Review: Drawing from the Well

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to attend, for the Journal of Music, the Irish Traditional Music Archive’s gala concert for their Drawing from the Well series at the National Concert Hall, Dublin. It served as a stark reminder that I should a) spend more time engaging with traditional music, and b) learn to speak my native language better.

But the concert was terrific. The word “gala” comes from a French word for rejoicing, and this was a true celebration of Irish music, past and present.

If the night had a theme, the theme was conversation. Talk and story are almost as important to the tradition as anything else, but there was never a sense that the audience was there (as Schoenberg put it) for purely acoustical reasons. The audience was as exuberant as the performers.

But the conversations were musical too. Alone on stage at the start of the gala, Aoife Ní Bhriain played the beginning of the sarabande from Bach’s D minor violin partita, which after a couple of minutes morphed into the fiddler Tommie Potts’ version of the reel ‘My Love is in America’. Ní Bhriain managed the stylistic changes so smoothly it was like watching a lenticular image change with slight movements; as though at any time each of the pair of tunes was there, one visible, the other hidden.