EXPO 2000 in Hanover is over, so why again setting the spotlight on Hanover? Well maybe because out of this town comes probably the best German Irish trad. Band, that can easily take it up with its Irish colleagues. Or because Hanover hosts some of the best Irish folk sessions in Germany, where always this Irish trad band plays an important part.
We met this band, Dereelium, in Holland, where they played at the first Folkwoods
Festival in Eindhoven. They were invited on recommendation of Brendan White,
Irish bodhran maker living in the Netherlands, as a good value replacement of
the expensive Irish originals, that the festival could not afford in its first
Their gig at Folkwoods was not an easy job, as the sun burnt on tent 2, leaving the musicians and audience sweating, and as half way through in tent 1 the Dutch "Chieftains Riverdance" had an appearance. Nevertheless Dereelium gave a very good set. Folkwoods was already Dereelium's second big festival in 2000, after having been invited to play at Rudolstadt, Germany'' biggest festival for Folk & World Music. To be playing in Rudolstadt was quite an honour, as usually the festival would not book German Irish bands. With the big festivals discovering Dereelium, it is obvious, that Dereelium's music must be something special.
Millvalley was the name of Dereelium's Debut-CD that appeared last year, and was taken up enthusiastically by fans and media. The FolkWorld magazine called Dereelium "probably the best German band of "Continental Celts"; and indeed Dereelium offers a lot of talent, featuring some of the definite best musicians of Irish trad on offer on the German scene. On stage they can very well convince with their music, yet they are at their best in the intimate sessions, where they originally come from.
The strength of Dereelium lies in their mixture of well-known Irish tunes and more or less unknown Irish, but also Eastern European, Spanish-Celtic, self composed or whatever kind of tunes. This gives the music a very personal identity, setting them apart from most other Irish bands. With an instrumentarium of bouzouki/singing (Barbara Steinort), fiddle (Michael Möllers), English concertina (Georg Möllers), banjo/mandola/Schäferpfeife (German bagpipes) (Klaus Gehrmann), guitar/bass (Reiner Köhler) and bodhran/bones (Rolf Wagels) Dereelium offers a very full and attractive sound.
The musicians found together in sessions in Hanover's "Notenkiste" in the eighties.
The band was formed then in 1988, playing a charity gig to raise money for a
disastrous folk festival in the Haus der Jugend, that left a huge mountain of
debts. Three of the original members are still in the band, the other three
joined them during the following years.
Dereelium play mainly because of their enthusiasm, just to have fun. Most of the musicians play also in other bands, some of them also to make some money, but Dereelium is definitely a hobby band - yet they do have a very professional sound.
The band name is often considered by Irish and American people as superb, the problem is that most Germans do not understand this play of words, as you need to know what a reel is, and that IS in Germany a problem. This makes Dereelium also to one of the most often misspelt bands in Germany...
There are six different stories how the individual band members came to Irish
Music; we focus on the Black-White- Movies, Waldhorn and Football versions.
Michael Möllers, playing already for 25 years Irish Folk on the fiddle, remembers that an Irish guy moved into his town in 1975, who played music and sang. "He organised together with the organiser Willi Schwenken 'Irish Nights'. There you would see Black-and-White movies in Gaelic language, with wonderful pictures, showing legends like Seamus Ennis and Christy Moore in their natural surroundings. Along to this you would drink your Guinness, and there would be live music. I was totally impressed by these events." So he decided to take up this kind of music on the fiddle, just teaching himself.
Rolf Wagels played formerly "Waldhorn" (a German horn) in an orchestra, and via an exchange of orchestras he came to Ireland, getting there in touch with the culture. On his next trip he decided to buy a bodhran, bought later on a proper one from Brendan White, and went then to session in Hanover.
Football brought Klaus Gehrmann to Irish Music: "Actually, the music has come to me, in shape of the Irish national team, playing in 1988 at the Football EM in Hanover versus Russia. I bought a 5 marks ticket, and ended up just in midst the Irish fan club." Having celebrated that afternoon and evening with the Irish, he became aware of what Ireland is like. "When I went to Ireland to visit the guys of the football game, I came back home with a bodhran, and started playing Irish Music on my instruments." Klaus is the one in Dereelium, who contributes unusual non-Irish tunes, and one of his instruments is also the German "shepherd's pipes" (Schäferpfeife).
