Glancing at the lungs, wings & bones of Tradition Now

Ciana Meyers reviews the latest National Concert Hall and Arts Council showcase highlighting Irish traditional music

During 8 and 9 October, The National Concert Hall opened its various rooms for light, fresh air and memory. A ticket to Tradition Now offered audience members the liberty to listen, learn and relate to various members of Ireland’s traditional music scene. Musicians occupied different rooms, and following the end of a performance, people moved to another before the next began. This staging choice challenged artists to perform with brevity, offering new experimentations with their craft.

The artists on the main stage for Sunday, 8 October, included Cormac Begley on concertina, Liam O’Connor on fiddle, and dancer Stephanie Kane. The hall, home of Ireland’s National Symphony Orchestra, offers a wide, exploratory program for their 2023-2024 season. Event subjects range from daytime presentations on the moonbeam dreams of Tony Bennett to concerts for those with Dementia. The evening dedicated to Tradition Now united energies bounding beneath Ireland’s sky.

Cormac Begley introduced the audience to the various different concertinas around him, sharing the instrument’s history. The respective different registers lent his presentation of selected tunes nuance, at times reminding me of glass, although I found it unbreakable in its earthiness. 

When director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, Liam O’Connor, joined Begley for reels, the air and turbulence between the bow and body of his viola provided tunes with their wings. 

This power was awakened once more in the mindful, emotive dance of Stephanie Kane. She paid close attention to the framework of melodies, the various physical ways in which they’re reborn, through fingers pushing and placing to feet falling. 

The broad-mindedness of this collaboration was also evident in other contributors to Tradition Now’s program including fiddle player and academic Doireann Ní Ghlacáin. Ní Ghlacáin’s Instagram is notable for her video series ‘Bad Bitches Gaelacha’, sharing not only the stories of important women in Irish history but also tutelage on Irish language and folklore. She is a presenter on TG4, and chose to present her multimedia project Say a Song at Tradition Now. This work involved weaving in different mediums such as literature and technology to reimagine the Irish Sean nós or ‘old style’ singing tradition. 

“The pervading sense of togetherness despite individual impressions introduced us to Irish music as a relevant, curious and welcoming force.”

Other artists involved included Strange Boy, who is creatively committed to the merging of Irish traditional music and hip hop. The pervading sense of togetherness despite individual impressions introduced us to Irish music as a relevant, curious and welcoming force.

Ciana Meyers

Ciana Meyers is a Deputy Arts & Culture Editor and is currently in her second year of English Literature.