Chorus and Verse
Larry Kirwan
Chorus and Verse Blog
Posted: June 13, 2012 10:29 am (-05:00)
Larry Kirwan
Musician/Novelist/Activist - Leader of Black 47
Martin Hayes & Iarla Ó'Lionáird

Ah, musicians, they come in all shapes and sizes, and bearing all manner of ambitions. Roughly speaking, they can be divided into two classes – those in it for the celebrity, and those who got snared by the magic of music and have never figured a way out.

You have to wonder why the celebrity hounds get into it in the first place – they have less chance of success than Steve Duggan nailing eight winners on a rainy day in Belmont.

Come to think of it I don't know why I got into the music game myself – I'd have made a better parish priest! However, there are consolations - one of them hosting Celtic Crush on SiriusXM - for it allows me to interview other musicians and get to the heart of their relationship with their craft.

I steer well clear of celebrity seekers who have basically little to offer except their Facebook and Twitter numbers. On the other hand, I had wanted to interview Iarla Ó'Lionáird and Martin Hayes for a long time.

Iarla was the singer with Afro-Celt Sound System, a groundbreaking group that melded Irish and African music with some formidable dance beats.

How would you describe Martin Hayes' work? A multi-tasking friend once stood spell-struck and described it as the closest thing she ever heard to fairy music. There is, indeed, a very spiritual side to Martin's playing but there's an even deeper connection to the magical countryside of East Clare.

Both artists dropped by the SiriusXM studios when in New York recently to play the Masters of Tradition show at Symphony Space. Those studios have seen and heard it all but I don't think they experienced time standing still before.

Though Iarla and Martin have graced major stages around the world there's an unhurried quality to their presence; still, there's nothing casual about their music. It's deeply felt, well thought out and oozes a quiet, but unruly, passion.

It's the sense of connection to the origins of their music that makes them so singular. Iarla was born and reared in Cúl Aodha in West Cork where Sean O'Riada retreated to immerse himself in Gaelic culture.

As a boy he joined O'Riada's local choir and witnessed first hand the creative strivings of our greatest musical innovator. As he talked about this experience it was as if Cork's misty mountains closed in around us, and when he sang as Gaeilge a very old song handed down by a relative, all the questions I had planned about his years with Afro-Celt evaporated.

Likewise Martin draws from the deep well of music particular to East Clare. He is profoundly aware that he is channeling more than mere notes but rather a tradition created by people who saw and heard things differently than we do today.

He cut his teeth playing in the Tulla Céilí Band, co-founded by his father, P.J. Hayes, and we spun P. Joe's Reel, a track by this venerated dance band; then he played the same piece in his own inimitable, graceful style.

I've always loved to watch him play for he seems to lose himself, not just in the music, but in the place and time from where it originated – much like the old bluesmen. When he opens his eyes at the end of a piece both you and he have traveled a long way in a very short time.

The commitment of Hayes and Ó'Lionáird to their music is stirring. It has little to do with money, fame or celebrity. They've been lucky enough to receive a gift and they're conscious of their duty to share it.

If this modern world is beating you down take a listen to Foxlight by Iarla Ó'Lionáird and Welcome Here Again by Martin Hayes and his gifted musical partner, Dennis Cahill. Both albums will prove a tonic for the soul and will transport you to a misty West Cork mountainside and the magical country of East County Clare.

That's what great music does for you – it blocks out the babble of an intrusive world and leaves you at peace with yourself.

Larry Kirwan

Larry Kirwan is the leader, singer/guitarist and composer for the Irish-American rock band Black 47. Black 47 has released thirteen CDs for both major and independent labels. The band has appeared on Leno, Letterman and O'Brien and been profiled in most major magazines and newspapers in the US. Their album, Trouble in the Land, was recently voted the "top album of the decade" by readers of Bankers and Gangsters, Black 47's latest CD, was released in March 2010 by UFO Music.

Kirwan has also recorded Kilroy Was Here and Keltic Kids as solo efforts.

He has written twelve plays and musicals, five of which are collected in the book Mad Angels. Liverpool Fantasy, his best-known play, has been produced Off-Broadway and at the Dublin Theatre Festival. He has also written a novel version of Liverpool Fantasy (translated into Japanese, Spanish and Greek), a memoir - Green Suede Shoes - and Livin' in America, a collection of songs and stories. Rockin' The Bronx, his latest novel, was recently published in the US and UK/Ireland.

Kirwan hosts and produces Celtic Crush for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and writes a weekly column for the Irish Echo.

A political activist, he has long been involved in Irish and American causes.

He is currently working on a new novel about the aftermath of 9/11 and a musical with Thomas Keneally of Schindler's List fame.

Connect with Larry Kirwan on:
Black 47 Official Website Black 47 Official Website
Black 47 on Facebook Black 47 on Facebook
Black 47 on Twitter Black 47 on Twitter
©2012, Chorus and Verse
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