Colm Mac Con Iomaire at the Pavilion Theatre – Review
The May bank holiday weekend always holds hard onto our hearts. The gateway into the summer, gleaming before our open eyes, the adventure settling on the horizon. Urban festivals firing, the frolics in rural fields starting to take shape, softly coming into focus; music moving outdoors to face the harsh reality of Ireland’s climate. But before all that, away from the wind and rain and sun and cloud, with aplomb sat serenely, indoors, indeed where music sounds best, in the warm and welcoming, comfortable and cosy environs of the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, the gatekeeper to the weekend’s revelry, plays Agus Anois an Aimsir/And Now the Weather, in its entirety to a full house.
Looped and layered violin opens the evening as ‘The Finnish Line’ bursts into being, piano, and percussion joining in. Mac Con Iomaire jokes, ‘For tonight’s show, I decided to scale the band back a little bit’, the audience appreciating the irony, with eleven musicians onstage, their collective sound is glorious and mesmeric, the uplifting, awe-inspiring aural offering is truly magnificent in its beauty, as violins and cello join together to sing at the climax.
‘Set Sail’ bounces off as all adventures begin, a little gingerly, brushes softly slipping on snare drum, two acoustics plucking, banjo beaming, but soon it settles and becomes a song to sing when setting off, an optimistic, upbeat air. The heavy heart from leaving home behind dissipates with every roll into the waves, as backing vocals beautifully settle the uncertainty of the step into the unknown.
Mac Con Iomaire interacts with the audience throughout, casual in his delivery and softly spoken, he playfully sets out his father’s love of Sean nós and describes its influence on his interpretation of Liam O’Reilly’s ‘The White Boat’, which appears on his latest offering. Tears welled and deep breaths taken as subtle layers of violin looped, form the bass from which wistful and lonely, isolated lead violin laments the loss of a lover, as piano delicately drops in and out. A strong sense of storytelling underlies the music, a sense of history and even though the songs played are all instrumental, a narrative voice is always present, ever emotive.
Decidedly personal remarks introduce ‘In the Arms of the Angels’, dedicated to his deceased sister, the track name taken from words shared at their final meeting. Opening with finger picked guitar and ethereal vocals, moving violin calls as lonely trumpet sings at the finish. Speaking as Gailege and in English, Mac Con Iomaire shares a sense of his traditions, reflecting on personal stories and speaking of his family, one gets a sense of the idea that the music is bigger than the musician, that nothing is owned when everything is shared, that we lean on those who came before and carry them carefully with us. We are better off for having done it, one thinks.
Tracks from The Hare’s Corner, his solo debut, get an outing at the encore and after repeated standing ovations, ‘The Finnish Line’ finds the night’s end.
Cinematic in scope, fluid and emotive in texture, this collection of fine instrumental tracks carefully constructs its many disparate voices to shape an immense whole, a contemporary traditional masterpiece. A beautiful beginning to the long weekend, the summer season beckoning.
Review by Andy Guyett