*Photo supplied
*Photo supplied

An audience was captivated by the soft airs and energetic jigs and reels of Western Ireland in an enchanting set by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill at City Hall last night.

With no introduction they sat opposite each other on the stage and let a pensive, searching melody do the introductions.

The opening tune began with a fiddle solo as soft as the Irish weather — misty, mossy and magical — that was later punched by the twin strings of Cahill’s rhythmic guitar.

There was sorrow in the tune yet at the same time it was filled with a gentle joy — so reflective of the Irish 
demeanour.

For me, traditional Irish folk music is almost the exception to the rule when it comes to medleys — with one song finishing and another instantly following the songs marry and take you on a journey.

The second tune stepped up the pace a little with a more lively, familiar fiddle line evoking images of a Céilidh (kay-le) especially as the musicians’ feet began to stomp.

The opening section then progressed into a sprightly, driving little number and we started to get a taste for Hayes’ wilder side.

After that magnificent musical introduction we got to hear from Hayes himself — a lean, gentle soul with the lovable Irish wit. He has clearly, at some point in history, become intimate with the Blarney Stone.

He invited the audience to go into their imaginations and, if it was possible for a Bermudian, he joked, to picture the wet and damp pastures of Ireland — a land steeped with “history and ghosts and spirits” — and allow the music to be an 
outpouring of that.

All of the tunes were native to Hayes’ County Clare, many were more obscure from the 18th  and 19th century — there was no Irish Rover, Black Velvet Band or Danny Boy here. We were even treated to one by his father and teacher P. Joe Hayes — the legendary leader of the Tulla Ceili Band. The chance to hear genuine Irish folk music in Bermuda is rare — that’s what is often so enjoyable about the selections by the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.

The set wasn’t without the odd hiccup and Hayes admitted as such but added nonchalantly that it was “really of very little consequence”.

He finished the first set with a feverishly energetic tune that left everyone in the auditorium wanting more. The concert went from toe tapping to leg stomping and the sound of their feet hitting the stage became part of the music.

“You have to go a bit manic, “ he said. And while many people might have a problem with that, he said in his soft, southern Irish accent, simply: “I t’ink it’s okay’.

People were enlivened as they made their way out for the interval —“outstanding”, “phenomenal” and “wow” were some of the comments I heard.

They returned in the second set with a beautiful slow air followed by Carolan’s Farewell to Music from the late 18th C to early 19th C, so named as it was harpist Turlough Carolan’s last ever piece. The song brought a somber air to the night with Hayes’ lingering and often piercing bow strokes mixed with minimal yet effective accompaniment from Cahill’s guitar.

After a cheerier Hunting The Hare we were given some improvisation. You could hear a change in the music as it became quite giddy and unpredictable.

At the end of the set Hayes and Cahill were given an overwhelming applause and standing ovation and so they graciously returned for an encore.

They decided to go with an improvised tune that opened with almost flamenco style guitar beats and a jazzy feel 
interspersed with folk.

It would have been nice to end on a traditional note and have had this little diversion somewhere else in the set but, after a night of outstanding, soul-stirring music, it was really of very little consequence.

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