddle-led set. All change for a trio of renaissance tunes, all from the 1600s I think: Purcell, Dowland, and Carolan melodies, with guitar and fiddle adapted to the style of lute and baroque violin. Dobres features prominently on La Valse des Jouets, duetting with the fiddle, and takes a toe-tapping solo on his own Orca Jig. Bracketed by driving Irish jigs and reels including Steve Cooney's Skidoo, the air Bruach na Carraige Báine is beautifully played on guitar in a manner evocative of Cooney again, and then on delicate fiddle. Two competition-level Canadian reels are dispatched with aplomb by Pierre before Adam presents the poignant Freda's Journey inspired by his grandmother's emigration from Jewish Russia to a new life in Western Canada. Bittersweet eastern cadences give way to the modal melody of Sheepskin & Beeswax, a reel which started life in the Celtic countries but is now better known in Canada. Jim Sutherland's Easy Club Reel is a winner in any country, and the question of how to end such an eclectic album is answered by Brazil's Tico Tico. Yes, really. It seems anything goes with this pair!
Of all the touring acts and recording artists coming out of Canada at the moment, what makes this duo special? Well, I can only tell you my own experience. I first heard Pierre Schryer on his 1996 album New Canadian Waltz: his technical mastery was superb, showing years of competition fiddling, and his grasp of different styles was hard to equal.After a couple more CDs, I finally caught him live on a tour of England, with an impressive band pumping out Scottish, Irish and Canadian music. Shortly after, he started a long collaboration with Altan box-player Dermot Byrne which has brought him even closer to Irish music. Pierre adds foot-percussion to his fiddle prowess, and this is always great to see on stage. Through numerous other albums and concerts, I've never been disappointed by Schryer's music, and of course Pierre's nephew Benoît is now a fiddling force to be reckoned with in the next generation. Adam Dobres is new to me, but his guitar is always in the right place at the right time on this recording. Mandorla is an impressive collaboration from start to finish and the musicians seem to complement each other perfectly. The two together will be something special on stage, and who knows - maybe some of their musical friends will make an appearance to add depth and variety! Of course, if you can't make their live shows, there's always the CD to fall back on - and I'm sure Schryer and Dobres will be touring widely for some time to come. Check out their website for all the details.
This pair always seem to enjoy themselves too! Here's a little taste for you on YouTube, with Dermot Byrne joining Pierre and Adam.
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