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A reunion on a film set in Romania in 2003 has eventually led to a quartet of world-class musicians from varying backgrounds to put together a tour around Ireland this month. Ronan Leonard spoke to one member, Dirk Powell, who will be joined by award winning flautist Michael McGoldrick, guitarist Francis Gaffney and on fiddle Brendan Gleeson. Best known for his acting Brendan is also deeply entrenched in the traditional music of Ireland; in fact on the cover of The Waterboys legendary ‘Fisherman Blues’ album Brendan can be seen on the top left of their iconic cover, as he had been playing with them during their recording sessions.
However this current tour was first sparked back at Brendan’s day job, when he spent a lot of time with Dirk Powell, the on-set music advisor for ‘Cold Mountain’ as well as a composer of several of the tracks on the soundtrack, Dirk continues the story, “Brendan and I have known each other for over 10 years, since we worked on ‘Cold Mountain’ together. We’ve made music socially over the years and it felt like it would be really fun and natural to bring that energy and feeling to the stage in some intimate settings. I’d worked with Michael McGoldrick on the Transatlantic Sessions and in a few other scenarios – he’s one of my favourite musicians in the world. I’m not alone in that feeling, of course! Brendan has played a lot with Francis over the years, and it felt like a crew of folks that would make great music and just have a great time in general, which is the idea!”
But Brendan and Dirk had already met before becoming firm friends on the ‘Cold Mountain’ set, as Dirk explained “sometimes Brendan tells the story of the very first moment we met, which was when he came down to see a Cajun music performance I was a part of in Wicklow. I had just been given an enormous plate of mince when Brendan walked in. So, his first vision of me was my bewildered look as I stared at this mountain of food in front of me! But, of course, we made it through that pile of food, together… and went on to spend great times in Louisiana, Romania, Donegal… and a few other corners of the world. We’ve had some good adventures with fiddles in hand and some good adventures without fiddles in hand!”
Dirk has one particular tale that he thinks gives a particular insight, “one funny story, that I don’t think has been shared anywhere really, is about a night (that turned into a morning) that Brendan and I shared up in Donegal. We were on the cliffs of Teelin at sunrise, just having a laugh, throwing rocks around and things like that. We came down in search of breakfast and I tried to get money out of a bank machine. When I had the money, I waltzed excitedly back to the car, opened the door, got in, and beamed a big smile over at Brendan – only, instead of Brendan’s face I saw the face of an old farmer, just looking at me from under his wool cap with a wry grin and questioning eyes. I’d climbed in the wrong car. And then I looked forward, of course, and saw Brendan in the car in front of me, doubled over with laughter, about to have a heart attack. Oh yes, one of my prouder moments! That kind of thing has summed up a few of our adventures… I’m not sure I should be telling such stories!”
Because of the varied background of all four musicians I wondered what is in store for us throughout the set, “the music will be a mix of all the things we do, all the things we love. There will be Irish trad tunes and songs, but also Louisiana music and old-time Appalachian tunes and pieces. I’d say it will be a pretty even blend of tunes and songs and there will be at least one from Cold Mountain, for sure!”
Dirk Powell, Michael McGoldrick, Francis Gaffney and Brendan Gleeson play the Triskel Christchurch on Thursday 16 January. Tickets are €15 and available from their box office and http://www.triskelartscentre.ie