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On the fiddle

By David Hennessy

Well known Clare fiddle player Martin Hayes is coming to London for a special St. Patrick’s Night show where he launches a new ensemble.

Martin is known for being part of trad supergroup The Gloaming that also comprises Iarla Ó Lionáird, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Doveman and had the pleasure of being on the bill for a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall when President Michael D Higgins’ state visit to the UK in 2014. He has also established the Martin Hayes quartet. Just last year he released a collaboration album with New York string quartet, Brooklyn Rider.

Martin told The Irish World: “This is a new group called The Common Ground Ensemble that I put together. We’re doing a run of a couple of dates in Dublin first and then we’re coming to London with it. This is a completely new project.

“It will have its own sound I think. Anyway, I’ve just done a series of rehearsals with the new thing. I like what’s happening already. I’m definitely looking forward to it.

“I enjoy making new things and experimenting with different groupings of instruments and musicians and stuff, trying to get new angles on how to do this.”

The night will feature guest uilleann piper David Power and guest singer from Connemara Sheila Denver.

“There will be vocals, there will be uilleann pipes, there will be fiddle. The pianist is a very good classical pianist and a very good jazz pianist and the cellist leads an ensemble called Crash Ensemble in Dublin which is a very edgy, progressive new music ensemble so she creates very different sounds. I think that’s going to be very interesting.

“But there will also be some jazzy and improvisational elements. There’s a certain amount of improvisation that would be taking place as well in the performance. Some of it is unpredictable. I think that’s the part I look forward to.

“I love experimenting and I love trying out things. It’s fair to say, another part of me, I’m very much a traditionalist as well. I love the wealth of tunes and melodies that the tradition has, I love just how powerful they are in themselves. I love trying to see how that fits with all these other things and how the juxtaposition and contrast shows off what’s fundamentally Irish music and fundamental in the melodies. I like hearing those melodies treated in a universal way.

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“I think that repeating patterns year in year out is not the kind of thing I’d like to do. As long as I have the capacity and the opportunity to make new things happen, I think I will.”

Hayes won six All-Irelands and played with the Tulla Céilí Band before moving to America where he made his name on the Irish traditional scene in both Chicago and Seattle. Hayes has been honoured at both the BBC2 Folk Awards and with the TG4 Gradam Ceoil (Traditional musician of the year award).

On The Gloaming, Martin says: “We kind of took a year off and that year has given me the opportunity to create this thing which would not be as easily done if we were trying to keep the schedule of The Gloaming and all of the other projects at the same time. I think we’ll revisit the Gloaming, I’m not sure exactly when, but maybe some time soon.”

Martin Hayes and the Common Ground Ensemble play Queen Elizabeth Hall on St. Patrick’s Day, Tuesday 17 March.

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