This piece came into our office as a live review of a concert, written by Alan O'Leary. As I read it I realised that it said little about the actual performance and much about what can be so special about traditional music. In the covering note Alan said "I am sending you a much overdue piece on Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill at The South Bank. I have been thinking about it a lot and feel there are some important issues in my piece. I feel it is unfinished but feel I must let it go sometime. I hope you like it." The 'Live Review' section of the magazine was the obvious place to print it, but the more I read it the more I realised that it is an opinion piece. I hope that you like it as much as I did.
The Editor

Martin HAYES & Denis CAHILL @ The Purcell Rooms 17/11/1999
Part of The London Jazz Festival

Well. Itís been some time since the gig and I have been thinking about it for weeks, asking myself this question. How can these two superb musicians completely captivate a hard core South Bank audience hotfoot from the office, still whiffing of furniture polish who wouldnít know a hornpipe from a hosepipe. All they did was play Irish traditional music perfectly, there was no big presentation vibe, in fact that is a side Martin tends to play down and rely on the music to deliver the message and the music IS the message.

So, with these guys you donít need to have a full knowledge of Irish traditional music to get inside the music and be moved by it. I have long believed this; that the music is beautiful enough, you donít have to do anything with it, just play it to the best of your ability and the qualities that have seen the music survive hundreds of years, (which include famine and immigration) will touch those intent on listening.

There is nothing more obvious to an audience than when the performer uses the music (any music) to show how good he is. Hayes and Cahill concentrate on showing the audience how good the music is. A noble attitude and one that is only reached after a lot of differing experiences and self-examination, allied to a deep love of the music and the musicians who proceeded us. This is what defines a true traditional musician as opposed to a musician who plays traditional music. Helped by a need not to chase an easy buck, this is a long-term thing with Martin and Denis.

So this is my conclusion, that these two musicians are letting the beauty and otherworldliness that is inherent in the music touch the audience who become willing participants in a truly moving experience.

I recall years ago Martin used to carry a sign in his fiddle case which said, " If you play them, they will come" a reminder of Kevin Costnerís classic movie about baseball and faith, " The Field of Dreams". I wonder if he still has it on board. And if they are appearing anywhere near you, "Go the Distance".

Alan O'Leary

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