[ATTENDED: December 18, 2015] Danú
Two years ago we saw Danú play at RVCC. They came back again this year. We weren’t sure if we were going to go. There were other possible plans in the works and should we bring the kids? Well, Sarah and I had enjoyed it so much last time that we wanted to go again, and we decided to bring the kids.
It was the last night of their North American tour and while they were selling the same CD we bought last year (and most of that show was similar to the CD), they mixed it up a bit and played a bunch of different material. And both kids enjoyed it.
Like last time, the six members were the same:
- Benny McCarthy–button accordion
- Dónal Clancy–guitar and storyteller (he’s the son of Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers and was in the band Solas).
- Oisín McAuley–fiddle
- Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh–vocals, flute and whistle.
- Éamon Doorley–bouzouki
- Martin O’Neill–bodhran and piano
The entire band was once spectacular. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh’s voice is beautiful–a soaring, angelic sound, especially on gorgeous songs like “Silent Night” (in Irish and English). Last time she got us to sing along to “The Boys of Barr na Sráide,” although this time she did not. And some gorgeous ballads. She did explain about St. Stephen’s Day and the hunting of the wrens (which that song is about), and that she and her clan of friends would go around singing songs to people on St. Stephens’s Day where drinks were provided as you went along. Sounds like quite a celebration (since it started first thing in the morning). I found this year’s version a little bit better than last time’s (It was a little faster I think). However, she did encourage us to sing along to The “Sans Day Carol” (a Cornish Christmas carol written in the 19th century) which was a lot of fun. And once again it was a lot of fun watching her fingers move along the flute and penny whistle (I think Tabitha was mesmerized by her).
I really enjoyed the way they played some slow songs to make us warm and cozy but knew they had to bring us back up with some reels and jigs and polkas.
Benny McCarthy plays an amazing button accordion and acts as the ground of the band. He does many of the introductions and is very funny. Oisín McAuley doesn’t say much, but wow, can he play a fast and impressive fiddle. He said that he wrote a few of the instrumentals that they played this year. They have a new album out (Buan) which they were surprisingly not selling at the show. One of the sets was called “The New House, Brown-Eyed Bridget & The Humours of Holliston.” He said that “Bridget” is for his daughter and “Holliston” is the town in which he now lives.
Dónal Clancy played guitar and sang backing vocals. But he also did the highly enjoyable and very funny “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” (written in 1883!). He had us sing along to the fats and funny chorus:
There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
That could kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.
He also recited the beautiful “A Christmas Childhood” which is a poem by Patrick Kavanagh. He began “reading” it (he clearly had it memorized despite having a book) and the band slowly added music. It was lovely, just like last time.
Éamon Doorley played the bouzouki. I loved the funky shape of the instrument. He did a lot of introductions and taught us how to whoops during the fast songs (and how they whoop differently in different parts of Ireland). I enjoyed whooping when appropriate and only wished the audience was more into it.
And that leaves the piano and bodhran player, Martin O’Neill. He played the piano a few times, but primarily provided rhythm, encouraging us all to clap along. It was always cool when he played along because of the deep booming sound of the drum once he started. The last time, he did a bodhran solo and I was bummed this time because it seemed like they were going to end without one. But as the band left after their last song, he stayed on the stage. He looked around, wondering where everyone else had gone, shrugged his shoulder and began a three or four-minute solo. He played with the tipper, all along the side and skin. He played what sounded like a jazz bass line. It was amazing how many different sounds he got out of that thing. It was great.
I can’t tell most of the instrumentals apart, but they were all fun, with amazing fiddle and flute work.
The set was simple–A Christmas tree and presents (I don’t recall if they used that set last time). And some mood lightning behind them. But that’s all they needed because it was definitely all about the music. Except for the dancers.
On some of the fast songs, two local step dancers came out and did some dancing. Tabitha was mesmerized by them, especially the woman, who looked beautiful. We watched as their feet did remarkable things, presumably things that require a greater range of movement than human knees provide. And just when it looked like he was making up what he was doing with his feet, she joined in and matched him step for step. Amazing.
And this year, after the show, the band stayed around for autographs. Tabitha was especially excited to get some autographs. And while I could have talked to the men all night about their playing, she had to tell Muireann that she loved her shirt, to which Muireann replied “it’s all about the sequins, right?). They were super nice (even though we didn’t buy the CD this time since we had it already).
It really got us into the Christmas spirit.
For ease of searching, I include: Danu.