Category - Music Date - Saturday, May 6, 2017 8:00 pm
DATE: Saturday, 6th May, 2017
A piano-based singer-songwriter and purveyor what he calls “hobo chic”, Duke Special has become a keystone in the arts culture of Belfast and beyond since his album “Adventures in Gramophone” blazed a critically acclaimed and commercially successful trail that he has pursued with vigour and invention ever since. Musically curious, experimental and restless, his output has covered diverse inspirational sources from vaudeville to orchestral art music, classic American singer-songwriters to local legends (Ruby Murray, for example), and taking in dramatic composition and collaboration with Clannad along the way.
ULAID & DUKE SPECIAL
When contemporary songwriting and traditional music meet, the results can be something to be treasured. Such is the case with the collaboration between folk supergroup, Ulaid, and singer-songwriter extraordinaire, Duke Special. The project draws on Duke Special’s songwriting skills, from pre-rock’n’roll to modern acoustic pop. He injects drama and theatricality, bringing storytelling to the fore with meditative twists and turns amid the melodic architecture. Ulaid’s mixture of skills in arrangement, interpretation, composition and performance lend a peculiarly folk-but-modern, urban-but-pastoral air to the whole. For a collaboration that may have seemed unlikely in theory, proves itself thoroughly in practice; when heard, it somehow seems inevitable.
“THE BELFAST SUITE”
Initially setting themselves the task of capturing Belfast and its history in music and song, they quickly sharpened focus through the lens of the Francis J. Bigger Collection. Housed in the Belfast Central Library, the collection covers all manner of texts, from property deeds to personal correspondence to translations of ancient poetry. Such an assortment of curiosities proved a fertile source of inspiration for what the collaborators have called “The Belfast Suite”, an artistic celebration that transcends its Belfast origins to encompass the whole island of Ireland and the world beyond its shores.
John McSherry and Dónal O’Connor are the creative force behind the highly innovative traditional band At First Light. They have toured the world extensively and produced some of the most influential albums in Irish music today. Seán Óg Graham is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest accompanists and he tours and records with the successful and dynamic group Beoga. All three are currently living in County Antrim in the North East of Ireland, and having spent many late nights in each other’s company on the Belfast session scene, it was inevitable that they would come together to record at some stage. Featuring new compositions which sit comfortably alongside traditional pieces from 19th Century collections, plus fresh and progressive arrangements, coupled with occasions of free form solos, Ulaid will take you on an emotive and uplifting musical journey. From Ireland to the neighbouring Celtic regions, these three fearless musical adventurers will chart a path from the ancient music of the Gael to the contemporary shape of traditional Irish music today.
John McSherry has been a major figure in Irish music for almost twenty years, and is hailed as one of the finest exponents in the art of Uilleann Piping. Described as ‘a true master’ by the Irish Music Magazine. He is a founding member of Lúnasa, Tamalin and Donal Lunny’s ground-breaking super group Coolfin. John has subsequently produced an array of critically acclaimed and innovative albums, both solo and collaborative, and continues to push the boundaries of Irish music with his current bands At First Light and The Olllam. He is a composer, producer, arranger and an established studio session musician of international renown, recording and performing with a myriad of artists including Clannad, Sinéad O’Connor, Rod Stewart, Nanci Griffiths, Gary Kemp and The Corrs.
Son of the celebrated fiddler Gerry O’Connor and much revered singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin of Lá Lugh, multi-instrumentalist Dónal O’Connor has established himself as one of Ireland’s leading producers. He has played and recorded with the likes of Grainne Holland, Moya Brennan, Steve Cooney, Mary Dillon, Cathal McConnell, Bob Brozman, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, John Spillane, Lumiere and Barry Kerr. Having inherited a musical legacy of at least five generations of fiddle playing he has toured the world from a young age as both a lead and backing instrumentalist with a number of bands including Lá Lugh, more recently At First Light and the Gaelic song super group A Stór Mo Chroí. He has composed music for theatre, television and film and has presented music shows for BBC ALBA, BBC NI, TG4, BBC Radio Ulster and Raidio Na Gaeltachta.
SEÁN ÓG GRAHAM
Seán Óg Graham is a guitar and accordion player who has performed and recorded with many of Irish traditional music’s top artists over the last 10 years. He is a founding member of the highly acclaimed band Beoga, with whom he has recorded 5 albums and toured worldwide. He is also a talented arranger and composer, with more than 50 of his works featuring in the Beoga repertoire. Seán Óg is a first class Honours graduate of the Irish World Academy of Music and is also a member of the Scottish super group Fiddler’s Bid. His versatile and tenacious style of accompaniment is in much demand and he has performed and recorded with Grammy nominated fiddler Liz Carroll, Karan Casey, Buille, Flook, Lunasa, Máirtin O’Connor Band, and The Cora Smyth Band.
In the way that a story is only brought to life in the way in which it is told, the piano is an instrument truly appreciated by the way that it is played. To weave both a song and a story from the piano is something that, as music listeners, we long to hear fit side by side.
The lone figure of Jack O’Rourke seated at a piano is one that Irish gig goers are becoming more accustomed to seeing. Whether performing startlingly honest ballads solo or driving Spectorish rock with his versatile band, Jack’s plaintive baritone and piano are core. An insightful lyricist and powerful live performer, Jack O’Rourke began 2016 in the manner in which he finished 2015 – a growing national profile with TV and radio appearances and critical acclaim, alongside the first tracks from his approaching debut album.
His songs speak of various human conditions with melodic flair, through young but wise eyes. There already have been flattering comparisons with the likes of David Bowie and Rufus Wainwright, but Jack has been determined to find his own voice amid a plentiful sea of influences – to ensure it is the unique qualities he possesses that he becomes best known for.
His first Dublin headliner was a sold out success at Whelan’s, and he subsequently was recognised for his era-marking song ‘Silence’ by winning an award in the Nashville-based International Song Writing Competition. Despite being a newcomer on the Irish music scene, Jack has quickly built up a loyal following among music lovers for his impassioned songwriting and performances, boding well for the release of his Dreamcatcher album in October.
“To have my words and music recognised by the likes of Tom Waits means I can die happy,” says Jack. “Dreamcatcher, my debut album is deeply personal but there’s a lot of universality to absorb – love, loss, going on the tare, the little eccentricities of life are all here with a piano and a beat”