News and Reviews


Gerry O’Connor, Gilles le Bigot, Nuala Kennedy and Martin Quinn: Oirialla

The rich musical tradition of Oriel (north Louth, south Armagh and east Monaghan) may not have garnered the attention of other regional styles, but on Oirialla it shines with a finesse that befits its long bardic heritage. The album features a newly minted foursome in fiddler Gerry O’Connor; his former Lá Lugh compadre, Breton guitarist Gilles le Bigot; flute player and singer Nuala Kennedy; and accordion player Martin QuinnOirialla quietly celebrates the bare-naked delicacy of its Scots-influenced repertoire, richly interwoven with more contemporary tunes and songs. Kennedy’s voice is an unfettered, lilting delight, and their inventive interpretation of Chicago fiddler Liz Carroll’s Mrs Carroll’s Strathspey revels in the boundless energy that courses through their tune book. A fine-boned, tantalising collection that unfurls itself at a delightfully leisurely pace. 

Siobhan Long The Irish Times 

Friday April 26 2013

oiriallamusic. com

Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Lughnasa Music LUGCD965

Oirialla is “the land of Oriel” in South Ulster which encompasses parts of North Louth, South Armagh and East Monaghan. It is an area rich in music, song and other folk traditions, with a distinctive style preserved by its many custodians.

Oirialla, the band, are Gerry O’Connor (fiddle), Nuala Kennedy (flute and vocals), Martin Quinn (accordion) and Gilles le Bigot (guitar). Together these four performers present an album of music from the Oriel and further afield, and are among these custodians, carefully representing the material, whilst very firmly setting their mark on it. 

The breadth of instrumentation allows for countless possibilities and opportunities for variation, and Oirialla use these to full effect. Quite rarely do all four play at once, rather they weave their way round each other, bringing light and shade, sometimes with unexpected turns, but always with the sense that these are expert musicians who know exactly what they are doing. The music has great lift and is perfectly paced. The tunes are a bit different – not the standard session fare, and this adds to the album’s interest. 

Four of the 10 sets are songs by Nuala, beautifully sung and tastefully arranged. Among them are a lovely lullaby in Scots Gaelic, Bidh Clann UlaidhThe Cavan Road, learned from her friend and mentor, Cathal McConnell, and The Boys Of Mullaghbawn. Alongside Nuala, Gilles’ guitar really shines on these tracks – he is an expert accompanist.

The quality of the recording here is very good, perfectly balanced with a warm feel. And the sleeve notes are also worthy of note. As well as comments on the tunes and songs, there is also a record of which collections they are to be found in – a great resource for others interested in the music of this area.

An excellent album. No gimmicks or extrovert showmanship, just great music.

Fiona Heywood

Lughnasa Music LUGCD965, 
10 tracks, 53 minutes

This should be a traditional music fan's dream - Gerry "fiddle" O'Connor, Nuala Kennedy on flute and vocals, accordionist Martin Quinn, and Breton guitarist Gilles Le Bigot. In many ways it is exactly that: great tunes, many of them obscure, and four songs which combine Irish English and Scots Gaelic. The group takes its name from the area between Louth and Armagh, spanning North and South, a traditional haunt of bards and bandits, musicians and marauders, sometimes known as Oriel. Most of Oirialla's music has associations with that region - there are references in the notes to the Northern Fiddler collection, and the Dance Music of Ireland volumes, but also to MFC and OF. I eventually worked out that LD must mean Luke Donellan's collection Dance Music of Oriel: this seems to be a major source for the tunes here. I gather Gerry and others are involved in research projects to interpret and distribute Donellan's material. There are a few modern compositions here too - by P/M Donald MacLeod, Mike Vass, Liz Carroll and Donald Angus Beaton - and Nuala wrote the melody for one song, but the rest is firmly traditional.

From Delvinside to MacLeod of Mull many tunes on this recording would be familiar to Scottish musicians as well as to the Ulster Scots and the Ulster Irish musicans here, but despite a strong Scottish influence this is mainly Irish music. Reels and jigs are the norm, and there are some smashers: McFadden's Own Reel, The Ladies' Pantaloons, Duffy's Reel and the wonderful five-beat jig Cathal Mac Aodha among others. What this album lacks at times is the feeling that these are tunes which the musicians have known for decades, absorbed at sessions and dances. At times the sense is more of a documentary than a dance, a history lesson rather than a local session. This is not the case with Nuala Kennedy's songs: these stand as individual interpretations, and their unfamiliarity in some ways makes them more attractive, but it may be interesting to see how they evolve in Nuala's hands and in the wider community. And for those of you who enjoy a good thrash through some rousing tunes, there are tracks here which oblige, casting aside any hint of more serious projects: the set of McCusker's Jigs and the final medley Through the Heather are prime session recordings, delivered with practised ease and considerable gusto, by some of the best in the business.

Alex Monaghan