An Evening With Lunasa: Great Craic Had By All
By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
Sunday evening found me at the Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland, Rhode Island eagerly anticipating a concert by my favorite traditional Irish band, Lunasa. I had become interested in traditional Irish music when I first traveled to Ireland in 1995. During a few of our evenings there, my cousins took my mum and me to pubs where we could hear good, traditional music, not just the kind played in pubs for the tourists. They were off the beaten path, especially the one in Dublin, and it was an eye-opener. I could have sat until dawn listening to that music as the musicians, sometimes numbering up to twelve, played songs and pieced together tunes as they went along. For some reason, the traditional music called to my soul, and when I returned to the States, I yearned to hear once again the exciting music I had listened to in the pubs in Ireland.
In 2000, while living in Philadelphia for school, I heard that an innovative group called Lunasa was to perform at a small venue. Thankfully, I decided to attend their concert. It was a phenomenal performance and I have been a fan ever since. I have gone to nearly a dozen of their shows since that time, from Philly to Boston, (I even saw a show in Seattle when I was there for a conference!) and I have never been disappointed.
In the spring of 2010, their album, La Nua had just been released and they were playing in Boston. I decided to attend the concert and obtained one of the last tickets at the Somerville Theater. While at that concert, I watched as they performed “The Fruitmarket Reels,” and had an epiphany. I saw five men on stage performing joyfully, doing what they loved. I thought to myself, “I want that.” I wanted to discover what I needed to do to make my soul sing. It was at that point that I recognized my need to examine my life and discover my own creativity. Not long after that concert, I began to write and have found tremendous joy in writing.
Now, when I write, I have an “Irish Mix” that I play. In reality, it is a mix of all of my favorite Lunasa songs. I find that if I don’t have the music on, my muse can be more recalcitrant. By the third or fourth song of the mix, I have settled into writing, and often I have written for an hour before I realize how much time has passed.
As for the concert on Sunday night, it was wonderful. Although I love their albums, there is nothing like a live performance. They played a good mix of music from their albums, though the majority was from their latest albums. They have a new guitarist, Ed Boyd, and I enjoyed watching him play and interact with the other band members. He has a good sense of humor and told funny stories when Kevin Crawford attempted to go mute for a while. Kevin, who masterfully plays the flutes and whistles, again told wonderful stories that made us laugh.
I must admit, one of the reasons I love Lunasa so much is that I love the uillean pipes. More often than not, when I am at their the concerts, I spend a lot of time watching Cillian Vallely play. It’s fascinating to me how he coaxes sounds out of the pipes. They sounded particularly rich and melodious on Sunday night. Sean Smythe makes playing the fiddle seem deceptively easy. His skill and mastery never fails to amaze me and I loved hearing him perform “Punch” again. My aunt and I were both awed by Trevor Hutchinson’s bass playing and his performance on “Dr. Gilbert’s.” It was another phenomenal performance by my favorite Irish band, and hopefully nowhere near my last.
For all my friends and family in Montana: head to Helena, Hamilton or Butte toward the end of March to see Lunasa perform. I can’t imagine a better place to watch Lunasa than the Mother Lode Theatre in Butte. I wish I could be home to go to that show! If you have even an inkling of interest in Irish music, go. You will not regret it.