CD Reviews: Geantraí: Ceol den Scoth ón tSraith Teilifíse

GeantraíCeol den Scoth ón tSraith TeilifíseGael Linn CEFDVD189, CEFCD 189This DVD and CD marks ten years of the TG4 series Geantraí, and is a useful and thoroughly enjoyable compilation documenting the variety and vigour of contemporary...

Geantraí
Ceol den Scoth ón tSraith Teilifíse

Gael Linn CEFDVD189, CEFCD 189

This DVD and CD marks ten years of the TG4 series Geantraí, and is a useful and thoroughly enjoyable compilation documenting the variety and vigour of contemporary Irish traditional music. In fact the timespan documented is quite narrower, as the recordings were all made from 2000-5. It’s an accurate reflection then of the twenty-first-century tradition, with a strong emphasis on instrumental music: only three songs were selected from the series, with the somewhat bizarre inclusion of John Spillane the only really false note on the recording. Given that the other songs are from the sean-nós tradition, the absence of any traditional ballads or songs in English is striking. Also notable is the lack of solos: only Gay McKeown’s evocative air and set piece is a solo in the purest sense, although Gerry O’Connor on banjo also contributes a marvellous bluegrass-tinged set full of mischievous invention.

The sleeve notes hint at these being natural, relaxed, and session-like recordings, but these are really performances recorded in pubs rather than pub performances, and what really comes across is the tremendous level of musicianship among traditional players today. Only the last track seems to approach the looseness of a session, Máirtín O’Connor and Cathal Hayden in particular cutting loose at every opportunity. Overall, though, it’s the breadth and contrast of styles on display that is the recording’s most attractive feature. Providence provide a blistering start, and their driving playing contrasts nicely with the untrammelled exuberance of At the Racket’s barndance and reels, and the steely control of At First Light. The fiddle is particularly well served on the set too, with Donegal highlands from the Campbells; and the precise duets of the Kane sisters and Dana Lyn and Patrick Ourceau are reminiscent of the former classic fiddle partnerships of Killoran and Sweeney, and McGann and Reynolds, although here very much drawing inspiration from the East Galway tradition. There’s lovely contributions from the Clare and Kerry tradition also, and a fine balance between new and more familiar material. While the sound is generally excellent, the flute goes missing on a couple of tracks, but this is a minor flaw, and both DVD and CD are highly recommended – here’s hoping that a complete box-set of the show may appear in the future!

Published on 1 March 2007

Adrian Scahill is a lecturer in traditional music at Maynooth University.

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