Thursday, 23 October 2014

MUSIC REVIEW: A Musical Gathering (A Stór Mo Chroí)

A successful celebration of the dedication and craft of eight Irish traditional musicians, the A Stór Mo Chroí collective's Musical Gathering is everything one can hope for an evening of folk music – inspiring, enriching, stirring, but, above all, heart-warming and genuine. The collective – four men and four women – come together to celebrate their love of story-telling with pipe, flute, string and vocal harmonies, and melodies of varying tone and tempo.

At times feeling like an Irish dance hall, at other times a reassuring living room fireside, the packed MAC alternately crackles and cools with electric energy and effortless ease in an atmosphere rich in folky familiarity and familial unity.

All four female vocalists shine alongside the entertaining and affable John Spillane and the skilled instrumentalism of Dónal O’Connor, Donagh Hennessy and John McSherry: in particular, Mary Dillon's determined, regretful but unmistakeably sweet vocals work superbly as a mellow counterpoint to the more dominant and booming, but no less impressive, vocals of Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh.

As the band play on and the singers change tunes, confidence rises on and off stage: jocular chat and random Irish cultural references intersperse with melodious compositions and varyingly interpretative lyrics. It is all so easily accessible; one does not need to be a folk buff to find their spirits lifted, heads bobbing and feet tapping throughout.

(The original version of this review appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday October 21, 2014. It can be read here.)