Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Beoga brings its 'lively' Irish sound to Albright

The Star Series and Albright College will present the Irish band Beoga, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Albright College Chapel. Opening for Beoga will be local musicians Ken Gehret and Irish Mist; Beoga will also hold a workshop on Irish music from 5 to 6 p.m. in the chapel, free and open to the public.

Based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, which includes the city of Belfast, Beoga (the Irish word for "lively") was founded in 2002 when its five members jammed together at the All-Ireland Fleadh. Their lineup is unique: two button accordionists (Sean Og Graham and Damian McKee), pianist Liam Bradley, singer/songwriter and fiddler Niamh Dunne and four-time all-Ireland bodhran champion Eamon Murray.They released their first CD, "a lovely madness" in 2004, and it became one of the top traditional/folk albums of the year in Ireland. They went on to record "Mischief" in 2007, and, in 2009 they released their latest CD, "The Incident."

In a recent telephone interview, Murray said the show Beoga is bringing to the Albright Chapel will "get everybody involved, and get everyone on their feet, as we'll be trying to re-create the sound on our record."

He said all the band members grew up with Irish music, and the music they play is based on the traditional tunes, although they don't always stay within the genre. (They have been known to include blues, Astor Piazzolla-style jazz and New Orleans sounds in their particular mix.)

"All of the band had music in their families," Murray said. "I have three sisters who are very musical. We are really fortunate that way."

In fact, Dunne, who joined the band in 2005, is the daughter of Uillean piper Mickey Dunne, famous among traditional Irish-music fans and performers.

As for his own background, Murray said he tried every instrument before settling on the bodhran. He and Sean Og Graham studied music at the University of Limerick; Murray also studied ethnomusicology at Queens University in Belfast.

"I really enjoyed the anthropological aspect of it," he said.

Most of his research was done in Ireland, particularly on the bodhran and Irish musicians.

He said studying music from the perspective of an anthropologist gave him the ability to look at music-making from the third-person vantage point, and see how musicians engage with others within the society.

Graham, in addition to his work with the accordion, is a guitarist. Bradley is known for his accompaniments for Irish dancing; McKee is a composer and teacher; and Dunne, also a graduate of the University of Limerick, is a classical violinist as well as a fiddler.

Since their debut in 2002, the band has made a number of TV and radio appearances, and has toured extensively in Europe and the United States.

In 2007 they performed live on television with the BBC Orchestra as part of the prestigious and enormously popular "Last Night of the Proms." They have become a staple at Celtic and folk festivals, including the Boston ICONS festival, the North Texas Irish Festival, the Milwaukee Irish Fest, the World Fleadh, Germany's Irish Folk Festival tour, and the Irish Unplugged tour of Holland.

Murray said that while most of their songs are covers, about 80 percent of the instrumentals are original music, and about 70 percent of what they play is instrumental.

Contact Susan L. Peé?a: life@readingeagle.com.

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