Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Andy Irvine at Glór

Travelling Troubadour Andy Irvine
There is something timeless about Andy Irvine  who appeared in Glór last week; a travelling troubadour with a collection of lute like stringed instruments  to support his voice , his penchant for singing to drone accompaniment creating  a wire strung  accoustic  soundworld that would not sound out of place in another century  alongside say  a 17th  century English balladeer like  John Dowland, (leaving aside occasional interludes on harmonica evoking folk giants Guthrie and Dylan).

  Irvine covered  an entertaining set list of songs that mixed new material  from his album, Abocurragh, with songs from his extensive back  catalog, setting the context with anecdotes from his multifaceted career. I enjoyed the biographical song, O'Donoghue's,  which gave a glimpse into his milieu in 1962,  can it really be a almost five decades ago?  'The Close Shave'  a very funny  song but true for Andy , once heard , like a joke,  it doesn't bear constant retelling  via recording  and is probably best  heard in a live setting. The political songs , particularly the final encore, Michael Davitt were very powerful and resonated with current political woes.
Irvine's musical hertitage is rich and ranges from Sweeney's men, Planxty, Dé Danann through to  Mosaik, a duo with Arty McGlynn and Paul Brady and more recently as a solo artist. Some of his songs chronicle his musical past. A wonderful musician and entertainer, he was  well received by his many fans after the show  when he came front of house ( John O Conor take note)  to meet and sign autographs and it is inspiring to meet an artist who truly seems ' never to tire of the road'. I was delighted to meet Clare based songsmith Brian Flynn of Clare FM in the audience and I am looking forward to hearing the interview he recorded with Irvine. Going on this experience, it is hard to imagine a more engaging guest with a such an interesting history to draw on.

  As far as I know, Irvine  has not written a memoir but there are some interesting notes chronicling some of his adventures  and collaborations on his website .

There is no doubting Andy Irvine's, intelligence,  talent and enthusiasm but there was something lacking at this  gig .  Irvine struggled to connect with the audience whom it seems he could not hear or see and we were more like an early morning congregation  with a  chilly silence  threatening  to deepen when not filled by song or anecdote. The Glór stage, while very suitable for the 200 school children it had hosted last week, was just  not a convivial platform for this solo artist and it must have been like playing behind  a glassscreen                                                                                                                                                                                            What a relief Irvine  had brought his woolly jumper  to keep out the chill .  A solo singer  does not have a fellow musician to bounce off and needs more than an ensemble player to feel that resonance with the audience in front of him.   Elements such as lighting  and the sheer distance in  height level between the floor and stage area seem to conspire against  such a connection . 

There must be a way of creating a convivial space somewhere in this centre suitable for a more intimate of gathering of less than 100 or so?   I wonder why the option to  place the performer on the floor closing the theatre space as I have seen done here before was not  taken? How would it work if   the  artist and audience  were to share  the platform  space  or the  gallery space upstairs?   The area behind the bar was used to good effect by Len Graham who banished the chill with a cheerful projection of a roaring fire. This is not the first time I have witnessed artists struggling to engage with their audience in this auditorium   and I was reminded of Sandy Kelly appealing for a torch light to be turned on so she could glimpse a face in the audience or young students from Maoin Cheoil an Chlair blinking as they nervously approached the microphone to play their solos for mams and dads  who were mere feet away.

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