(If the title of this post confuses you–read to the end. All shall be revealed. And–this is a long one–be sure to click the link to continue reading.)
In the world of Irish traditional music, there aren’t the sort of performers that the rest of the world would consider “superstars”, the way you’d think of Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, or Neil Diamond as such. (or maybe YOU wouldn’t!) The world of ITM is much less assuming that that. The musicians who play the music are for the most part seemingly not in it for the money, or fame, but rather for the “craic agus comhluadar,” or “good times and good friends,” and foremost for the music itself.
So the world may not consider Edel Fox and Neill Byrne superstars, but they may have something that many so-called superstars do not have–a true and deep connection to music itself. They may for the most part be playing the compositions of others, but the depth of emotion and expression that they elicit from these often simple jigs and reels is on par with or surpassing so much of the original expression I have heard. To be able to squeeze the humanity and feeling from a simple tune is part of what Irish musicianship is all about, and Edel Fox and Neill Byrne do it so well that the result was easily visible on the faces of all who were in attendance at the house concert they put on in Fairfield, CT this past Friday, August 16th. Feet were tapping and ears were buzzing, and we all took something really amazing home with us as well.
The concert was held at a private residence owned by members of the Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society in Fairfield, Connecticut. (See the end of the post for links) They are an organization “…dedicated to fostering and preserving Irish Music and Culture through performances, concerts, support of artists recording and publishing projects and support of like minded organizations such as Comhaltas and The Catskill’s Irish Arts Week.” I would strongly encourage anyone reading this to visit their page and make a small donation–they’re really more of a “for-loss” organization than a “not-for-profit!” But what we all gain from their loss is great Irish music and culture–well worth a few bucks. I believe the $20 ticket price to the concert went all directly to Edel and Neill, and not to the “Shamrogues” at all!
Steph (my gal) and I drove ovre highway and through twisting “country suburban” roads for what seemed like forever to reach the house where the concert was held. The house was situated on a cul-de-sac, and four or five cars were parked nearby.
Upon reaching the door, we were asked for a password–that one was easy. “Edel Fox and Neill Byrne,” I replied.
We walked into a house full of cheerful and boisterous voices, a table full of snacks, and coolers full of drinks–It was alot like a family gathering, only we didn’t know any of them! But introductions were made and we felt pretty much at home. Edel and Neill were on the way back from dinner, but it wasn’t long before they were seated in front of us.
The concert itself was set in a large living room with high vaulted ceilings, deep green walls and cozy leather couches. Unfortunately my butt didn’t get to enjoy a couch, but that was by choice. Two armless wooden chairs set in front of a modern fireplace served as a stage. Edel and Neill are about the most personable people you’ll ever meet–their banter alone was worth the drive! As the geared up to play each set, they told us a lot about the origins and history of the tunes, so we all learned a great deal.
The music–I have no words to describe the music itself. Maybe this is weird, but I was just about tearing up for the first few sets. (I know, I’m a total geek!) To illustrate this–there was a fella there, named Mattie Connoly (you pipers may know him)–a great musician in his own right, who was sitting next to a friend of his. Once in awhile there’d be a part of the tune that really blew him away and his head would jerk around to look and see if his friend had heard what he himself just had. That kept me laughing! I managed to record the entire concert, talking bits and all, and I may make some of that available for listening at some point here.
Many sets and a short break later, they were done–too soon for everyone–an encore was called for, and they willingly obliged. It was so brilliant, I am so glad I went (and really happy Steph came with me!)
One highlight of this amazing evening–I was able to introduce myself to the both of them by saying “Hi Edel. I have to say that you do NOT in any way look bored when you play, and Neill–you are definitely not ‘whoever’!” And thank goodness, we all had a really great laugh!
(If you don’t get that reference, see this post and read its comments: https://lvirishslowsession.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/edel-fox-and-whoever-but-edel-fox/ )
(Be sure to check out the Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shamrock-Traditional-Irish-Music-Society/208629832489097 or their website at http://www.shamrockirishmusic.org/ )
All photos credit to The Shamrock Irish Traditional Music Society