Monday, 16 November 2009

'3' is the magic number

By Sean P. Feeny

This month a trio of three young Donegal fiddle players who are continuing to push the boundaries of Irish traditional music are releasing their first album together.

Fidíl began as a duo with Aidan O'Donnell and Ciaran Ó Maonaigh taking the Irish music world by storm with their 2008 self-titled debut album.

Having used modern technology to create a unique, multi-layered fiddle sound on their album, the two musicians soon brought in fellow Donegal fiddle player, Damien McGeehan, to recreate that sound in a live environment.

Aidan, who is Limerick County Council's current Artist-In-Residence at lectures at the University of Limerick (UL), said it has been an eventful year since the Dunkineely native and Ciaran from Gaoth Dobhair launched their debut album last summer.

"The core idea behind our first album was to record the sound of two fiddles as a duet playing the traditional Donegal music, but with a difference.

"Rather than using conventional traditional music backing instruments, such as bouzouki or guitar, there was a lot of arrangement and layering of the fiddles in our recordings.

"Of course, when it came to performing the music from our debut album live, it was a lot hard for us to recreate and so we asked Damien from Ardara to join us."

Aidan and Damien have known each other since they both started learning to play the fiddle with Seamus Sweeney in Bruckless. "I've known Damien since the age of 12 and he's one of the best musicians I know and we are both very light-minded when it comes to arrangement."

Damien first joined Ciaran and Aidan for their live performances last November and with Fidíl winning a very prestigious award, the road was paved for the duo to become a trio.

Aidan said: "At the time that Damien joined us for our live gigs we had just won The Music Network's 2008 Young Musicwide Award and the prize not only included support for touring but also part-funding for a new album and the obvious choice was to do it as a trio."

In March of this year, The Music Network sent the three Donegal men to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Co Monaghan, to spend a week in the artists' retreat.

The Dunkineely man said that probably 90 per cent of the music for their new album, 3, was arranged there and within a week they were back recording with renowned bouzouki player and producer Manus Lunny at his Rosses based studio in Carrickfinn.

Aidan said that he and Damien, who recently graduated with a BA in Irish Music from The Irish World Academy of Music at UL, have very similar ideas when it comes to arrangement.

"Ciaran and I have very similar ideas in terms of arranging, but when Damien and I would get together in Limerick to show each other what we had been working on, it was freaky to see how we were both developing the same concepts individually at the same time.

"Damien is a multi-instrumenalist and a real virtuoso. He has a great mind for arrangements and has been a big addition to the group," he said.

Aidan described the final sound of the new album, 3, which is officially being launched in Temple Bar, Dublin, on Wednesday, as 'raw' traditional Donegal music.

Over the past year the trio have continuously toured abroad performing everywhere from England, Scotland, Latvia, Macedonia and more recently Canada and Iceland.

"It has been fantastic to receive such great receptions and our Donegal music going down a bomb, even with people who normally wouldn't be fans of traditional music."

Fidíl's music has been described as boundary-pushing, but although the musicians' agree that they are 'going forward', Aidan said that their style is still firmly rooted in tradition.

"When we are travelling to gigs around the country, you will hear music from the likes of Frank Cassidy or John Doherty playing in the car.

"Our music is really open for interpretation and people can then make up their own mind, but we have widened our perspective to create our own sound that is that little bit different."

Later this month the trio embark on their Music Network tour which will take them to Kerry, Cork, Kildare and Mayo and as well as the tour their are looking forward to performing at an event very close to their hearts in December.

Aidan said: "We have just been booked to perform at the Frankie Kennedy Winter School in Gaoth Dobhair on December 29 which we are really excited about.

"It's one of the greatest festivals in Ireland and we've all been going to it for years."

With more promotion and touring on the cards, 2010 certainly looks like it will be a busy and successful year for the Donegal trio.

"We are hoping to work and tour abroad more to promote our album and we'll be starting by performing at The Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow as well as going on two further tours with The Music Network, who are continuing to be very good to us," said Aidan.

Fidíl's new album 3 is available to purchase on

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