Irish Adventures in Central Europe
Bríd Ní Mhaoileoin talks about her music
After writing a review of Bríd Ní Mhaoileoin's debut CD 'Ar Mhuin na Muice', I met her in Flann O'Brien's pub in Graz, Austria, where we had a long conversation about her different projects and a few pints of Guinness. I was so intrigued that I asked her if we could do an interview for FolkWorld and she accepted. So back in Switzerland we started to send mails to and fro and this is the outcome...
Gorhand: You released your CD "Ar mhuin na Muice" on 7th May 2004 in Graz. You've been making music before. Tell us something about your former musical path?
Bríd: I've been playing music and singing since I was a child. I was performing on stage from a very young age with my two sisters and two brothers in a group called 'Ceoltóirí Ghoill'. We travelled all over Ireland and to festivals in Wales and Scotland. When I was only nine we were invited to America for two weeks to perform as musical ambassadors to Ireland for an Irish-American exchange programme called the 'Friendship Force'. That was a wonderful experience - we were treated like kings and queens. My parents were with us then of course as we were very young - later we would head off on our own and that was much better! When I was fourteen we returned to America for six months (and no parents!) and played concerts in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. One of the most memorable concerts was in the famous 'Cafe Lena' in Saratoga Springs - a few weeks later Arlo Guthrie played the same venue, so that was a thrill. Another great gig was at Kent State University. Soon after that tour the group split up, in 1985. I was still at school, so there was no doubt about what I would do. I more or less left the music behind me, professionally anyway - of course I continued to play and sing at sessions. Then much later, in 1998, when I was finishing my studies in Dublin, I met Antonio Breschi. I was playing at a session and he asked if I would be interested in playing bodhrán with him. This developed into a very special friendship, musically and spiritually. Antonio is a brilliant person and he's one of the people I enjoy playing with most.
Gorhand: Did you ever do any recordings with the family group?
Bríd: We did a maxi single in 1978. It was supposed to be ready in time for that American tour I mentioned, but wasn't. We used to sell it at concerts and at sessions. It had five or six tracks including a lovely lullaby sung by my mother Caitlín and a beautiful concertina solo by my brother Brian, , who was then only eleven, the classic slow air "Sé Fath mo Bhuartha" (The Reason for my Sorrow). Two of our songs were featured on an album called "Slógadh Naisiúnta '78" which featured young musicians who had participated in the national youth music festival "Slógadh". Also on the album are Iarla O'Lionard (now famous as the voice of the Afro-Celt Sound System), the well-known bodhrán player Mel Mercier, former Altan fiddle player Paul Ó Seachnaaigh, Martin Hayes and Seán Smyth of Lúnasa. Not bad company, eh? In 1979 we won the Letterkenny International Folk Festival, and part of the prize was a record contract with Polydor Records. Unfortunately we never got our act together and the recording was never made. Then in 1981 we did a single with Gael Linn called "An Bonnan Buí" with the famous song which gives the single it's title, and a march called "Fead an Iolair" (The Eagle's Whistle). And before we split up in 1985 we did a very long recording which was never released. We actually looked at it then as a demo, but when I listen to it now it's much more than that. There's enough material on it for two cds. So maybe sometime in the future we'll see the release of "Ceolóirí Ghoill - the missing tapes" ;-)
Gorhand: That sounds interesting, may I write a review about it. The title of your debut CD means "on the pig's back" and it features the traditional song "Caidé sin don tsé sin?" (what's that to anyone?). In the booklet notes you say about this song: "If we all took this boy's view on life we'd all be on the pig's back!" Is that the message you'd like to get accross to your listeners?
Bríd: "Ar Mhuin na Muice" means "on the pig's back" or "to be on top of the world" (feeling great). The reason I chose this title was because that was exactly how I felt when I started singing with Alan Burke, my musical partner. I had been thinking of doing an album for years, but I wasn't in any rush. As soon as I met Alan and we played some gigs together and found out we both had the same deep love of the songs and the Irish language, I just knew he was the right musical partner for my first cd. As far as the song is concerned, I'm very aware of and very critical of social ado and I hate the way people are manipulated by it, or let themselves be manipulated by it. I love the song "Caidé sin don tsé sin", (literally "what's that to anyone?" or idiomatically "mind your own business") because the poet does what he or she wants and lives life according to him/herself and just doesn't care what anybody thinks. Great! Yeah, I would like people to take more care of themselves and to stop thinking about what other people think - I think they would feel more on top of the world if they did.
Gorhand: That's what I've felt when I listened to the song: Carpe Diem. After the CD release in Graz you made a promotional tour through Ireland and you started to sell your CD online. What are your future plans?
Bríd: Well it wouldn't be bad to sell a rake of cds for a start! I calculated that I need to sell 1,444 copies to break even. I think that's a good number. No, seriously, I just love singing and performing and I just want to do that as much as possible. Not necessarily on a full-time basis - I'm still not sure if I'll go back to my teaching job in October - but even if I do, music will still be a big part of my life. As well as music, I started painting a few years ago and recently took part in a teaching course in PanArt, so that I now give PanArt courses together with Graz artist Manfred Url, in Austria and beyond.
Gorhand: A new challenge? Are you already planning any further musical projects?
Bríd: I'm working with Graz artist Manfred Url and Greek composer Alexis Porfyriadis on a new performance art project involving Greek traditional song and Irish traditional song performed with live PanArt painting. Url and Porfyriadis have already performed another version of the show involving New Music and PanArt, both in Austria and Greece and have some more performances coming up in August in Greece. It's a very exciting project and really fascinating for the audience. I'm really looking forward to more work like that.
Gorhand: You will combine audio visual arts and perform them live. But will we have something that stays or is it pure performance art?
Bríd: No, the paintings that are created during the show remain and the
music which inspires them remains in them. As the artist Manfred Url says, his
style of painting during a show with live music is much different to his own
painting style. During the show he removes himself and acts as a medium, transposing
the music into colour. The paintings, which bear the signatures of both the
artist and the composer, are then made available for sale.
Gorhand Don't forget to let me know if there's a performance anywhere nearby! I'd love to see that. Thank you very much for the interview, Bríd. I wish you all the best for your upcoming challenges and I'm looking forward to seeing/hearing more of you.
Related Internet site: www.brid.at
All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission. Although any external links from FolkWorld are chosen with greatest care, FolkWorld and its editors do not take any responsibility for the content of the linked external websites.