Traditional Irish Music
On Tuesday 7th May Zoë Conway, Donal Lunny and Máirtín O’ Connor start a seven date Irish tour. Their first concert will be in Whelan’s in Dublin and they follow this with concerts in Kerry, Cork, Westmeath, Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar and Roscommon. As musicians they need no introductions such is the high regard with which they are held. To celebrate this tour we spoke to Zoë Conway to see what was in store for audiences across the country.
Is seven nights in a row a difficult task? “It will probably be a nice break from ordinary everyday life” she says with a little laugh. “The three of us would be used to doing longer tours. If you go to Germany or America you might do 20 or 30 shows in a row. I toured with Riverdance for many years and that was eight shows a week, every week for as long as you want.”
So what is in store for audiences? She explains that “The overall picture will be a good bit of traditional music with the addition of some individual pieces that we have composed. It’s very much traditional music throughout with some progressive elements also added for variety. We are really pleased with what we have come up with. At the very start we didn’t know how the set would develop but after the first rehearsal we were really pleased.”
Zoë’s approach to her music is all encompassing. Her heart and soul goes into the choice of music and the preparation. Each project takes a different approach. For this tour, 5 long days of rehearsals were involved starting on the day they met for the initial photo shoot. Having their instruments to hand they couldn’t resist the temptation to play. Common ground was immediately found on a number of sets. These initial ideas were further developed via email. By the time the first full rehearsal started the outline of the concert was already starting to take shape. Zoë explained that “definite plans then evolved for each set”
“We would know the versions we are playing, the variations we are going to put in and how many times round we will play each piece. So it is very well planned. But because we all play a lot of music there will be a wink and a nod during the show. Let’s do it again because it’s going well, that type of thing. Máirtín loves doing variation off the melody so there is scope for that as well with lots of space for ornamentation overall.”
Zoë explains that a lot of work goes into this and other projects. Next month she plays with an orchestra in Germany with the set worked out 2 years in advance. Beyond the music Zoë is also very aware of the need for audience engagement with stories and backgrounds to the tunes. It seems like all three musicians will be making an input, giving their thoughts on the music. No doubt there will be an element of verbal sparring. We saw Zoë with husband John McIntyre recently as part of the promotion of their latest album which was issued last year. The album is called “Go Mairir I Bhfad_Long Life To You” and features all new compositions by a number of leading composers including Máirtín and Donal. Also included were compositions by Liz Carroll, Steve Cooney, Frankie Gavin, Andy Irvine, Charlie Lennon, Peadar Ó Riada, Mícheál Ó Súilleabhán, Tommy Peoples, Niall Vallely and Bill Whelan. It’s a great album and well worth checking out. At the live concert ( also in Whelan’s ) which we reviewed, Zoë turned out to be quite the story teller. This she explains is critical in every show. So does it come naturally or does she have to work at it?
“I have found that if I am relaxed and can talk with the audience everyone relaxes a bit. When people are relaxed the concerts are much better. It also helps to slow things down a bit, even my own adrenaline levels. Most people involved in Irish music are really lovely and you would just love to hear them talking about where they found, and how they feel about the tunes they are about to play. You couldn’t learn a tune without there being a story involved. None of the stories I tell are planned or really thought about. It’s just what’s going on in that piece at that time, why I’m playing it. So for a show it is important that people get that background. They get drawn in then and the piece makes more sense.”
It’s an exciting prospect with the first show taking place on Tuesday night 7th May in Whelan’s, Dublin. The other dates are detailed below and you should book with the venues direct.
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