Sunday 20 January 2019

Night at the Garden

Five traditional music icons thrill audience as Usher's Island take to the Piper's Garden

Andy Irvine playing with Usher’s Island at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre
Andy Irvine playing with Usher’s Island at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre
Usher’s Island Gig at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre

John Manning

The soft summer rain only added to the atmosphere of a very special night at the Piper's Garden at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul when five masters of their craft came together for their only Irish appearance this year to treat the local audience to the finest in traditional music.

As the Garden Party summer series of events continued last Friday Night at the rural Fingal venue, it was the turn of trad super group, Usher's Island to take to the Naul stage.

The five masterful musicians that make up Usher's Island are a who's who of Irish traditional music and all their skills and passion for the music was evident for all to see on another unique night in the Piper's Garden.

Former members of iconic trad collectives like Planxty and the Bothy band make up Usher's Island who are Donal Lunny, Andy Irivine, Paddy Glackin, John Doyle and Mike McGoldrick.

The good people at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, no doubt, looked anxiously at grey skies all day and wondered if this gig might be a wash out but in the end, only the lightest of rain fell on the venue and if anything, it became another character in the story of a memorable night.

The arts centre staff had the foresight to have free ponchos distributed to the audience on the night and there was one comical moment when the band politely paused until the rustling of ponchos being quickly pulled over audience members' heads abated.

It all added to a jovial night when there was plenty of light-hearted banter from the stage where it was evident the five trad icons that make up Usher's Island were enjoying their time in Naul.

But it was the music that was the real star of the show with tunes that lurched from the lively to the melancholic but always with an ever-present undercurrent of wit.

A Drogheda twist saw the familiar 'Wild Rover' become 'Wild Rovin' while tunes like Half Century, which opened the show and Molly Ban, delighted the Naul audience.

With each song or tune came a story from the stage and we were told that many of the tunes were centuries old but tonight, they sounded timeless.

One song told the story of the creation of the Claddagh Ring which involved everything from indentured slavery to pirates of the Algiers.

The biggest roar of appreciation on the night was reserved for an old Planxty tune called 'The Blacksmith' which Andy Irvine took out of his long and impressive back catalogue to the delight of the many Planxty fans in the audience.

Some of the introductions to these tunes were as unique and unusual as the tunes themselves, with Donal Lunny introducing one as 'a lullaby about a psychopathic stalker' and Andy Irvine introducing a song about a 'horse called Stewball, who talked'.

The encore saw another Planxty tune ended the night as the strains of 'My Heart is Tonight in Ireland' flowed out into the Naul night sky.

It was another magical evening at the Piper's Garden which has the happy knack of creating events like these that live long in the memory of all who attends.

The good news for those that miss it, is there are plenty more events coming up in the Garden Party summer series at the Piper's Garden and there is something to suit every taste.

This weekend, cinema takes over the venue with two very different events in the afternoon and evening on Saturday.

In the afternoon, it's a family party with a special showing of Jungle Book. Bring the kids, bring your parents, bring friends and catch a classic Saturday matinee for only €3. There'll be Burgers, Popcorn, Candyfloss and other yummy treats available for adults and kids of all ages.

In the evening, music and cinema come together with a 40th anniversary screening of Grease followed by a 'hop' with a live Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly from the colourfully named, Riley and the Moonrockers.

On Sunday, it is all about the music again and a chance for another special night at the Piper's Garden when Rodney Crowell when legendary country song-writer, Rodney Crowell comes to the Naul stage.

It's 40 years since Rodney wrote his first hit and he is still making music and a new album called 'Close Ties' will make up part of his Naul set. His songs have been covered by the likes of Bob Seger and Keith Urban and this is one not to be missed.

Fingal Independent