Amidst all the wonderful aspects of the Catskills Irish Arts Week last month were a couple of gems that we owe, in part, to that bountiful wellspring of traditional music around Ashbourne, Co. Meath.
Two fresh CDs were launched in the U.S. by two of its more prodigious residents, Caitlin nic Gabhann and Catherine McEvoy McGorman, who are also likely suspects to be found in the middle of a great Irish session at any hour of the day or night anywhere. Both were eye-opening for different reasons and worthy of special mention here.
Nic Gabhann is the youngest daughter of Anton MacGabhann and his wife Bernadette Murphy nic Gabhann who is both an exquisite concertina player and Irish dancer.
Seeing as her father -- Cavan born but based in Ashbourne for decades -- is one of Ireland’s pre-eminent fiddle teachers and tradition bearing musicians and her mother reared in Dublin comes from a Clare family heritage of set dancing and step dancing, Caitlin “didn’t steal” her talents as the expression goes, but she was more born to the breed.
She has three All-Ireland championships to her credit in the music while also becoming an accomplished stepdancer who can also do some fair turns at the country sets and sean nos steps complimenting the music in her all the while.
Caitlin is an exemplar of the modern day young Irish artist who not only surrounds herself academically in traditional music and dance, but also lives and breathes it in her daily life professionally and recreationally.
As a scholar she has kept her nose to the grindstone earning a BA and shortly an MA in ethnomusicology from UCC. She is about to set on a teaching degree at Trinity College in the fall.
Simultaneously she has managed to keep a very active life playing and teaching at festivals and sessions all over Ireland, America and Italy in particular.
In 2009 she was recruited to dance and tour with Riverdance to such climes as Australia, South Africa, China, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Europe, and she still steps in line occasionally today with a touring troupe.
Musically, she has played and recorded with groups like Cruinniu back in 2006 and with the Catskills creation NicGaviskey since 2009 (with sister Bernadette, Sean McComiskey and Sean Gavin), and even an Italian ensemble Birkin Tree where she plays and dances frequently.
But this summer she stepped into the solo spotlight releasing her self-titled CD Caitlin, with all 15 tracks displaying a multi-talented artist in full-flower at the age of 25 who has taught and excelled as a performer at the Catskills Irish Arts Week already for four years.
Her recording is as varied and gorgeous as it is creative, with six of her own compositions standing out mixed with other choice tunes learned from old masters and younger musicians along with her father.
She even had the presence of mind to compose a tune, “Elevated,” while stuck in a lift in Australia as a coping strategy. Her “Sunday’s Well” evokes the influence of the UCC music building which helped inspire much of her current work in composition and choreography. Also noteworthy are two tracks giving ample evidence that she is well able to dance to her own tunes.
This CD will be a classic must have recording, the first of many we hope and predict from this talented young lady.
Her accompanist Caoimhin O Fearghail is also a name you will be hearing more of, as is her producer Jack Talty. You can order it at www.caitlin.ie
or it is available for downloading at cdbaby.com/cd/caitlinnicgabhann12
Her neighbor down the road in Ashbourne, Catherine McEvoy McGorman, also just brought out a CD she produced with the help of the Irish Arts Council.
Called A Musical Vision: The Blind Tradition, it features seven young musicians with visual impairments who prove the case for traditional Irish music not only as an oral (and aural) tradition, but springing from the Irish heart and soul going back to the days of the blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan and more recently flute player Josie McDermott from McEvoy’s ancestral Co. Roscommon.
Playing and offering telling personal stories and insights on the CD are former students at Child Vision, a school for handicapped learning in Dublin where McEvoy teaches.
They are Thomas Langan, Caoimhe Grogan, Andrew Green, Robert Creed, Donal Fitzpatrick, Daragh O hEiligh and John Keppel, accompanied by co-producer John Blake who recorded it.
There is a depth of feeling and quality to the music that is as admirable as the fundraising nature of the CD which hopes to continue musical education at Child Vision in the future with any proceeds.
The CD can be ordered from Catherine herself via email contact at firstname.lastname@example.org for $20 including shipping, or if you email email@example.com
we may still have some copies available here.