The Irish Band GOITSE to appear in Harrisburg March 9th. An interview with band member Tadhg Ó Meachair

GOITSE-PHOTOOn Sunday, March 9 at 4 PM the Susquehanna Folk Music Society will recreate the excitement and fun of a traditional Irish pub when they present the Irish band Goitse and dancers from the Coyle School of Irish Dance. The event will also featuring an opening act by the popular area Celtic band Irish Blessing and an Irish session held after the concert to which musicians are encouraged to bring instruments.

The event will be held at the Abbey Bar, Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.BrownPaperTickets.com.

I had a chance to speak to Tadhg Ó Meachair, one of the founding members of the band, about the group’s members, repertoire, and Limerick University’s Irish Music and Dance program where they met.

____________________________________________

FOLKMAMA: How long has the group been together?

TADHG: We’ve played   three or four years full time at this stage but we started 7 years ago. Colm and I put the idea of the band together originally and started putting some music together, and Conal joined and a year later James came to the University and we asked him to join the band. So it gradually happened.

FOLKMAMA: Were you still at school when the band started performing?

TADHG: Yes, we performed here and there over the course of the four years. It was in our final year that we first started going on tours. It was at our third year at University that we recorded our first CD. As soon as we finished we went full time into touring and traveling.

FOLKMAMA: Can you tell me about the members of your band? Several of them have Gaelic names. I’m curious how you pronounce them.

TADHG: So there’s Colm (CULL-um) Phelan on the drum, the bodhran. And then there’s Áine (AWE yeh) McGeeney who plays fiddle and is the vocalist for the band. And then we’ve got James Harvey on banjo and mandolin. Conal O’Kane is the guitar player. And my name is Tadhg (TYG) Ó Meachair and I play keyboard and accordion.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that they band writes most of the songs that they play.

TADHG: So basically in Irish music we have a large canon of music from which to draw from, and then there’s the strong tradition of composing as well. So what we tend to do is to kind of make our own compositions out of older tunes that sometimes have been in existence for hundreds of years. We take these melodies that are old and arrange them in a new way using variations and various ornamentations.

FOLKMAMA: How often does the band tour in the states?

TADHG: In the past years we’ve been in the states either twice or three times. At the moment we’re out for three weeks. We tend to be over for St Patrick’s Day and in the summer it’s largely Irish festivals.

FOLKMAMA: So you all met at Limerick University when you were all students at in the Irish Music and Dance program. It says on the school’s website that it’s the first program of its kind in Ireland, and it’s particularly unique because it encourages a lot of performance.

I’m curious what your experiences were like there and what encouraged you all to go there.

TADHG: Well I guess there is this huge imbalance when it comes to music education where a lot of the programs focus on classical music training, but it was a unique program because it gave a unique perspective. Obviously we started with western theory and things like that, but the focus was on Irish music. Just putting folk and traditional music on par with other kinds of music is right and proper I suppose.

But I guess what encouraged us to go there is just the environment that is there. It’s an environment that fosters a lot of creativity and it gives you the opportunity to meet like minded people. I suppose all of us went there to expand our understanding of Irish music and expanding our musicianship. We kind of clicked with each other musically and we went from there.

FOLKMAMA: Have there been a lot of groups that have come out of the Irish Music and Dance program?

TADHG: Yeah. I guess the cool band when we were growing up was a band called Beoga. They graduated just ahead of us. All sorts of different acts have been associated with the academy at different points.

FOLKMAMA: Your band members have won some pretty prestigious awards and actually it seems like in Ireland that there is a very robust system for recognizing talented traditional instrumentalists. We hear about the All-Ireland fiddlers, banjo players, and flute player—for example. How does the system work and how has it helped to keep traditional Irish music alive?

TADHG: So what you are talking about is the Fleadh (festival/competition of Irish music). And basically it starts out at the county level.  The first and second place winners from the county Fleadh go on to the provincial Fleadh, and then the first and second winners from the provincial Fleadh go on to the All- Ireland Fleadh.

Musicians compete in four different age groups; under 12, under 15, under 18 and senior. There are competitions on all different instruments like fiddle, accordion, whistle, pipes, and harp. It’s a great process, from a teaching point of view especially for young children. It provides a great focus for them to really think about and improve the tunes that they are playing. And wrapped around the competition you have this really festive atmosphere. The All-Ireland competition is probably one of the largest Irish Festivals in the world and a great place for musicians to meet and play with one another.

FOLKMAMA: Can musicians from the United States compete also?

TADHG: Yeah, it’s called the All-Ireland Fleadh but you have four provincial Fleadhs in Ireland, an  All-Brittan Fleadh and two provincial Fleadhs in the US. The winners from all of those Fleadhs come in and partake in the All Ireland.

FOLKMAMA: One of the claims that Limerick University makes is that the Irish Music and Dance program helps to make its students more marketable. How easy or difficult have you found it to make a living as a professional Irish musician?

TADHG: It’s really enjoyable work. It’s a lot of travel, obviously, but you really get to see the world from a different perspective. We just spent seven weeks in China, for instance. It’s definitely an enjoyable experience. We get along well on the road. A lot of us teach when we are at home, have private students or teach at the university.

FOLKMAMA: Can you describe to us what people are going to hear when they come to the concert?

TADHG: It’s Irish music with our own fun and energetic twist. It should be a good mix of some high edgy stuff and some beautiful songs .

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: