Monday 20 January 2020

Review - Folk: Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, NCH

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill
Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill

Pat O'Kelly

Directed by David Brophy, the RTÉCO begins its new season with a programme centred on the music of Dave Flynn in the company of traditional fiddle and guitar duo Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill together with members of the Clare Memory Orchestra.

Before launching into Flynn’s exacting tapestries, the duo present a short sequence where Hayes’ beautifully etched playing has a sturdy base to anchor the constantly weaving lines of march, jig and reel in ever-changing tone colours.

 As the music becomes more involved and frenzied, their foot tapping adds essential percussive accompaniment. Their performances have a kind of spirited abandonment that quickly has the audience transported.

 ‘An Irish Farrago’ – an old term for mixed fodder – brings an assortment of traditional and composed pieces arranged by the duo but enhanced in Flynn’s vibrant orchestrations.

Beginning with O’Carolan’s poignant ‘Farewell to Music’, the mood changes with Peadar O Riada and Paddy Kelly as one item slips seamlessly into another. Hayes submits to the discipline of an ensemble setting without losing any of his expressive imagination.

 The remainder of the concert is devoted to new versions of Flynn’s substantial Music for the Departed and Aontacht. The seven movements of the former echo various facets of grieving with the duo joined impressively by Aoife Ní Bhriain, leader of the Clare Memory Orchestra with its members subsumed into the broader RTECO context.

Flynn’s virtuosic fiddle writing finds Hayes and Ní Bhriain undaunted by its powerful sweep. Its style may be minimalist but this heightens, rather then lessens, the soloists’ burden with Cahill also engaging an extended cadenza.

Hayes prominently features in the three-movement Aontacht. Its sepulchral brass opening has a touch of Richard Strauss with a later rasping American ring to it. A lengthy fiddle solo visits an atmospheric landscape, which Martin Hayes depicts with impassioned sincerity.

Flynn’s score then bursts with energising force before reaching its electrifying conclusion. David Brophy’s alert sense of rhythm keeps Aontacht on a steady course while activating the music’s exciting momentum.

 But are both scores overlong for their content? Maybe. Their repeated ideas can become just a little tedious with, at times, Flynn’s orchestration perhaps gilding the lily.

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