CD Reviews: Niamh Ní Charra

Ón Dá Thaobh/From Both SidesImeartas Records IMCD001An apt title reflects Ní Charra’s fluency and proficiency on both concertina and fiddle, as well as her ability to fluidly slide between different refractions of the music. The...
Ón Dá Thaobh/From Both Sides
Imeartas Records IMCD001
An apt title reflects Ní Charra’s fluency and proficiency on both concertina and fiddle, as well as her ability to fluidly slide between different refractions of the music. The sleeve notes emphasise her grounding in the Kerry tradition, and it’s almost a cliché to mention that this evocation of place contributes to establishing the music’s authority and authenticity as a continuance of a hallowed regional style. Unlike the fairly recent CD of Paudie O’Connor’s though, which concentrated on local repertoire, the selections here stray far beyond the borders of Kerry, with expected detours to Scotland, North America, and Cape Breton, and less familiar ones to Hungary and Switzerland. Hence the range of material here is diverse, and in a sense mirrors Ní Charra’s journey as a musician, who has spent no less than eight years touring with Riverdance.
However, if the bricolage of tunes reflects the globalisation of the tradition associated with Riverdance, they don’t simply ape its popular approach, and the music and its treatment here display high levels of creativity and individuality. This individuality sometimes borders on the eclectic, and particularly intriguing is the witty and attractive Allegretto by Giulio Regondi (who was one of the early virtuosos of the concertina), played here with panache and invention. Equally unexpected is the Hungarian czárdás set, which is taken from Muzsikás’ The Bartók Album (a longtime faourite of mine), but here I felt that the borrowed material didn’t fit as well. A much more satisfying track groups two jaunty hornpipes from Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, where the deft humour of the playing is perfectly complemented by an old-style piano accompaniment. Those hungry for fresh repertoire will be well served by several new compositions, which are mostly modern and virtuosic in style – and incidentally, are all in minor keys! Counterbalancing these are two emotive airs, bleak and beautiful as unadulterated solos here, the second interweaving the song version as well, sung by Brendan Begley. Begley also helps to reground the CD after its globetrotting excursions, contributing to the final set of slides, which form a satisfying conclusion to this well-rounded musical portrait.

Published on 1 July 2007

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

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