Review: Imagining Home: This is Ireland, NCH, Dublin

Hansard and friends' take on 1916 lifts the spirits

Glen Hansard has thanked the Irish public for getting behind Home Sweet Home and the Apollo House movement. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Fionnán Sheahan

In an aside after the interval, Glen Hansard revealed the probable cultural highlight of Easter week. The great west Kerry traditional musician Brendan Begley had come to Dublin a few nights previously and the pair had randomly dropped into pubs around the city "where sessions broke out".

"True," Begley nodded sagely. The Baile na nGall singer and accordion player was just one of over 20 guests with whom Hansard had a personal connection who joined him on stage for 'This is Ireland' - part of the 'Imagining Home' series of concerts for the Ireland 1916 programme on Saturday night.

The artists featuring across the week at the National Concert Hall included Rosanne Cash, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright and Camille O'Sullivan. If Monday's 'Centenary' was 1916 pop culture, then these were more for the purists.

To describe Hansard's take as a concert wouldn't do it justice. A mixture of music, song, poetry, readings and writings, he added an appropriate multicultural dimension, with guests from Syria (Maya Youssef), Holland (Judith Mok) Sierra Leone (Loah) and the Czech Republic (his 'Falling Slowly' singing partner Markéta Irglová, with whom he duetted).

In a fluid and fun line-up, at one point an uilleann piper from Gorey, Co Wexford, appeared onstage to partake after just emailing Hansard a week ago.

Joseph O'Connor struck a discordant note on the 1916 celebrations with a commentary on homelessness.

Influential new voices on the scene were prominent, with singers Lisa O'Neill and Diarmuid and Brian MacGloinn, and Stephen James Smith, brought the house down with a full-bodied recital of his poem, 'Dublin You Are'.

There was probably a bit too much accompaniment by Hansard himself. However, his interpretation of modern Irish culture can't be faulted as he displayed his broad range of interests. The concert will be on the RTÉ Radio 1 Player.