Somebody is in Control

The first All Together Now festival took place on 3–5 August on the Curraghmore Estate in Waterford. It’s where the new Irish generations come for freedom – or is it order, asks Toner Quinn.

‘And will you know it when you find it? And do you know you’re looking for it?’ –  ‘By My Demon Eye’, This is the Kit

A man in his twenties is in a purple dress, his head half-shaved. He and some female friends land with a bolt of energy at the Belonging Bandstand and start dancing to the Dublin-based Afrobeat group Yankari.

Two children are beside them and the man holds their hands and starts dancing with them too. Then he and his friends sense action elsewhere and start to rush
Continue reading


Remembering Tommy Peoples

A tribute to the great Irish fiddle-player who died on 3 August.

It was 1992. I was 18 and booked into Tommy Peoples’ fiddle class at the Willie Clancy Summer School. As we arrived, he sat on the edge of a table, his fiddle case on one side and on the other a small tin case in which he placed the rolled cigarettes he was working on. Then, when the lesson was to begin, he would shut the tin case with a ‘snap’, and the fiddle case would open.

Continue reading

How Musicians Can Start to Afford Ireland

Singer-songwriter David Kitt is leaving Ireland because of the housing situation, and music writer and DJ Nialler9 is ‘stressed and broken’ by it. Boom after bust after boom, the lot of the Irish musician never seems to change. There is a way to change this, writes Toner Quinn.

In 2006, a strange thing happened: like canaries in the coal mine, musicians and artists began to leave Dublin. Nobody announced it publicly – there was no social media – but I noticed the pattern because I was one of them. The Celtic Tiger was difficult to navigate economically if you wanted to focus on creative work, so artists left. Years later, when I came across an economic chart for the 2000s, I noticed the moment of maximum overheating was the year when the creatives vacated the capital. From that point, the economy started to unravel. Two years later it collapsed.

Continue reading

Adventurous Spirit

Irish National Opera continues to experiment and excite with a production of Gluck’s ‘Orfeo ed Euridice’ in Galway and a spectacular performance by Sharon Carty, writes Toner Quinn.

Last year, the Galway International Arts Festival presented the world premiere of Donnacha Dennehy’s opera The Second Violinist – the tale of a musician who struggles to find meaning in life and art. This year, GIAF hosted Irish National Opera’s production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice – the tale of another emotionally tortured musician.

Continue reading

A Global Ireland Without Musicians?

The Irish Government has launched a new initiative, ‘Global Ireland’, with international aspirations – but what does it mean for Irish music?


This week, the Irish Government launched a new initiative called Global Ireland. In these fast-changing, often hazardous times, the Government correctly wants to make sure Ireland is visible and audible wherever major political and commercial decisions are made. Global Ireland is a 73-page document with a range of plans, all with the aim of ‘doubling Ireland’s global footprint’ by 2025. This means a wide range of international projects in education, sport, security and defence, diplomacy, communications, connectivity, and, of course, culture.

Continue reading

A High-Wire Act

The debut album from The High Seas trio.

In the summer of 2012, Caitlín Nic Gabhann’s debut concertina album was my soundtrack for the week of the Willie Clancy Summer School. The motoring rhythm, the punchy melodic playing, a roll of tunes that you felt you had to learn one day, it was perfect for the road to Spanish Point every morning.

Continue reading

Reimagining Belfast

Fiddle-player Conor Caldwell’s diverse new album is inspired by both the historic work of collector Edward Bunting and the sounds of contemporary Belfast, writes Toner Quinn.

Conor Caldwell’s 2016 fiddle recording with Danny Diamond, North, was edgy and meditative, the emphasis on raw, spontaneous, unaccompanied duets.

Albums such as North appear to be a response to what writer Alex Ross calls the ‘cult of precision’ in modern recorded music; scrapes and the sense of a live performance are in, concern about technical perfection is out.

Continue reading

Strange Type of Orchestra Love

The RTÉ orchestras report has made recommendations in response to a crisis, but we have not heard enough discussion of the issues that caused it, writes Toner Quinn.

This week in The Journal of Music, we published an article detailing the wide range of issues revealed in a new report on Ireland’s two full-time orchestras – RTÉ Orchestras: Ensuring a Sustainable Future.

Continue reading

Is Music the Glue That Will Get Us Through?

When we have instant access to every piece of music that we love, anywhere and anytime, something profound has happened, writes Toner Quinn.

Are you a listener who describes the music they listen to as ‘my music’? That is, when you are talking about the music that you have on a digital device, do you feel that it is yours, or that it somehow represents you? Perhaps it is organised in a way that is unique to you, which makes it possible for you to enjoy it on demand, and you adjust it as your mood changes. How attached are you to the experience? Is ‘your music’ now an extension of you?

Continue reading

Liam O’Flynn: An Appreciation

A tribute to the great uilleann piper who died on 14 March 2018.

One of the great Irish traditional musicians of our time has passed away. Liam O’Flynn, aged 72, died yesterday (14 March) after a battle with illness over the last year.

So much that we take for granted today can be traced back to the impact that his uilleann piping had in the 1970s and after.
Continue reading