Posted by: mdmusingsie | May 21, 2012

Galway Early Music Festival – cuid a dó

Harps and more harps.  Add a set of pipes and throw in a castle, and I’m in heaven.

I attended two of the Galway Early Music Festival concerts.  The first was by The Harp Consort, a three piece ensemble consisting of harp, guitar, and percussion.  Their performance, entitled Fantasía y Folía, consisted of a series of baroque inspired tunes with not only a Spanish flare, but bits of Portugal, Africa and South America thrown in.

This wasn’t a night of simple music. Andrew Lawrence-King wielded the harp not only in the traditional musical sense, but like a weapon in some of the banter between him and Steven Player, the guitarist. Mr. Player is also an accomplished baroque dancer, and proved that his feet could fly on the floor as fast as his fingers on the strings.  The trio added more than a touch of humor to the performance, including one number where Ricardo Padilla, the percussionist, swept in to depose Mr. Player of his guitar.

The pièce de résistance was another trio, Coracle, which consisted of Siobhán Armstrong on harp, Barnaby Brown on pipes, and Griogair Labhruidh on vocals. I had seen Ms. Armstrong previously and thoroughly enjoyed not only her music but the Early Irish harp she plays.   Mr. Brown gave a very informative talk as well as performance the previous day at the Galway City Museum.  Mr. Labhruidh has a gorgeous voice and an equally lovely Scottish accent.

The programme was entitled Interlace and the Otherworld and began with a two beautifully combined tunes called An Eala Bhán – Guth na h-Eala (The White Swan – Voice of the Swan).  The entire program consisted of ancient tunes or those inspired by early tunes.  Not only did the music bring echoes from the past, but the concert was held in a 15th century castle – Aughnanure in Oughterard.  For the final number, played on a larger set of bagpipes, Mr. Brown strolled the garden outside the castle in true Highland fashion (that set of bagpipes would have deafened the crowd in the small castle enclosure). Pure magic.

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  1. Glad you enjoyed the concert! Thank you for writing about it and posting photos – that was our debut with the name ‘Coracle’. I’m fascinated to know – were you disappointed that I didn’t wear a kilt? I confess, I had it in my suitcase and felt dressed down having grown up in the tartan cliché. Did it communicate the right message for you, taking Coracle as a whole?
    I find it a relief to escape from the baggage that comes with Highland piping, but don’t want to throw out the nobility and dignity. Joseph MacDonald wrote in about 1760: “As Slow Pipe Musick … is always performd walking, it gives the Performer a better Opportunity of discovering a gracefulness of carryage in Feature and Attitude … when it is performed by a Skilful Hand and with anything of a genteel Person it is as aggreeable to the Eye as Ear.”

    • I hadn’t thought about the kilt, surprisingly, as that’s something I would definitely notice.

      It would have been a nice touch and lent it that additional timelessness associated with a Highlands piper. However, the music carried the day and the lack of a kilt did not detract from the experience. There was definitely something “otherworldly” about that piece as you walked against the backdrop of so much history, as if we were transported to another time for that brief period.

      I thought all of the Coracle music was amazing! I’m anxious for CDs to be available. In the mean time, I’m enjoying your Band-Re – Stratosphere CD.

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