Review: Irish music and dance
Venue: House concert, York
A fine afternoon of traditional music and dance provided the latest welcome addition to York’s growing house concert scene.
Irish fiddle music is at the heart of Dan Foster’s repertoire. His love of the genre was evident both in the technical skill displayed in his solos, and the depth of his knowledge about Irish music, which he also combines with other styles such as Scottish and Shetland.
Dan was joined by flautist Sam Partridge for jigs and reels by turns melancholic and exuberant (occasionally both at the same time) and which merged seamlessly.
Folk musicians are known for their rapport with one another and also with their audience. Dan and Sam are firmly in that comfortable, eloquent tradition and talked engagingly between numbers about their music.
Sam also acquitted himself impressively on the Uilleann pipes, the complex Irish version of the bagpipes.
It’s an instrument he’s been playing for just a year, and of which he observed: “Musicians usually spend 90 per cent of the time tuning up and ten per cent playing out of tune.”
The two students on Newcastle University’s degree in Folk and Traditional Music performed polkas, a comparatively late, 19th century addition to the Irish music scene, and finished with some exquisite slip jigs in tricky, compound 9/8 time signatures.
Sceptics who find some Irish dance a trifle inert would have been won over by the gig’s third performer.
Wooden boards had been put down especially to enable step dancer Courtney Jay to give a couple of spellbinding displays that left you feeling as exhausted as if you’d done them yourself.
Courtney, from Connecticut, USA, competes in international tournaments and is one of the top-ranked Irish dancers in the world.
As with great jazz drummers such as Ginger Baker or Jon Hiseman, you find yourself wondering how one person can pound out so many complex rhythms.
There’s something pleasingly old-fashioned about house concerts, a throwback perhaps to Victorian days when people gathered in parlours or sitting rooms to listen to music.
And performances such as this are a reminder, of course, that live music in an intimate setting takes some beating.