Wildflowers Fia Rua Peneleapai Orlaith Ni Mheachair
Friday 9 November 2012 An Taibhdhearc
The Spirit of Voice festival began this evening, bringing in a range of singers from all across the land, covering different musical styles that blended together seamlessly, styles that included folk, traditional and Sean nos, with touches of grunge and contemporary music mixed in with lyrics that were both traditional and modern.
What created the atmosphere was the venue itself, with ‘An Taibhdhearc Theatre,’ situated in the heart of Galway city, playing host to this evening’s entertainment. A historic theatre famed for portraying various forms of art and entertainment over the years, it was an ideal backdrop for the singers who participated and for the audience who came to witness this evenings events. It’s acoustics were ideal for the singers and performers to portray their talent to the highest level, and the lighting and simple acoustic stage settings could easily adapt to the changing musical styles and themes, breathing in every note and melody that was performed, and resonating them around the old famous walls, enticing feelings and emotions, drawing in the audience, and vibrating an artistic quality that so many venues fail to do. This was all largely down to the organizers and crew who worked tirelessly this year to bring this festival to life, and after this evenings entertainment, the remaining weekends entertainment will only benefit from their skill and hard work, combine this with the performers amazing array and depth of talent and this years Spirit of Voice festival will be a weekend to remember.
First on stage was Orlaith Ni Mheachair from Connemara in Co. Galway, a Sean nos singer with the amazing ability to mesmerize an audience with her voice. She sang a mixture of English and Irish Sean nos songs, stories sang with a technique that a lot of performers would find extremely hard to do. Singing so melodically that every note she hit in the spiral that is a sean nos musical scale was perfect. Before she began her act she apologized to the audience for not being at her best, a spell of laryngitis caused her to change her set and alter her voice slightly, if this is the case I wonder how she sounds at full voice, because even when feeling poorly she sang beautifully, her set including songs such as ‘Bright Blue Rose’ and ‘Willie the Sailor Boy.’ There she sat on stage, her head bowed, her hands on her lap, and when she sang it evoked memories of a forgotten Ireland, hypnotising you with lamenting melodies and causing you to visually portray in your minds eye, scenarios of the lyrics that she sang so gracefully. Even with Laryngitis she didn’t need a microphone, even though it was there for her to utilize, she sang with a power and grace and beauty that captivatited everybody in the building, to the point that you could hear a pin drop.
Next on stage was Peneleapai, a singer songwriter who hails from New York City with a refreshing urban sound of upbeat grunge, mixing in gothic Americana and even Irish songs into her set. Accompanied by her group, who also bear the name ‘Peneleapai’, what was portrayed to the audience was a strong rhythmic percussion section of congos and a cajon, with upbeat funky acoustic guitar rhythms. The groups sound is reminiscent to that of ‘Blind Melon’ and other nineties upbeat grunge rock groups, and her lyrics were colourful and striking, a mixture of emotions and messages, stories that included metaphors using the environment or just about the world itself. Her lyrical techniques follow an acclaimed list of singer songwriters who include Jack Johnson and Colin Hay of ‘Men at Work’ fame, singers who use their natural environment to convey their stories. Her set was extremely colourful.
Third on stage was Fia Rua, otherwise known as Eoghan Burke, a folk singer songwriter who weaves atmospheric self written ballads with upbeat rhythms and mantric choruses. Performing tracks from his E.P. Drops, which was recorded especially for the festival, along with tracks from his already released albums, his music and songs are full of macabre and brutal honesty, with catchy melodies that cause you to constantly hum them out loud once heard. His emotional qualities portray extreme depth with a social running commentary of the mindset of the Irish, a tongue in cheek dark portrayal of mortality and pathos. There is black humour in his work, a mundane yet entertaining feel to his powerful lyrics and voice that caused the audience to get swept along like the ebb of a flowing tide whilst he performed. Many shivers went up many spines, his stories and messages were clear and concise, and captured the mood of urban Ireland with hidden themes in his stories, themes that seem to point or hint at the dark ebb of loneliness, depression and alcoholism that is so rife in Irish modern society. His chanting choruses strike these themes home hard; focusing on the psychological power of the human mind and how fragile humans are to the sheer power and brutality of the environment around them. How mountains are deemed immortal to that of a human, how darkness is inevitable to every human, how society functions as a whole, it was quite a breathtaking performance.
After a short interval, the main act of the evening took to the stage. ‘Wild Flowers’ are an awesome folk group, a trio of talented folk singers who formed to become, in some ways, an Irish folk super group. Comprising of Noriana Kennedy, Noelie McDonnell and Nicola Joyce, their immaculate and tight instrumental playing, tuneful melodies and crystal clear harmonies came into full force from the very beginning. They engaged their audience with humour and stories between songs, and sang with such immense talent and togetherness not seen since the days of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Their work had elements of sheer quality that CSYN would even admire, and even though their prime music consists of folk, there is also a mixture of soul, country, soft rock and even jazz thrown into the mix. The girl’s voices soared through the audience, and gripped your right into your very soul. They sang like heavenly angels, feeling every lyric and adding such breathtaking emotion that it extremely difficult not to evoke your own personal memories upon hearing each song. Their lyrics were so well structured and strung together it would cause any fellow songwriter to fume with envy just upon hearing them, and they weren’t afraid to delve into classic folk songs and sing them so uniquely that they made them their very own. They were the ultimate package on stage; they captivated the audience with every breath, they were so astounding one would find it hard to find any criticism at all in their performance. They are the future tour de force in the folk scene, not just here in Ireland but throughout the world.