You may think you know Irish music, but think again. The Gloaming have re-defined the music of Ireland, moving it in thrilling new directions. Steeped in tradition yet thoroughly modern, these extraordinary musicians instinctively respect their ancient roots whilst being bravely contemporary.
There’s been an almost reverential buzz around The Gloaming since their very first concert in Dublin in 2011, to which even the Prime Minister of Ireland showed up. "I told some people I was thinking about starting a band," Martin Hayes remembers. "Then they told some other people who booked a concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. It was sold out before we'd even rehearsed a note together." A risky strategy perhaps, but the standing ovation proved they were on to something special. Ripples of excitement quickly grew to a surge of admiration on the back of a string of sold out live performances and a critically praised, award-winning debut album, and shows have built on this initial promise.
There's no questioning the calibre of the players, or the abundant virtuosity and sheer beauty The Gloaming bring to their interpretation of Irish music. But what's even more impressive is what these five collectively achieve: The deeply felt, wonderfully empathetic performances that are rooted in tradition but scoured of simple nostalgia. The traditional idioms of reels and jigs emerge here and there, but The Gloaming brings in harmonies, melodic ideas and textures that expand far beyond traditional Irish music.
Featuring an unusual lineup, The Gloaming is by any measure an all-star ensemble. “Vocals, two fiddles, a guitar and a piano – it doesn’t sound like a traditional band really,” says master fiddler Martin Hayes. “It doesn’t sound like it should sound.”
It includes three Irish artists: Singer Iarla Ó Lionáird is from the sean-nós style (‘in the old way’) of unaccompanied Irish singing, and is perhaps best known as the voice of the Afro Celt Sound System; Martin Hayes, from County Clare and three-times Irish fiddle champion, is one of the country's most revered traditional musicians; and the younger Dublin fiddler, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, who plays the Hardanger d’Amore – a curious 10-string fiddle from Norway which adds an eerie quality with drones and bow scrapes. The band is completed by two Americans. Hayes’ longtime musical partner, guitarist Dennis Cahill, is of Irish descent but steeped in the jazz and blues of his native Chicago. Perhaps the most surprising member is New York-based pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett, who never quite got over hearing fiddle master Martin Hayes when he was a mere ten years old. Bartlett has worked with Antony and the Johnsons, Glen Hansard, The National, and Sam Amidon and records his own work as Doveman. His distinctly untraditional approach shapes the music’s pace & emotion lacing texture and atmosphere throughout. "Maybe why this band is working well," he says, "is that I don't recognize the lines that the rest of this band sees. They're very happy to go outside of those boundaries, but the fact that I don't even know the tradition helps make them disappear."
The Gloaming’s self-titled 2014 debut album featured in The Guardian's "the one album you should hear this week"; was described as "a sumptuous debut" by Mojo Magazine; "brilliantly innovative" by Songlines Magazine; "contemporary music making at its very best" by The Irish Times; "thoroughly polished" by The Sunday Times. It'll come as no surprise that 'The Gloaming' featured on many Best Albums of 2014 lists.
The group has quickly become one of the world's most renowned live acts, performing to packed houses at the Barbican, Sydney Opera House, Mexico City's Teatro de al Ciudad, the Lincoln Center, and WOMAD festivals worldwide, as well as selling out multiple concerts at home from Dublin's National Concert Hall to the Cork Opera House.
“There’s a real feeling now that it’s here to stay, that there’s a shared desire to go further, explore more, dive deeper,” reveals Ó Raghallaigh. “The music has its arms wide open, willing to give something beautiful, something fundamentally powerful and true. It’s not afraid and it’s not smug and knowing. We’re on an adventure. We don’t know where we’re going, and beautiful things are born of that.”
“We’re just enjoying making music. We’re not trying to change the world here. We’re not trying to reject something or to say that it should be different. We play with no mission other than to experience the music with as much feeling as possible… the meaning, feeling and content of the melody take preference over note-perfect playing.” Martin Hayes
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