FolkWorld Issue 39 07/2009; Live Report by Alex Monaghan

Snow White and the Seven Divas
Dervish & Líadan @ London Irish Centre, February 1st 2009


Líadan @ FolkWorld: FW #38, #38

Icon Sound P Stands for Paddy, Polkas Icon Movie @
It was St Brigid's Day, the first of February. The first of the pre-festival concerts for Return to Camden Town 2009 saw the first appearance by Dervish at the London Irish Centre, and the first English concert for young pretenders Líadan.

You can always rely on the weather in London: the first heavy snowfall of the winter had just begun, spilling white-topped and dripping figures into the lobby. In all the concerts I've attended at the London Irish Centre, the atmosphere has been warm, welcoming, relaxed and appreciative. There's a real sense of community, with many regulars, every generation, a fair smattering of foreign students, and a great love and understanding of Irish music. Gently steaming overcoats are not a permanent feature.

Liadan Liadan were applauded onto the stage as heartily as if they were frequent visitors, and these six young ladies soon repaid their welcome with rousing instrumentals and touching songs. Behind twin fiddles and double-barreled flutes, the combination of harp and piano box gives interesting possibilities for accompaniment: remember the Bumblebees? Some thumping bass lines filled out jigs, reels and more as the girls played their way from Kerry to Donegal and back. Munster Buttermilk and The Mist Covered Mountain, The Old Forge and The Eel in the Sink, plus some great Sliabh Luachra polkas and a grinding set of fiddle reels, and I haven't even mentioned the singing yet.

With at least three strong singers in the band, their a cappella version of P Stands For Paddy was a joy. The moving lament Amhrán Mhuínse to the air of The Rocks of Bawn, and the modern composition Angel's Whispers, were almost equally memorable. Líadan's second album, Casadh na Taoide, is due any time, and about half this forty-minute set came from it. Great musicians, fine singers, excellent arrangements: Líadan could have filled the night on their own, but there was more to come.


Dervish @ FolkWorld: FW #19, #26, #26, #35

Icon Sound / Icon Movie @

Dervish, another six-piece but this time twenty years on the road, were in cracking form to start a mini UK tour. Fiddler Tom Morrow was back to his roots, having learnt the basics in an upstairs room at the London Irish Centre some years ago. Indeed, the very first Dervish album featured that famously misnamed reel Return to Camden Town from which the festival takes its name.

Cathy Jordan and the boys from Sligo rocked and reeled through most of their Travelling Show recording: The Coolea Jigs, The Bealtine Reels, The Jolly Tinker and the traditional ballad Lord Levett. Although their Eurovision song wasn't featured, modern pop influences were there alright in Cher's Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves, Dylan's Spanish Boots and Dan Frechette's My Bride and I. The best part of an hour flew by before it was time for the raffle and a quick cup of tea.

Dervish by The Mollis Now I'm used to seeing Cathy battering away on the old drum, rattling her bones, or shimmying like a Bollywood houri, but I've never seen her strap on a mandola before. Poor Brian McDonagh only has the one, so he made do with a guitar while Dervish's diminutive diva strummed along to one of her own compositions. More traditional songs in the third half included Phegín Mo Chroí and An Spailpín Fánach. On the instrumental side, The Lark on the Strand, The Mountain Road and a fair few more met with loud approval before John Blessing's Reels and Dervish's unmatched rendition of Red-Haired Mary provided well-deserved encores. With plugs for Return to Camden Town ringing in their ears, and leaflets for upcoming concerts clutched in their fists, the audience and their overcoats shuffled back out into the blizzard.

And then there was nothing for it but to repair to the bar and play a few more tunes. By this stage the snow was inches deep, the city was sparkling in silence, and the taxis had given up and gone home. Dervish were heading into the frozen wastes of Kent for a gig in Canterbury the next night.The girls of Líadan were hoping to fly home from Stansted - I don't suppose they ever made it, but perhaps they got their wish of a day's shopping at bargain Sterling prices.

Photo Credits: Liadan: (1) by Adolf Goriup (Irish Nights Kammgarn 2008), (2) by Walkin' Tom (Irish Folk Festival 2008); Dervish: (3) from website (Olympia 2006), (4) by The Mollis.

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