Asking about the Hanover session scene, we get with a smile the answer: "Most
of the Hanover scene found together at some point, called themselves Dereelium
and recorded a CD."
There is some truth in this answer, as there is quite no quality Irish session in Hanover where you would find no member of Dereelium. Dereelium are without doubt a very important, not to say the most important part of the Hanover scene. Still there are a lot of musicians around in Hanover. The most important session in Hanover exists already since more than 15 years, in the Notenkiste at the Schneiderberg. The hard core of the Irish scene is always around at the mighty Sunday afternoon sessions, and the session's reputation is good enough for that there are even regularly musician guests from as far away as Berlin or Marburg. Also in the Notenkiste, on Tuesday evenings there are more open sessions, focussing not only on Irish music, but also on Jazz or Scandinavian tunes.
Then there is in Hanover also the MacGowan's Irish Pub, owned by Shay and Geraldine MacGowan of Oisin fame, who were for some time landlords of the Notenkiste before opening their own pub 10 years ago. In their pub, they have regularly some of the best Irish musicians playing in concerts, and there are also often quality sessions.
We start talking about the Irish scene in Germany in general, which is at the
moment extremely lively. The sessions are important in this sense; as Michael
Möllers says, he has not been in Ireland for the last 16 years, still he can
always play Irish music, and improve his skills.
Besides the sessions, Rolf considers the official musicians' meetings an important part of the German Irish scene. "The German Uilleann Pipes Society has done a lot of good work in this sense. Especially because they cater at their meetings not only for pipers, but offer also workshops for plenty of other instruments. This is the meeting point for the great musicians; it's always great fun and lots of great sessions."
Then there are private initiatives as a strong support of the scene. Rolf talks of the legendary meetings in the barn of Thomas Hecking (musician in the high quality German Irish trad band Shanachie) near Hamm, where regularly some of the best Irish musicians of Germany meet. "This not only contributes to the interweaving of the scene, but provides the opportunity for many new bands to be formed. The More Maids (a female trio interpreting Irish and other Songs and Tunes; Dereelium's Barbara is member of them) are one example of this."
During the last ten years, the musical standard of the German Irish Folk scene has increased enormously, just as it did in Ireland. In the musicians' meetings you will find also more and more young people; "it is not that folk and traditional music is the music of old people, or of the old folkies; it is obvious that the scene covers also young people, and that it develops all the time".
A new phenomena of the last two years is that the Irish scene in Germany opens
more and more up to other (folk) music styles. Bal Folk is also increasingly
popular in the Irish scene, with Irish musicians enjoying more and more to dance
Bourees or Schottisches. The German Irish musicians take also more and more
Breton, Eastern European or whatever tunes up. "I like it very much that the
highly skilled German Irish musicians are starting to take up also other music
styles and tunes."
On the Irish sessions in Germany, this has definitely a positive effect, with the sessions becoming more lively and individual. In the end, it is this mixture that makes also Dereelium's music special and attractive, and only in taking up other European influences, the Continental Celts can set themselves apart from the originals and putting their own stamps on the music.
Latest published CD: Millvalley; on Liedekeler Records. Reviewed
in FolkWorld No. 12.
Further infos/contact: Dereelium's hompage is at www.dereelium.de.
Photo Credit: All other Photos by The Mollis
WIN copies of Dereelium's debut album "Millvalley"
To take part in the competition, answer the following question: Which event in the home town of Dereelium had the most massive media attention in 2000?.
Answers until 20/2/2001 to FolkWorld.
The Continental Celts is an irregular FolkWorld series, presenting regularly the best of Irish folk on the European continent.
Already featured bands: Shantalla (B), Orion (B), Drones & Bellows (DK).
Events: The Gaelfest near Frankfurt (D); The Copenhagen Irish Festival (DK; this issue).
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