Allt appeared live at Kings Place on April 1 2022
I’ve long been a fan of the inimitable julie Fowlis. The impressive Scottish songstress, multi-instrumentalist and storyteller has a kind of presence that makes you feel at home, whilst casting everyone spellbound with her immense musical gift of a voice. It was only that more enjoyable to witness a reunion of friends Zoë Conway, Éamon Doorley & John McIntyre at Kings PLace and recognise that same musical kindred spirit. All incredible artists, all incredibly funny, all literally making me feel like I was at a wee pub in Doolin ( if memory serves there’s only one) , right up there with them on the stage.
For a full two hours, the four storytellers hailing from Ireland and Scotland shared their original compositions , all tributes to their homeland and traditions, whilst delighting in lesser known fiddle trad tunes. I was especially moved by the authentic way in which each band member introduced the material in both English and Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It showed a deep respect for their more loyal audience members and fans, whilst drawing a connecting Bridge to listeners who may not have previously heard them before. Julie led the vocals and Irish Flute with ‘ Port Dannsaidh Hiortach ‘ , accompanied by Doorley on Irish Bouzouki, Conway on Fiddle and voice and McIntyre on acoustic guitar and voice. With songs that spoke of the way of the Irish Traveller , the Scottish fields, songs of lament , the Irish language, each musician carefully and lovingly wove their way in and out of soundscapes of their compositions. THere was nothing to be heard but music from the heart, speaking of all things dear to their homelands. One didn’t necessarily comprehend the Gaelic, and personally speaking it didn’t matter. When McIntyre led ‘ An Ghaelige ‘ which was a calm and inviting performance into the quartet’s authentic musical heritage. La Rouil was a sweet showcase of Conway’s ethereal and lyrical soprano, accompanied by heavenly harmonies from the rest. Faoiseamh was a beautiful dedication to the people of Ukraine, and a wonderful initiative from the quartet to make their music reach across the continents to share the universal need of human kindness. The second set proved to be an even more impressive showcase of the band’s versatile talents, with more complex rhythms and countermelodies. The showstopper for me was the band’s vocal harmony which left me spellbound with a performance of ‘ An Tearrach Thiar’ ( The Western Spring) , based on an Irish Poem by Máirtín Ó Direáin. There was something ernst and moving in the delivery of that piece, and i wonder if the quartet would ever consider recording another album together with just their voices with very few, subtle instrumentation. Their specially commissioned piece for Ireland titled ‘ Caim Chauim Chille Chaoimh’ was a particularly stunning performance from Fowlis, with her ability to meander between a fast paced 6/8 feel ( not easy when you’re a singer) to a more lyrical feel.
The four musicians delivered a heartwarming evening of music that left myself , and the audience feeling content and dare I say, carrying a little of the Irish and Scottish spirit in our hearts. This was by far my favourite performance from the Voices Unwrapped Series from Kings Place.