How It’s New York: Frankie Gavin and De Dannan were here showcasing at APAP NYC. I found out about this gig when I saw Frankie at Ambassador Noel Kilkenny’s reception for the Irish delegation Sunday (pics of that to come!)
How It’s Irish: De Dannan are one of those Irish trad bands that non trad players HAVE heard of. I love that tenor Michael Londra puts them in his shows, so you get some of the PBS Irishness but also the serious trad Irishness, too (I’ll post my Michael Londra interview soon too).
I’ve been sick with a bad cough/cold– not too surprising perhaps after pushing it with two nights in a row during APAP that ended at 4 am, home at 5– and on Monday, straight into deadlines for Irish Examiner USA and for Baristanet. So the APAP reports and pics will be coming this weekend. But meanwhile, here’s my interview with Frankie Gavin of De Dannan and with Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht,.
Don’t miss De Dannan Saturday night at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown, NJ!
This article first appeared in Irish Examiner USA.
Tuesday January 10, 2012
Irish Artists Take New York By Storm
|Minister Jimmy Deenihan at Under the Radar speaking to the Irish Delegation|
De Dannan are one of those Irish trad bands that defined the genre for the modern age.
Like the Rolling Stones, band members came and went, but the leaders remained and the name of the band stayed the same.
Oh wait, that’s not like the Rolling Stones.
Frankie Gavin, fiddler extraordinaire, who leads “Frankie Gavin and De Dannan,” and will be performing in New Jersey on January 14 (details below; you don’t want to miss a chance to see him in action), explained to me the split that continues to confuse some people.
Frankie and the band were in town for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference at the Hilton.
Culture Ireland led a mission with 70 delegates to the conference, which brings together programmers from around the world, as well as press.
Some of the biggest names in Irish music were on hand to showcase their work at the Hilton and around town, including Lúnasa, Camille O’Sullivan and The Gloaming (with Martin Hayes, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Dennis Cahill, Caoimhin ó Raghallaigh), and Jean Butler.
After a sparkling late night showcase at the Hilton, and before a mighty session at the 11th Street Bar that went on until 4 a.m. (with players including Conal Ó Gráda, Lúnasa’s Kevin Crawford, the Klezmatics’ Lisa Gutkin, Tony De Marco, Matt Mancuso), I sat down with Frankie to ask what the deal really was.
Will the real De Dannan please stand up?
What we know: the band was fromed in 1974 by Frankie Gavin on fiddle, Alec Finn on guitar and bouzoukie, Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh on bodhrán and Charlie Piggott on banjo.
Singers that have performed with them over the years include Dolores Keane, Maura O’Connell, Mary Black, Tommy Fleming and Andrew Murray.
Some other amazing musicians who’ve played with them over the years include Jackie Daly and Martin O’Connor on accordion.
The current line up includes Frankie on fiddle/flute/whistles (did you know he played the flute? It’s not fair that someone can be so good on both of these!), Damien Mullane on accordion, Eric Cunningham on percussion/flutes/whistles, Mike Galvin on bouzouki/guitar and Michelle Lally on vocals.
So – would he explain it?
“I started the band in 1974, and I’ve been in it ever since,” Frankie told me.
“We’ve had a record number of musicians coming through the band and pursue their own careers. The band came to a halt about five years ago when Alec Finn, a colleague of mine in the band for 30 odd years or more, decided to close down the band and put an aricle in the newspaper saying that the band would never perform again.
“Not alone that, but he went and registered the band to himself without telling me.
“I’ve worked and managed the band for 30 odd years, and suddenly I was out of work!
It’s okay for him, he lives in a big posh castle on the banks of Galway bay…”
He laughed and said this was a real exclusive.
Meetings failed, and so Frankie launched and registered “Frankie Gavin and De Dannan.” Alec and some others have also performed with a rival De Dannan, but Frankie doesn’t seem too worried.
Of the current lineup, some of the band have worked with him before in Hibernian Rhapsody (one of the best albums ever).
Singer Michelle Lally is Frankie’s wife. The current line up has been together for two years.
They do some older songs that sound completely fresh today.
If you’ve heard “My Irish Molly-O” sung by Maura O’Connell, you’ll be surprised at how it sounds with Michelle Lally.
“Like everything else, music moves on,” Frankie said. “The style and development takes place all the time.”And it is fascinating to hear how this William Jerome and Jean Schwarz song from the turn of the century sounds both period and fresh, with new fiddle chops.
“The Queen of Sheba” is classic De Dannan tune that sounds new again.
Mike Galvin on the guitar arranged the “Here Comes the Sun” trad version that the band does in Michael Londra’s concert; when I watched the DVD at home I let out a “whoo” before I remembered I was by myself), and then Frankie did the hornpipe version.
“It’s not unlike what we did years ago with ‘Hey Jude,'” he said, their arrangement of the Beatles tune that was a surprise hit in 1980.
The Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, who accompanied the APAP mission, sat next to me at the 11:30 showcase, whooping with the rest of us.
“There is a special relationship between America and Ireland,” said the minister, who just launched a book, My Sporting Life, about his days as a Kerry footballer (look for our review to come!),
“I’ve been coming to America for 40 years. It’s great being Irish in America. They respect our traditions, and culture, and retained our distinctiveness. It’s very important to be here. At the end of the day, you have to deliver. Our artists are delivering. Frankie has commanded attention and respect; he’s extraordinary, and connecting with a broader audience than he normally would.
“There were people queuing outside to see Martin Hayes and the Gloaming; the reception made its own statement. In Ireland we have a great translation. Now we must transmit it.”