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Liam O’Connor & John Blake

29 October 2018
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Burlington Violin Shop

Presented by Young Tradition Vermont and the Burlington Violin Shop.  $20 suggested donation.  Reservations and other info at mark.sustic@gmail.com.

Liam O’Connor, one of Ireland’s leading fiddle players, was born into a musical family in Dublin. His solo CD “The Loom” received 5 star reviews and was voted Trad Album of the Year 2017 by the Irish Times. In September 2018 he was nominated for the Best Folk Instrumentalist RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards.

Liam & Mick O’Connor

His father Mick O’Connor is a well-known flute player, researcher and leader of the Castle Céilí Band who was awarded a prestigious TG4 Gradam Ceoil Award in 2017. During his youth, Séamus Glackin taught Liam. By age of 15 he had won 5 All Ireland fiddle championships and later added junior and senior Oireachtas fiddle competitions. He also completed 8 grades in Classical violin training in the DIT College of Music, Dublin. In addition to performing as a soloist from a young age, in his teenage years he was also invited to perform in duet with established masters such as uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn and concertina legend Noel Hill.

Liam was awarded TG4 Young Musician of the Year in 2002. At the time, Liam was described in the Irish Times as “Possibly one of the most exciting fiddle players on the music scene since the emergence of Sean Keane and Frankie Gavin more than 30 years ago. He has an exceptional natural ability and the standard of his playing defies logic given his age.”

He spent many summers in County Clare, his mother’s home county where he played with played with musical icons Joe Ryan, Bobby Casey, Peadar O’Loughlin and many others. Other major influences on his playing include Séamus Glackin, Vincent Harrison, Seán Keane, along with recordings of Tommie Potts, Michael Coleman and James ‘Lad’ O’Beirne.

In 2006 Liam and Sean was awarded a bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland under their DEIS scheme where the archiving and recording of the transmission of the tradition from older masters to younger musicians was central. He spent time with and conducted interviews with Seán Potts, Peter Horan, Vincent Harrison, Seamus Tansey, Seamus Begley, John Dwyer, Peadar O’Loughlin, Sean MacIarnán, among others during this project. Liam also featured on an acclaimed CD with Noel Hill in 2006.

Liam O’Connor

In a review of a concert at the Temple Bar Traditional Music Festival in 2007 by Toner Quinn of The Journal of Music, he made the following comments on Liam’s solo performance: “We teetered with O’Connor on the very edge of the melody as he stretched our concepts of the aesthetics of traditional music – expanding the melody, reducing it, compacting it, going forward, pulling back. This was dangerous music executed in a risky environment, with no accompaniment, no safety net, and there was no cutting short lest he ran out of ideas. O’Connor has the potential to have serious impact on fiddle playing. Now only 23 years old, a fiddle solo of three reels half way through the set was, in a word, breath-taking.”

In 2009, he released a critically acclaimed CD “Dublin Made Me” with uilleann piper Seán McKeon which was described as “Exceptional musicians who marry technical prowess with a marvellous sense of adventure and history” (Irish Times).

In 2009, he secured first-class honours in a graduate diploma in Irish Folklore in the UCD Delargy Centre for Irish Folklore and Linguistics and the National Folklore Collection. During the course of his studies, Liam was awarded two prestigious scholarships: Scoláracht Máire MhicNéill and Scoláracht Dhónaill uí Mhoráin. He worked as a researcher of traditional songs in the Irish language for the Royal Irish Academy’s Doegen Web Records Project. He has taught as a guest teacher on undergraduate and post-graduate courses at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Limerick, and in DIT, DKIT and UCD. He has also taught and performed at numerous Irish and international music festivals such as Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, Scoil Acla, Tocane and many more. He has served as a board member on the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Selection Panel, on the board of the Irish Traditional Music Archive and as honorary secretary of An Cumann le Béaloideas Éireann/The Folklore of Ireland Society. Having been awarded a Master of Letters for his research thesis entitled “Aspects of oral tradition in the Life and Works of P.W. Joyce”, Liam has given lectures on Joyce at Na Píobairí Uilleann, the National Folklore Collection, the Chris Langan Festival, Toronto, and Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy. He also gave talks and lectures on Paddy Cronin, Vincent Harrison, Fiddle Music in Dublin, and Tommie Potts. Given his interest in manuscript, historic collections and contemporary traditional compositions, he is proud of having written forewords to the P.J. Giblin Collection and to Connie O’Connell’s Bóithrín na Smaointe. In 2012, he was invited to give an illustrated insight into the music of Tommie Potts at the launch of RTÉ CD Tommie Potts – Traditional Fiddle Music from Dublin.

In 2013, he was commissioned to record and compose music for inclusion in Stailc 1913 a TG4 film-documentary on the 1913 Lockout.

The Loom, a solo album that received five-star ratings and rave reviews was released in 2017. Described in an Irish Echo review as a ‘mind-bogglingly good album full of wow moments from beginning to end.’ Writing in the Irish Times, Siobhán Long gave it a five-star rating and wrote: “The possibility that we are in a golden age of traditional music, is reinforced by the release of Liam O’Connor’s exceptional solo album The Loom. O’Connor has long been a thoughtful, considered fiddle player who wears his acquaintance with the musicians who came before him with equal parts pride and subtlety.” It was voted Trad Album of the Year 2017.

2018 saw the launch of a project called Re-creating P.W. Joyce: from 19th century manuscripts to an interactive online audio-visual resource which was conducted in partnership with the Irish Traditional Music Archive in which Liam recorded 371 melodies from the Joyce collection and was funded through the Arts Council DEIS scheme. Other projects include an exciting duet with concertina player Cormac Begley, a tour of the USA, concerts with Sean McKeon, Noel Hill, in addition to various solo recitals and masterclasses. He has commissioned a new bow from expert archetier Noel Burke that is due in 2018 and which was kindly part-funded by Music Network Capital Scheme which he will perform on in a solo concert in the National Concert Hall, Dublin in October 2018.

John Blake

John Blake is a traditional Irish flute player, guitarist and pianist. An ex-member of traditional group Teada, John has performed and recorded with the cream of Irish musicians including, John Carty, Paddy Glackin, Noel Hill, Liam O’Flynn, Jesse Smith, Harry Bradley, Colm Gannon, The Kane Sisters and James Kelly. Brought up in London, John was immersed in the vibrant Irish music scene at the time, and was tutored by famed teacher Brendan Mulkere. He moved to Ireland in 1998 and developed a reputation as an accompanist of note, racking up several album credits. He joined traditional band ‘Teada‘ in 2001 and toured with them for 3 years, at which point he got off the road and settled into a job in Na Píobairí Uilleann (The Pipers Club) in Dublin. John released his debut solo album ‘The Narrow Edge‘ in December 2013, and continues to record, produce and play on many albums of note including the recent release ‘The Truckley Howl’ along with his wife Mairead Hurley and Wisconsin native Nathan Gourley. John is also a former board member of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, and is currently a panel member for TG4’s Gradam Cheoil awards.

Liam and John at Custy’s in Ennis, County Clare late one Saturday evening in May 2017 on their way to Corofin for a concert in Teach Ceoil. Mind-blowing fiddling and great stories. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSJj7WUcUKg