- 02 Jul 12
Watching Christy Moore play charity gig was an opportunity to see a master at work.
My grandfather died when I was pretty young. I remember his tools almost better than I remember him. For years after his death an assortment of arcane plasterer’s impliments – hawks, trowels and improbable devices for laying the mouldings for cornices and architraves – lay in a back bedroom in my grandmother’s house.
I can just about recall him in action, graceful as a dancer. What brought him to mind was witnessing another masterclass in off-hand dexterity and delicacy. As part of Traveller Pride Week, there was a concert for members of the travelling community recovering from addiction to drink, drugs or gambling. Christy Moore was delivering a set to close proceedings.
I’ve seen plenty of big names play charity gigs in my time. It’s normally a case of lashing out a few quick tunes with the minimum of perspiration. What was so impressive about Christy’s presence wasn’t simply the care he put into the performance but his astute choice of songs.
Rather than being wary and guarded as many in a similar situation might be, he was open and engaged with the audience both on and off stage. He did more than deliver a great performance. He transcended what might have been expected of him in the situation. Like my grandfather with the trowel he made something difficult appear as natural as a shrug of the shoulders.
I’m expecting an experience no less transcendent and magical later this year when three exponents of the oral arts – you might go so far as to bandy the term ‘national treasures’ – go on tour. Under the flag of ‘Rhyme, Rant and Rann’, poet Theo Dorgan, storyteller Jack Lynch (who’s from Dublin despite that fine Cork name) and traditional singer Len Graham will be exploring the word in all its forms of expression.
Again these are masters of their respective forms. I’m really hoping the whole will become more than the sum of the parts. You’ll be able to see them as they traverse the highways and byways between the sallow end of September and the depths of November. The first port of call will be Clifden Station House Hotel Theatre on Thursday September 27, where they’ll be joined by Sean Ryan on tin whistle after which they move on to the Glens Centre Manorhamilton (28), the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar (October 3), the Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda (4), Triskel Arts Centre, Cork (13), Siamsa Tire, Tralee (14), Iontas, Castleblayney (16), Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire (18) and the Mermaid Theatre, Bray (November 17).
NAFCO sounds like a clandestine organisation run by a Nehru suited bald guy with a fluffy white cat. It’s not, of course. It’s the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention which has just taken place in Donegal. And it’s also what we have to thank for tempting Lau to these shores. Even though they are only from as far away as Scotland, they’ve been surprisingly infrequent visitors. They’re so deeply ingrained in my consciousness that I was shocked to find, when I was checking my facts for this, that they’ve only in fact been together since 2004 when Orkney islander Kris Drever, East Anglian Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke, who also hails from the islands, gathered in O’Rourke’s kitchen. Maybe it’s the fact they pulled off the almost impossible feat of winning the ‘best group’ category in the BBC Radio Two Folk Awards three years running. Or that each of the band’s members manages to work their way through an improbable amount of side project activity, whether that takes the form of solo records or collaborations with the likes of Eddi Reader, Alyth McCormack, Brian Finnegan or Roddy Woomble. Whatever it is, no other band making this kind of music pulls it off with the same effortless cool. Nor has any other band making this kind of music negotiated the often reactionary forces at play within folk and traditional music so effortlessly. Maybe that’s why they’re so beloved, not only by their audiences but by collaborators like Karine Polwart, with whom they made an EP. I guess all that hyperactivity has left them so thin on the ground they haven’t had a chance to lavish some attention our way. Happily, all that is set to be resolved when they play the Glens Centre, Manorhamilton Thursday June 28 and in Naul’s Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre (29).