Irish Music Magazine Concert Review
Keepers of the Flame for 50 Years. Ballinderreen Community Centre, County Galway, March 16th, 2019. Anne Marie Kennedy reports.
On St. Patrick’s weekend, as Irish cities and towns dress themselves up to impress our visitors with the essence of Irish-ness, in Ballinderreen Community Centre at the edge of the Burren, a stone’s throw from the Wild Atlantic Way, Shaskeen delighted their international audience with rich musical integrity, in a highly polished performance of honest expression and craic galore.
repartee, and for the uninitiated when Cussen introduces a ‘few lively tunes’, it is understatement: rhythmically high-speed, brilliant musicianship and arrangement, a raucous ‘hup’ or two for changes, a whole new definition of ‘lively’.
The Shaskeen céili band originated long before the infusion of grand theatrics, choreography, technology and mythological motif that has brought traditional Irish music from the hearth to a worldwide stage. But the life blood and heartbeat of the music was vividly present in Ballinderreen on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day when event organiser Brendán O’Loinsigh warmly welcomed everyone, bilingually, and with the tantalising promise of a homemade bun and a cup of tea at the interval.
Handsomely coupled in life and music, Yvonne Flynn and Conor McCarthy opened with incredibly tight playing, rhythmic fiddle and accordion, setting the standard and expectations high. Pat Broderick led Shaskeen with O’Farrell’s Farewell to Limerick, on the uilleann pipes, great variety and depth in the playing, the musicianship born and bred on every side of his genealogy, a gliding of notes, hypnotic and full of vitality.
The other seven players were arranged in a loose semi-circle, one of our most notable keyboard players Geraldine Cotter on the left and
There was a showcase of solo tunes, duos and trios: Eamonn Cotter’s plaintive flute on The May Morning Dew was a highlight, also the outstanding west Clare style of proud Corofin man Dave Sanders on fiddle and mandolin, Miss Lyons and the Crooked Road brilliantly played. Geraldine Cotter chose an air from the extant poem, Bán Chnoic Éireann Ó, a captivating tune followed by The Humours of Killyclogher with brother Eamonn. A brace of hornpipes almost brought the crowd to their feet, full steam ahead, an orchestral, big band sound with a flourishing finish. Corofin Dave sang a fine version of Auld Feather, a John Hartford composition with an old timey lilt, another blast of ‘lively’ ones, chairs could have been pushed back to the wall by the dancers in the audience as they took to their feet for a warm encore and standing ovation. The Master’s Daughter, the Bucks of Oranmore and Rakish Paddy a blissful soundscape to finish with. Shaskeen define rhythmic playing, there are no gimmicks, it’s all about the tunes, the songs, the stories, Shaskeen are the real thing, as Irish as it gets, the pure drop.
The strong sense of a vibrant Irish community was evident on stage and in the hall. Brendán O’Loinsigh heads a team of welcoming volunteers who make this possible. In the kitchen a man and two
“All hands were on deck for Walking Up Town, American ragtime meets Irish grassroots”
Johnny Donnellan on the right, providing the stage-casing, a wall of sweet, timely keyboard accompaniment and percussive wonder. Donnellan on the bodhrán uses feathery wallops, rim tickles, light thumps on all sides and edges, a most impressive, masterly display. With keyboard annunciation, all hands were on deck for Walking Up Town, American ragtime meets Irish grassroots, beautifully arranged, a thrilling set of tunes and nice segue into Sean Conway’s unique and compelling version of Shanagolden, followed with a few solo instrumentled tunes, accompaniment pared back, then the collective, layered up and highly effective, a pulsating, thrilling journey for the audience. Variety at all times, Pat Broderick on low whistle led the band in the Mist Covered Mountain, Geraldine Cotter’s accompaniment a delight. Johnny Donnellan made his singing debut with Courtin’ In The Kitchen, all instruments in for the verse interludes and a rousing applause. Patsy McDonagh’s dexterous accordion playing led the Minor Selection before the sos for the cupán tae.
Founding member and band leader, Tom Cussen, a capable and engaging MC and solid accompanist on banjo tried several times to pass the announcer’s baton but it boomeranged, leading to witty
teenage boys did the washing up, girl scouts tidy away chairs as the band break down sound equipment while saying goodnight and thanks to their fans. Shaskeen will be back in Ballinderreen for St. Patrick’s weekend 2020 sharing their rousing music and Irish hospitality with a flourishing Céad Mile Fáilte.
Shaskeen play the Coleman Irish Music Centre, Gurteen County Sligo on Saturday June 8th and Dún Uladh Cultural Heritage Centre on Friday May 10th.
See www.shaskeen.net for details of their upcoming Irish and UK tours. Anne Marie Kennedy