Traditional Irish Music
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Approaching her second album, Belfast singer Gráinne Holland knew that traditional Gaelic song could be modern and contemporary, whilst at the same time respecting the past. In 2011 she released her debut album, ‘Teanga na nGael', to critical acclaim, and this release builds very strongly on that work. Once again she works with Dónal O’Connor who acts as producer and arranger on the recording. Those arrangements are a distinguishing feature of the album, and credit must also go to the outstanding team of players that she has brought onboard.
Seán Óg Graham, Michael McCague, Brendan Mulholland, John McSherry, Conor McCreanor, Michael McCluskey and Neil Martin feature, and you can start to see a common thread between their work here, and their input on other recordings this year. Collectively they are pushing the boundaries of accompaniment in particular, and they are getting extremely good at it. Add in the pure traditional voice of Gráinne, and the music takes flight.
Gráinne says she is focused on forging new territory for Gaelic song. The Irish language is second nature to her. “I sing in Irish, I attended an Irish-Medium school in Belfast, and the first songs I learned were in Irish”, she said, when we spoke to her.
“From an early age I felt a connection to the songs and I love the language. I think it is both poetic and emotive. It’s a connection to our past, and some of the language in the songs is different from the Irish spoken today. I love that.”
On the choice of material, be it Irish or English she says “I’m always learning. I pick a song when I fall in love with the melody and the story, and I have always leaned more towards Gaelic songs. There are so many beautiful traditional songs in English, and some feature as part of my sets when gigging, but when it comes to choosing songs for recording, my heart is always with the Gaelic songs.”
Included below is the first track from the album called, Síos an Sliabh. It’s a translation of the Robert Burns (1759-1796) song, ‘Down the Moor.' Seán Bán Mac Grianna from Rann na Feirste, Co. Donegal, penned this translation. Gráinne first heard it sung by Albert Fry from Belfast.
The arrangements on the album are magnificent and varied. The stark cello accompaniment to Úna Ní Chonchubhair Bháin, contrasts with the mellow and emotive An Droighneán Donn, which features guitar, cello and bass. The guitar, bouzouki and flute combination on Thug Mi Gaol soars with elegant precision.
Everything however revolves around a voice that has the depth and interpretative ability to open up the material for the listener. With Gaelic song this is especially important. Gráinne's voice and her emotional rendition of the material makes that connection. It provides the warmth that makes the underlying music shine. This is especially evident on the slower tracks where her voice alone must carry the performance. Ceol an Phíobaire and An Droighneán Donn stand out, but in truth, she anchors each track with sweet ease.
On the music itself Gráinne said: “I suppose every track has a different feel. I had different ideas for each song, and Dónal O’Connor and I spent a lot of time discussing each track and the ideas I had before he arranged them. Overall, I think the album has a contemporary feel to it. I like doing something different with the songs, I suppose that’s the beauty of Irish traditional songs, anyone can take one and make it their own. I’m really glad that people seem to like my take on things.”
She sings the praises of Dónal O’Connor as both producer and musician. “He brings so much in terms of ideas and musicality. He really understands the songs and that’s extremely important when writing arrangements. Neil Martin also featured on the album. He’s a fantastic musician and you can really hear the emotion in his playing. He arranged a song on the album; Úna Ní Chonchubhair Bháin and his playing on that is beautiful. John McSherry is on the album and brings a real contemporary sound to his music, he’s a real rocker! I’ve been playing with flute player Brendan Mulholland for a few years and I think he’s fantastic, the same goes for Micky McCluskey on guitar. We also had Michael McCague on bouzouki, Sean Óg Graham on guitar, Eamon Murray on drums and bodhrán and Conor McCreanor on bass. They’re all first rate musicians and their contribution was immense.”
Gaelré has just been released by Gael Linn and will be launched in Dublin at The Wood Quay Venue on culture night, 18th September 2015. Gráinne is also delighted that her sister, and Mayor of South Co. Dublin, Sarah Holland will officially launch the album. She will be joined on the night by Brendan Mulholland and Micky McCluskey.
The album is available for purchase from Gael Linn by clicking on the logo below
For Broadcasters that are part of our Download Centre it is FREE to Download. Follow the link below and ensure that you are signed in to Tradconnect.
Dónal O'Connor - fiddle, viola, piano
Michael McCluskey - guitar
Seán Óg Graham - guitar
Michael McCague - bouzouki
Brendan Mulholland - flute
John McSherry - uilleann pipes and whistle
Eamon Murray - percussion
Conor McCreanor - bass
Neil Martin - cello
Buíochas le / Thanks to
Antoine Ó Coileáin agus gach duine ag Gael Linn.
M'fhear chéile Frainc Mac Cionnaith.
M'athair atá ar shlí na fírinne agus a spiorad thart orainn i gcónai.
Mo mháthair, mo dheirfiúracha agus an teaghlach ar fad.
Léiritheoir Dónal O’Connor.
Cormac O'Kane agus gach duine ag Redbox Recording Studios.
Na ceoltóiri a sheinn ar an albam.
Acadamh Rioga na hÉireann / The Royal Irish Academy.
Seán Ó Muireagáin, Seán Mac Aindreasa, Aodán Mac Póilín, Sorcha
Nic Lochlainn, Doiminic Mac Giolla Bhríde, Aodh Mac Ruairí
as na hamhráin galánta a thug sibh dom.
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