anu piay tne pipes. II was a rare tning in those days. The music was in a sorry state. There were very few pipers. But that was what I wanted to learn. When I met Seamus for the first time in the late 60s. he was very generous in his attitude. He listened to me play and then told me. “You’ve got an awful lot to learn but I‘ll teach you all I know." ‘
The uillean pipes are a sophisticated version of a bellows-blown pipe common in Britain until the beginning ofthe last century. In Ireland. they lingered longer. augmented by extra drones and keyed drones. or regulators, which could be used to play simple chordal or melodic accompaniments to the chanter melody. Composer Shaun Davey was awakened to their possibilities by O‘Flynn himself. when the latter played them in the seminal group Planxty.
‘Shaun was an art historian at Trinity College. and a piano player interested in sort ofsemi-jazz music. He became fascinated by the sound of the pipes. and that was the genesis ofthe music that became The Brendan Voyage.‘
It is sometimes forgotten that Planxty. Liam‘s original band with Donal Lunny. Christy Moore and Andy Irvine. which had such an influence on younger players of traditional instruments in many countries. were an adventurous band. creating new sounds and breaking new ground. ‘My main interest is in mixing musical idioms.
It‘s an awesome task. Sometimes it just doesn’t work at all. but then it‘s obvious. Or it can have a big noise and impact. but is it of lasting value? It's an elusive thing. but I think The Brendan Voyage was maybe a breakthrough.‘
Based on the adventures ofTim Severin and friends sailing to Iceland in a crude leather and wood boat. the orchestral work is an undemanding. accessible programrr t piece. with the pipes tossed about over a stormy string section or keening .ike a seabird over slack water. In Davey‘s second orchestral works for pipes. Granuaile (based on the largely factual account ofa 16th century warrior queen in the west of Ireland). a second remarkable sound is added. the voice of Rita Connolly.
‘Rita is not from a folk. more from the pop/rock world. but she has a wonderful voice and a very fine musical taste. and has absorbed a lot. and understands the feeling of traditional music.’
Now Shaun Davey has finished another large commission. this one commemorating the Siege of Derry. and it will be premiered there in May. ‘Like Granuaile. it has Rita Connolly singing. But it also has a pipe band and an 80-piece orchestra!‘
Brendan Voyage and (Iranuaile, by Shaun Davey. with Rita (.‘onnolly. Liam ()' Flynn and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. are performed at the Queen '5 Hall. Edinburgh on Sun 15.
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I Ryulchi Sakamoto: Beauty (Virgin America) Of course. comminglings of the intercultural kind always have such heavy things expected of them; the unspoken implication is that one ofthese ventures will transcend all boundaries and the music ofthe world will go PLOP into one truly universal statement that will be understood from Oban to Ulan Bator. IfSakamoto felt the weight ofsuch expectations. the strain rarely shows on Beauty. where he has extended his horizons further than ever before. ‘Diabaram‘ places middle-Eastern singing over gentle. descending. very Western synth chords. and ifthat sounds like a formula. Sakamoto‘s skill is in making juxtapositions like that seem unforced. Elsewhere. a barely-recognisable ‘We Love You' pulsates. and kotos twang around a campfire. conjuring up images of the world’s first ricebowl Western. Even in the more rhythmic tracksa serenity prevails. and. overall. Beauty is a highly satisfactory package tour. (Alastair Mabbott)
IThe Innocence Mission: The Innocence Mission (AGM) Now this is lovely stuff. The Innocence Mission are a bunch of I’ennsylvanians with an ear for sensitivity and an eye for effect. This. their debut album. is a heady brew of long-haired hippiness. and soft-aired happiness.
It comes from the same school ofelementary folk as 10.000 Maniacs. Iidie Brickell and Kate Bush. With such tender bedfellows. it's safe to suppose that The Innocence Mission will never peel the skinoff your ears. Indeed. tracks like ‘The Wonderof Birds'. the current single. and ‘('urious'. possess a charming beauty. almost naive in its feel.
(‘onsidcrthe drifting vocals of Karen Peris. and even the luscious album sleeve. and very rapidly you'll find yourself drifting back to the kindof halcyon memories dished tip by The Wonder Years on TV. The Innocence Mission are that beguiling. ((‘McL)
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The List (i— l‘) April l99025