Perspectives: Martin Hayes & The Common Ground Ensemble

Perspectives: Martin Hayes & The Common Ground Ensemble

Saturday, 26 March 2022, 8.00pm

Martin Hayes fiddle
Cormac McCarthy piano
Kate Ellis cello
Kyle Sanna guitar
Brian Donnellan bouzouki, harmonium & concertina
David Power uileann pipes
Síle Denvir sean nós singer & harp

Martin Hayes is one of the world's most celebrated fiddle players and an influential figure in Irish traditional music. NCH is delighted to present the debut concerts by Martin Hayes’ new band, the Common Ground Ensemble. With the Common Ground Ensemble, Hayes has creates an ensemble with its roots in traditional Irish music - the common ground of their name but possess a wealth of talent spanning trad Irish music, improvisation, arrangement, jazz, avant-garde and cutting edge contemporary classical.

Rooted in the classical, folk and contemporary worlds, he founded the seminal Irish-American supergroup The Gloaming, whose self-titled debut album won the Meteor Choice Music Prize for Best Irish Album. Their global touring has included more than a dozen shows at Dublin’s National Concert Hall as well as performances at London’s Royal Festival Hall and Barbican. Hayes has collaborated with everyone from Bill Frisell and Yo-Yo Ma to Sting and Paul Simon. Hayes' long-term creative partnership with Dennis Cahill also saw the duo perform for President Obama at the White House. Yet Hayes isn’t one to rest on his laurels, noting “The journey never reaches a conclusion. Every new project is the result of possibilities and ideas that begin to appear in the course of developing the previous project.”

Which is also the basis for his latest project, the Common Ground Ensemble. In recent years, Hayes has produced and curated concerts for various festivals, often bringing together fresh collaborations and forming special ensembles for these events. Reflecting on those very enjoyable experiences, he also noticed that he’d often construct these events without much advance planning while also dealing with time restrictions.

“I started thinking about how, in an ideal world, I’d actually set that up,” he begins. “If I had complete autonomy, what artists would I choose? And how would I create the most flexible gathering of musicians to become a core band?”

Hayes aimed to create an ensemble of musicians from different backgrounds who also have connections to Irish music - the common ground of their name. The line-up emerged to encompass Cormac McCarthy (piano, ‘Cottage Evolution’), Kate Ellis (cello, Artistic Director of Crash Ensemble), Kyle Sanna (guitar, a collaborator with Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile) and Brian Donnellan (bouzouki/harmonium/concertina, and, like Hayes, an alumnus of The Tulla Céilí Band). They possess a wealth of talent spanning the worlds of traditional Irish music, cutting edge contemporary classical, composition, improvisation and jazz, and avant-garde.

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