Music review: Cathal McConnell and Friends
Music review: Cathal McConnell and Friends

Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Cathal McConnell and Friends, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jim Gilchrist ★★★★ THERE are no mics, just the fine acoustic space of St Marks and four seasoned traditional musicians spinning out tunes and the odd song as if in an amiable hostelry session. At the same time, though, they give every …

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Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Cathal McConnell and Friends, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jim Gilchrist

★★★★

THERE are no mics, just the fine acoustic space of St Marks and four seasoned traditional musicians spinning out tunes and the odd song as if in an amiable hostelry session. At the same time, though, they give every tune its due and its provenance.

Most, if not all, of the repertoire comes from the walking, singing flute-playing human archive that is Cathal McConnell, a founder-member of the renowned Boys of the Lough and now, at over 70, featuring in his first Fringe show under his own name. Much of the music played has been absorbed by him from other musicians of his native Fermanagh over five decades, but emerges, fresh and full of life and with few rough edges, at the fingertips of Cathal and his collaborators, fellow-flautist Sharon Creasey, fiddler Duncan Wood and cellist Christine Hanson.

McConnell’s introductions can be anarchically meandering, but they nevertheless acknowledge a largely departed throng of source musicians and singers. Thus we get the instrumental showpiece of The Hound and the Hare which he learned from Mickey Doherty of Donegal back in the 1960s, complete with hallooing huntsmen and baying hounds, sounded by flute and fiddle, and its haunting lament, before the hare meets its awful, atonal nemesis.

There was the plaintive simplicity of Liffeyside, sung by McConnell, who learned it from his late sister a long time ago, while Hanson’s cello filled the church with the yearning cadences of a song she had heard him sing relatively recently. Hanson also brought some nice Scots-baroque touches to a rare old fiddle jig, led by Wood, who had unearthed it from an obscure manuscript, while McConnell brought things to a characteristically uproarious close with the ridiculous tongue-twisting punning of Mr Dunn.

ARTSPACE@ST MARKS (VENUE 125), run ended

Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015

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