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Irish folk musicians Lunasa wow Midtown Manhattan audience at the Lincoln Center

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Irish folk musicians Lunasa play Lincoln Center for St. Patrick's Day
Irish folk musicians Lunasa play Lincoln Center for St. Patrick's Day


I think part of the charm of the St. Patrick’s season is that it really is a harbinger of spring when people are ready to shed any hibernation tendencies.

Mother Nature can still fool you, and she sent another snowstorm last week as the busy first weekend in March was unfolding, wrecking some havoc on weekend shows around the Northeast.  

However last Thursday as the snow was gently falling around New York’s Lincoln Center, the lads of Lunasa were ready, willing and able to make the first appearance of an Irish band at the free concert series at the David Rubenstein Atrium known as Target Thursdays, underwritten by the chain store Target.  

They performed two sets in the oblong atrium that serves as a public space and also an information and ticket area for the multiple performance spaces around the Lincoln Center campus.

If Lunasa was to be the first Irish outfit to take the stage that has been in existence for three years, you couldn’t have asked for a better choice.   Because a space like this in Midtown Manhattan will attract for the most part an eclectic and diverse audience with a curiosity about music without having to buy a ticket. It makes for an interesting experiment  for any band looking to find new audiences. 

With many of the over 300 or so in attendance not familiar with Irish folk music at all, having a sophisticated and tight group of musicians like Lunasa’s Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely, Sean Smyth, Ed Boyd and Trevor Hutchinson lead the way looks like an inspired choice by artistic director Bill Bragin of Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors programming.  

The group doesn’t just play jigs and reels as they have been handed down for generations – though they very well could if the occasion fit – but rather more textured and nuanced variants of the Irish dance music displaying not only their notable skills on their respective instruments, but also their creativity and arrangements.   

The group has been at it for over 15 years and is still breaking new ground as one of the more popular instrumental groups in Irish music. An example of that is the exciting new recording they are launching over here on the month long tour that resulted from a very successful collaboration with the RTE Concert Orchestra aided and abetted by Cillian’s musician brother Niall Vallely which debuted last year at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.   

They shared some of the music given more expansive treatment on the new recording that had crowd-pleasing appeal at Lincoln Center as well like “Casu,” “Last Pint” and “Breton Set,” and overall their music went down very well, holding the crowd inside on the snowy night.

Fair play to Lincoln Center to create and maintain a series like this that allows people to hear new music and also expose world music to a wider audience even in a city known as being a Melting Pot. 

And to Lunasa also for giving it their all in a new environment that, hopefully, will open further doors and opportunities for them down the road.  

For more information on the band’s tour and new recording visit www.lunasa.ie.

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