|Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill.|
If you tried to keep up with the East Clare fiddler Martin Hayes these days you would have logged quite a few thousand miles, and you would still be amazed at the dazzling creativity that he spawns not only in his own music but in the works of all those who sit alongside of him, including long-time partner and accompanist Dennis Cahill.
For a score of years they have carved out a marvelous career as a duet all around the world, drawing us into centuries-old Irish melodies made new and fresh through their masterful interpretation.
This summer alone Hayes taught at Irish music summer schools in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare (Willie Week) and Asheville, North Carolina (Swannanoa Gathering), performed with one of his mega-groups the Gloaming at Lincoln Center in New York and two-hard-core trad festivals in Feakle near his Maghera homeplace and Bantry, Co. Cork, where his Masters of the Tradition festival is held each August.
In the past week Hayes and Cahill appeared at the Feile An Droichead in Belfast before a special performance at Dublin’s National Concert Hall with another unique group, Triur, featuring fellow fiddle player Caoimhin O Raghallaigh and Peadar O’Riada, where the focus is on Peadar’s newly composed material from the son of Sean O’Riada, himself a musical muse down in Cuil Aodha in West Cork.
Earlier in the year Hayes logged time on the road with his other collaborations in the Teetotallers (with John Doyle and Kevin Crawford) and the touring ensemble the Masters of Tradition.
All of that reflects the very important place that Hayes holds in the world of Irish traditional music and other genres that come into contact with it.
So it is a most opportune time for Hayes to let his hair down for a more relaxing musical residency in the Big Apple courtesy of the Irish Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen.
Like mainstream pop artists Julie Feeney and Declan O’Rourke before them, the intimate Donaghy Theatre will be turned over to Hayes and Cahill for eight nights to play and improvise in a space that “provides no barrier between the stage and audience” as Hayes told me in a long interview last week.
Many attendees will perhaps see what those of us who have followed their stellar career have always marveled at, their close connection musically and personally as they weave a musical spell that time after time puts listeners into an emotional trance along with the tandem playing on stage.
That will be on exhibit each night as their part of the set list which will showcase some of their own music they have played and recorded over the years since first pairing up in Chicago where Cahill is from and Hayes emigrated to back in the mid-eighties.
But they are taking a page from programming formats at the Irish Arts Center and bringing in special guests to collaborate with each night (like the Christmas show produced by Dr. Mick Moloney) and also like the Masters in Collaboration series where special interaction transpires as well.
Hayes is especially adept at this caper now. It plays towards his natural curiosity towards other musical genres and literary influences, and his low-key techniques and personality that allow for a very genuine crossroads experience each night.
Leading off the roster of guests is Thomas Bartlett, aka the Doveman, a New England pianist and musical genius who we saw in the Gloaming and also the epic Other Voices show in Greenwich Village back in 2011 with Hayes (Friday, Sept. 20) on the opening night of the residency.
Armagh poet and Princeton Professor Paul Muldoon, who is also a rock musician, will wax lyrical on the 21st, while on the 22nd, fiddler Cleek Schrey, originally from Blue Ridge country in western Virginia, teams up with the tandem just a month or so after a successful engagement playing blue grass music at Hayes’ Bantry Master of Tradition festival with Stephanie Coleman.
Innovative guitarist and composer Kyle Sanna, who has played with his share of virtuosos in the New York downtown scene, will meet up with the lads for the first time on the 25th.
One of America’s leading exponents of the Norwegian hardanger fiddle is Dan Truemen, a musician and professor also at Princeton University who is slated for the 26th.
Classically trained violinist and West Coast native Dana Lyn, who is familiar to many of us in New York as an extraordinary Irish fiddler around the session scene from her early days at Mona’s in the East Village, comes by for a musical interlude on the 27th.
Dublin piper and flute player Ivan Goff is a long time resident of New York who recently toured Ireland with Schrey and Iarla O Lionaird as the Ghost Trio that emerged out of a Masters in Collaboration week with O Lionaird and Goff last year. He grabs the penultimate slot on Saturday the 28th.
Anchoring the end of the unique artistic relay is Doug Wieselman, a versatile musician and composer who has worked with people like Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and Marta Wainwright on the 29th.
There is no question that Hayes is in the prime of a very successful career, and has found an entertaining formula to display his multi-faceted appreciation of Irish music and complimentary genres and his own personality. That is what gives this residency in New York such great appeal to the committed fan or for those who want to get to know him better.
Even Hayes admits he hasn’t much of an idea how it will all turn out or even what might happen on a given night, but that will become much clearer after a day’s work is done before the evening’s show.
But from past experience, watching Hayes pour every ounce of ability and imagination into his performance, the results are sure to be the talk of the town for months after the final show.
There is already a pretty good advance sale since the details of the residency were revealed a couple of weeks ago. The Donaghy Theatre only has 99 seats so I encourage you to pick your night(s) and see history being made once again at the Irish Arts Center.
There is a bonus opportunity for two sets of two hour workshops (Saturday and Tuesday) with both Hayes (on fiddle) and Cahill (on guitar accompaniment for traditional Irish music) with them as well with advance purchase available at http://www.irishartscenter.org/master_classes.html.
Here are Martin Hayes and Denis Cahill in action: